Policy Submission (student name) Word Count: 2,488 2 | Page Peter Malinauskas Minister for Correctional Services GPO BOX 668 Adelaide, 5001 Minister Malinauskas

1 | Page Assignment 3 – Policy Submission (student name) Word Count: 2,488 2 | Page Peter Malinauskas Minister for Correctional Services GPO BOX 668 Adelaide, 5001 Minister Malinauskas, You have been a strong advocate for requesting new strategic policies with the aim to reduce reoffending in South Australia by 10% by 2020. I write to you today as the Senior Case Manager for Port Lincoln Community Corrections, and as a university student, with a policy submission which I believe is key in working towards this target. I have been working one-on-one with offenders in South Australian prisons, and offenders subject to community based orders for over 4 years. I have also been furthering my knowledge and skills at university having completed 4 degrees in Social Science, Psychology, Behavioural Science (Honours) and Criminology (Masters). I am currently in my last year studying Social Work (Masters). I am genuinely interested in not only helping my clients achieve their goals, which includes desisting from crime, but also in keeping the community safe. The problem my clients, and other ex-offenders, face in South Australia is that very few employers are willing to hire them. Right now, 90% of my clients are unemployed and have been actively looking for work for a long time. After consultation with work colleagues across the Northern Country Region, their clients are experiencing the same issue. We would estimate the unemployment rate for supervised ex-offenders is somewhere between 92-95%. Research supports that individuals with criminal convictions have significantly lower employment opportunities than those who do not. For example, a survey-study reported that two thirds of employers would not hire a person with a criminal record, and found that employers were more willing to hire individuals on welfare, or hire individuals with no experience (Holzer, Raphael, & Stoll, 2003). Varghese, Hardin, Bauer, & Morgan (2010) further found that even when individuals with a criminal record are recommended for employment based on skills and qualifications, employers were still more likely to hire someone without a criminal record. An employers’ requirement to perform criminal history checks is driven by their aversion to hiring applicants with a criminal record. This policy submission will highlight why this problem matters, and why this problem is occurring. Options about what can be done about this problem will be explored, followed by a recommendation, and implementation considerations. 3 | Page Why does employers unwillingness to hire ex-offenders matter? This problem matters because: unemployment is related to recidivism rates; re-incarcerating ex-offenders and keeping them in prison is expensive; and there is great potential here to significantly improve community safety (Peterson, 2015). Due to the difficulties ex-offenders have in finding employment, they have limited options for obtaining a steady income, as they attempt to rebuild their lives financially. In order for exoffenders to be able to overcome the financial challenges they face upon release is to be employable, and to be able to compete in the job market (Harley, 2014). Unemployment has been found by many researchers to be a prominent risk factor for ex-offenders in returning to criminal behaviour (Peterson, 2016; Mears, Wang, & Bales, 2014). A study conducted by D’Alessio, Stolzenberg, and Eitle (2014) who found that repeat offending varied from county to country depending on the unemployment rate, even after offender characteristics were taken into account. Further, findings of a qualitative study by Bahr, Harris, Fisher, and Armstrong (2010), who followed a sample of 51 parolees over a 3 year period, found that ex-offenders who were employed and worked more hours had lower recidivism rates compared to those who were unemployed or worked fewer hours. Uggen (2000) asserts that employment reduces the risk of re-offending by between one third and a half. In 2014-2015 the annual cost to maintain a person in a South Australian prison was approximately $96,326, or $263.91 per day (Department for Correctional Services, 2016). In comparison the average annual earnings of the average South Australian in this same time period was $70,106, some $20,000 less. A significant amount of taxpayer money could be saved if efforts instead were directed towards helping ex-offenders find employment. Although employment may not stop criminality completely, it is hard to imagine a significant reduction in crime without improvement for ex-offenders in the job market. Brown (2011) describes that employment is central to the psychological, and mental wellbeing of individuals as it can provide someone with a sense of identity and a social role. If employers are unwilling to hire ex-offenders it is expected that the unemployment rates of this population will remain high; re-offending rates will remain high; and the amount of taxpayers money used to keep this population in prison will increase. 4 | Page Why is the problem occurring? There are certain factors that are related to this problem for ex-offenders including: inadequate job skills, lack of education, limited work experience, an employment gap, and stigma against the status of being an ex-offender (Peterson, 2015; Harley, 2014). Whilst there have been efforts by Correctional Services in South Australia to increase the skills and education of prisoners prior to their release, in my opinion it appears that this has not had any impact upon employers willing to hire ex-offenders. There is no doubt that training and educational programs have potential value to offenders, but if employers are permitted to overlook ex-offenders in the application process, than any improvements in skills and education will be ineffectual (Peterson, 2015). Current practice in many countries, including Australia, is for employers to have direct or indirect access to an applicant’s criminal record regardless of the job being applied for (Peterson, 2016). In South Australia all convictions, no matter how minor or serious the crime is, is listed on a criminal history record for a minimum of 10 years. Lam and Harcourt (2003) argues that the way criminal records are used by employers as a screening tool involves systematic and immoral discrimination against ex-offenders. Peterson (2015) argues that most convictions are irrelevant to an employer’s curiosity and interests. It seems fair for employers to be provided with evidence of qualifications and skills, but should they be entitled to know everything about an applicant’s criminal past? At present the law protects employees by not allowing employers to access details of age, health history, marital status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political views and family plans – so why are they permitted access to irrelevant information about convictions that could have happened up to 10 years ago? Evidence that ex-offenders do not do well in the job market is compelling. Research conducted by Nally, Lockwood, Ho, and Knutson (2014) specifically found that employers were generally reluctant to hire ex-offenders due to issues of liability as they view them as possessing traits of untrustworthiness and poor character. Perhaps employers believe that a history of criminal behaviour will mean that an individual will have poor job performance. Although employers might assume ex-offenders are more likely to act out and leave positions vacant, this argument is not supported by data (Peterson, 2016). It is my argument that the only way to help this population refrain from returning to this criminal lifestyle is to provide them with assistance which directly impacts upon an employer’s decision to hire them. 5 | Page What are the options? An analysis of the above information suggests that there needs to be a balance between employers’ need to assess applicants, and ex-offenders interest in getting a fair chance. Option 1: Creation of a re-entry program tendered to an organisation to network directly with employers. McWhirter (2013) argues in favour of having re-entry programs for ex-offenders transitioning back into the community. A re-entry program can have services tailored to the specific needs of the exoffender as well as the employer, thereby alleviating barriers that ex-offenders would face in their efforts to find employment. Ideally participants of a re-entry program will begin some 6 months prior to their release and should include individualised vocational assessments, job preparation, and one-on-one mentor support (Harley, 2014). The use of a re-entry program with a focus on employment and job skills development will give ex-offenders the opportunity to gain abilities they need in order to obtain and maintain employment. This in turn will allow them to repay financial debts and begin to rebuild their own lives (Peterson, 2015). Employing a successful re-entry program will rely on utilisation of evidence-based practices which have been proven to be effective in the past. The Reintegration of Offenders, or the RIO, established in Texas is one example that could be followed. The RIO has provided a second chance to over 150,000 parolees providing them with job placement and mentoring support. The program covers more than 90 Texas cities, and involves 61 prisons and over 20,000 employers. The program begins with RIO coordinators outreaching into the prisons and developing a personal employment plan and determining other support services that are required. They provide ongoing assistance until ex-offenders obtain employment. From evaluations of the program it was found that AfricanAmerican parolees not enrolled in the program had a successful employment rate of 30%, whereas for those African-American parolees that were enrolled in the RIO program this figure jumped to 66%. It was also found that entering employment immediately after release lowers an ex-offender’s risk of engaging in crime and returning to prison. Of parolees not in RIO 57% were re-arrested and 38% were re-incarcerated the year after release. Of RIO participants 48% were re-arrested and 23% were re-incarcerated. It was determined that by placing parolees in immediate employment saves Texas over $10 million per year in potential incarceration costs, and ex-offenders who secure employment generate approximately $1,000 per year in taxes (Anonymous, 1998). Option 2: Provide employers with a monetary incentive and liability insurance to hire exoffenders. 6 | Page Research conducted by Thompson and Cummings (2010) suggests that employers who receive incentives, for example an upfront payment or tax credit, may be more likely to hire ex-offenders. For example, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit of the US is a program that provides a tax credit for employers who hire, among other groups, ex-offenders. Under this tax credit an employer can obtain up to $2,400 per year for each ex-offender it employees (Hamersma, 2005). An incentive could be complemented with a form of liability insurance by the government thereby sharing some of the risk that employers believe they are taking on when hiring an ex-offender. Liability insurance could work similarly to that of the New Hampshire Employment Security. In New Hampshire the Federal Government offers employers a free bond for the first six months of employment for ‘at risk’ persons. Bonding is a form of business insurance usually purchased to protect employers for loss of money or property sustained through dishonest acts of their employers (Anonymous, 1998). The bond of the New Hampshire offer stipulates that employers can claim a full reimbursement for dishonesty actions conducted by the ‘at-risk’ person (New Hampshire Employment Security, 2017). This bonding program has proven to be incredibly successful – out of 42,000 placements, just 460 proved to be dishonest. This is a success rate of nearly 99% (Peterson, 2016). Option 3: Restrict the use of criminal history checks and change the law to protect ex-offenders from discrimination. Peterson (2015) argues that because criminal history checks are often discriminatory and have detrimental consequences, they should be constrained. At least 27 states in the US already limit or prohibit the use of criminal records for employers (Harley, 2014). Certainly some convictions are relevant in employment, but others are irrelevant. With the number of prisoners rising, so will the number of ex-offenders, and the fact that majority of employers utilise criminal history checks the combination defeats equal opportunity (Holzer, Raphael, & Stoll, 2003). At minimum employers should be restricted in the type of convictions they can see on a criminal history check in relation to a given position. If the applicant has a conviction for a crime that is closely related to the position being applied for than that conviction may have some legitimate bearing on the applicants candidacy (Peterson, 2015). Peterson (2016) recommends that governments should consider a model he refers to as ‘New Matching+’, which matches convictions to occupations. He states that it should be lawful for an employer to access an applicant’s criminal history only if there is a relevant relationship between the conviction on record and the job being applied for, and the crime is serious (Peterson, 2016). He suggests that the words ‘and the crime is serious’ means that the conviction has attracted a sentence of at least 3 months imprisonment. With this model minor crimes will not negatively affect an ex- 7 | Page offenders employment opportunities. Examples under this model producing positive matches include: ? Child Care Worker – Sexual and Violent Offences towards children ? Accountant – Embezzlement To date there has not been any evidence or evaluation of this model in practice. Recommendation It is acknowledged that ex-offenders are not the only high unemployment group in society. Therefore Option 1 could be seen by members of the public as ‘rewarding criminals’ and providing preferential treatment – which is not socially acceptable. Available research also suggests that offering employers an incentive and monetary insurances have also been insufficient (Jacobs, McGahey, & Minion, 1984). Though quite old, this research suggests that incentives are not large or attractive enough to convince employers to change their attitudes. Therefore the recommendation would be the implementation of Option 3 as a trial. A matching system is attractive for many reasons. It maintains the morality of current practice in that risks will still be minimised, as the record will determine if any applicant is unsuitable for the specific job for which they are applying for. Matching ensures that ex-offenders are not systematically excluded from employment. The model also fits better with existing laws allowing employers to access information on job applicants. Implementing a matching model will increase the likelihood of ex-offenders obtaining employment, which will ensure fewer ex-offenders reoffend, and will therefore create a safer community (Peterson, 2016). Deterrence from crime will also be maintained with ex-offenders knowing that should their criminal offending escalate they will have difficulty acquiring work, and that their full criminal will still be available to those working in the field of criminal justice. Implementation considerations Initially a Matching Model will be costly, and consideration will be needed as to where this money will come from. It will be necessary to work out in detail which crimes match which jobs in a relevant way, and which do not. However, if you change the length of time minor crimes are listed on criminal history checks, or remove them altogether this could save time and costs. It is acknowledged that some jobs will be hard to determine a relevant crime. 8 | Page Reforms to criminal history checks should be complemented by aspects of the other two options. Employers should be educated about equal opportunity and the ‘real’ risks of hiring an ex-offender. Peterson (2016) stresses that we should make decisions on the basis of what we know, and what we do know is that employing individuals is the best insurances against offending and re-offending. 9 | Page References Anonymous (1998). RIO: A program for ex-offenders that works. Alternatives to Incarceration, 4(5), 13-17. Bahr, S. J., Harris, L., Fisher, J. K., & Armstrong, A. H. (2010). Successful re-entry: what differentiates successful and unsuccessful parolees? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 54, 667-692. Brown, C. (2011). Vocational psychology and ex-offenders re-integration: a call for action. Journal of Career Assessment, 19(3), 333-342. D’Alessio, S. J., Stolzenberg, L., & Eitle, D. (2014). “Last hired, first fired”: the effect of the unemployment rate on the probability of repeat offending. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(1), 77-93. Department for Correctional Services. (2016). Strategic policy panel report: a safer community by reducing reoffending: 10% by 2020. South Australia, Australia: Strategic Policy Panel Members. Hamersma, S. (2005). The effects of an employer subsidy on employment outcomes: a study of the Work Opportunity and Welfare-to-Work Tax Credits. Institute for Research on Poverty, 1- 61. Retrieved from http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/dps/pdfs/dp130305.pdf Harley, D.A. (2014). Adult ex-offender population and employment: a synthesis of the literature on recommendations and best practices. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counselling, 45(3), 10-21. Holzer, H.J., Raphael, S., Stoll, M.A. (2003). Employment barriers facing ex-offenders. Retreived from the Urban Institute Reentry Roundtable website: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.508.2285&rep=rep1&type=pdf Jacobs, J.B., McGahey, R., & Minion, R. (1984). Ex-offender employment, recidivism, and manpower policy” CETA, TITC, and future initiatives. Crime and Delinquency, 30(4), 486- 506. Lam, H., & Harcourt, M. (2003). The use of criminal records in employment decisions: the rights of ex-offenders, employers, and the public. Journal of Business Ethics, 47, 237-252. 10 | Page McWhirter, E. (2013). Vocational psychology, offenders and ex-offenders, and social justice: a critical psychology perspective. The Counselling Psychologist, 41(7), 1040-1051. Mears, D.P., Wang, X., & Bales, W.D. (2014). Does a rising tide all boats? Labor market changes and their effects on the recidivism of released prisoners. Justice Quarterly, 31(5), 822-851. Nally, J.M., Lockwood, S., Ho, T., & Knutson, K. (2014). Post-release recidivism and employment among different types of released offenders: a 50year follow-up study in the United States. Internal Journal of Criminal Justice Science, 9(1), 16-34. New Hampshire Employment Security. (2017). Federal Bonding Program Brochure. Retrieved from https://www.nhes.nh.gov/services/employers/documents/fbp-trifold.pdf Peterson, I. (2015). Toward true fair-chance hiring: balancing stakeholder interests and realist in regulating criminal background checks. Texas Law Review, 94(1), 175-203. Peterson, T.S. (2016). Some ethical considerations on the use of criminal records in the labor market: in defense of a new practice. Journal or Business Ethics, 139, 443-453. Thompson, M.N., & Cummings, D.L. (2010). Enhancing the career development of individuals who have criminal records. The Career Development Quarterly, 58, 209-218. Uggen, C. (2000). Work as a turning point in the life course of criminals: a duration model of age, employment, and recidivism. American Sociological Review, 65(4), 529-546. Varghese, F.P., Hardin, E.E., Bauer, R.L., & Morgan, R.D. (2010). Attitudes toward hiring offenders: the roles of criminal history, job qualifications, and race. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 54(5), 769-782.


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