Double Jeopardy: Employment Discrimination Experienced by Returning Citizens
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Type of Work118 pages
Nearly one in three U.S. adults, approximately 70 million citizens, have a criminal record (Goggins & DeBacco, 2015). The United States continues to have the highest incarceration rate globally, even though according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. incarceration rate is currently on a decline, the lowest since 1996. Even with the decline, the United States imprisons twenty-five percent of the world's incarcerated individuals, yet is home to approximately four percent of the world's population. As incarcerated individuals transition into returning citizens upon release, they often face employment discrimination despite having served their time. These experiences are like a "double jeopardy." This discrimination often starts with the first employment application submission, as 76% of returning citizens experience job discrimination while submitting a job application and only 12.5% of employers report being open to hiring a returning citizen ("Research supports fair change policies", 2016). With between 60 to 75% of returning citizens unsuccessfully securing employment within their first year of release, this contributes to higher rates of poverty which not only impacts the individual but also their families and communities (Von Berger & Bressler, 2016). Even when a returning citizen secures employment, within their first years of release they face hurdles in seeking stable, long-term, financially secure employment, such as a criminal background check, recent occupational experiences, and correct documentation. With no previous research conducted on employment discrimination on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, information is needed to determine the employment experiences of returning citizens on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore when seeking and securing employment. The purpose of this study is to examine the employment experiences of returning citizens who have returned to their communities on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore (Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties). The study contained a usable sample of forty-four respondents (n=44), and results showed that receiving an education and completing a job training program while incarcerated significantly increased a returning citizen's ability to secure employment upon release. Additionally, the survey showed that the food/serving and construction/extraction industries were more likely to hire returning citizens based upon the reported successful employment of the survey participants. Based on findings and literature review, recommendations to help assuage the impact of incarceration include initiating a Ban the Box campaign in Wicomico County, Maryland, expanding federal bonding opportunities, bringing about greater community awareness of the Maryland Re-Entry Initiative, and increasing the programming capabilities and funding for community organizations working with returning citizens.