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Over 600,000 people are now being released from prisons each year. Many suffer from a variety of serious difficulties as they attempt to reenter society. Among the most challenging situations they face is that of reentry into the labor market. Employment rates and earnings of exoffenders are low by almost any standard—though in most cases they were fairly low even before these (mostly) men were incarcerated. Low employment rates seem closely related to the very high recidivism rates observed among those released from prison. Why are the employment and earnings of ex-offenders so low? What barriers do they face in gaining employment and in achieving earnings that are sufficient to live on independently? To what extent are these barriers based on their own characteristics and attitudes, as opposed to those of employers? Are there policies that are likely to reduce these barriers, and thereby improve employment and earnings among ex-offenders? We review these issues in this paper. We begin by reviewing some evidence on the employment and earnings of ex-offenders. We then consider the barriers that appear to limit their employment opportunities—first on the supply side (i.e., their own characteristics and attitudes), and then on the demand side (i.e., those of employers) of the labor market. We also consider some potentially positive factors that will influence the employment prospects of ex-offenders over the next few decades—particularly, the growing tightness of the labor market that most economists expect in the future due to the impending retirements of the “baby boomers” generation. Finally, we review a range of policies that might reduce some of the barriers faced by ex-offenders in the labor market.


The availability of data on the employment and earnings of ex-offenders is quite limited. Most surveys of individuals that are used by social scientists to study the labor market do not specify previous offender status as a question; and, even if they did, responses to such questions might be untrustworthy. Among those widely analyzed.1 Using these data, Freeman (1992) estimates that employment rates in any week averaged about 60% during the 1980s among all young men who had previously been incarcerated, and only about 45% among young black men. These estimates are about 20–25 percentage points lower than those of young men more broadly in the NLSY data. Given the limited availability of survey data on this issue, researchers have increasingly turned to state-level administrative data. In particular, quarterly data on employment and earnings from Unemployment Insurance (UI) records can be merged with data on the prison population. This enables the researcher to infer employment and earnings both before and after the spell of incarceration has occurred. These approaches have been used in earlier work by Grogger (1995) for the state of California, and more recently by Tyler and Kling (2002) and Pettit (2002) using data from the states of Florida and Washington respectively. They find employment rates considerably lower than those reported earlier—generally about .30–.35 in the recent data (and about .50 earlier)—even though one might expect quarterly employment rates for adult men to be higher than weekly rates for younger men and youth.2 The average quarterly earnings of ex-offenders observed in these data are also quite low, ranging roughly from $1,000 to $2,000 in current dollars.3 Apparently, self-reported employment and earnings in survey data contain a good deal more information about informal jobs that are not reported to the state and not covered by UI or income taxes surveys that do contain such information, the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) is perhaps the best-known and most

1.1               Statement of Problem

The United States has experienced an increase of incarceration for over two decades. The total population of prisoners incarcerated in the United States grew from .5 million to 2.1 million between 1980 and 2004 (Bushway, Stoll, and Weiman, 2007). Ohio has experienced incarceration rates similar to the national growth. The prison population in the state of Ohio nearly tripled in size between 1982 and 1998, and by year-end 2002, Ohio maintained the seventh largest prison population in the United States (La Vigne, Thomson, Visher, Kachnowski, and Travis, 2003). The increased incarceration rates throughout the late 20th and early 21st century have not only resulted in overcrowded institutions and record high correctional budgets, but has resulted in more offenders being released from incarceration after serving their sentence. As long as offenders are being incarcerated, offenders will be released back into society.

Offender reentry refers to the process of reintegrating offenders into the community, typically after a period of incarceration, although those who have been convicted but not incarcerated also need to be reintegrated into society. The process of offender reentry has created substantial barriers for offenders, families, and communities. Most previously incarcerated persons (PIPs) are released from prison ill-equipped to meet probation or parole mandates and to live a crime free life. Once released, offenders must gain housing, employment, and reconnect with family and friends (Anderson-Facile, 2009; La Vigne, Davies, Palmer, and Halberstadt, 2008; Morenoff & Harding, 2011). PIPs may face additional obstacles to obtaining and maintaining employment with less than stable transportation options. Without access to employment, housing, and transportation many PIPs see no other options than to revert back to criminal behavior (La Vigne et al., 2008). These same problems face many ex-offenders who remain in the community (for ease of discussion, this thesis subsumes ex-offenders who have not been incarcerated with PIPs).

Similar to the growth in reentering offenders is the growth of the body of literature aimed at analyzing offender reentry. Much of the current literature remains consistent in the basic struggles and major concerns for PIPs throughout the reentry process. Three of the most basic concerns for offender reentry are transportation, housing, and employment (Anderson-Facile, 2009; La Vigne et al., 2008; Morenoff & Harding, 2011). These concerns have been widely researched and analyzed, mostly in urban areas, across the United States.

Previous research has ignored the implications of reentry in non-urban areas. Non-urban areas have the same basic reentry concerns, transportation, housing, and employment, but from a different perspective. PIPs returning to urban areas may not be able to afford to buy their own transportation, but can rely on public transportation. Urban areas have taxis, subway systems, and buses. While navigating these systems can be a daunting task for a returning offender, these systems exist as an alternative to owning a vehicle. In non-urban areas, public transportation is not an option; residents must own a vehicle or rely on family or friends for transportation. Ex-offenders need transportation to maintain employment and meet court mandated expectations in the way of attending meetings and programming (La Vigne et al., 2008).

Non-urban areas also offer fewer places to obtain housing. Urban areas have many buildings designated as low-income housing complexes, whereas in non-urban areas only one or two buildings may exist. In non-urban areas the chance of find any low-income housing is remote—it does not commonly exist. A low supply of available housing leaves PIPs to rely on family or friends. If low-income housing can be found in non-urban areas the chance of finding an available unit is low. A low supply of housing options for PIPs can lead to homelessness and increased opportunity for recidivism. Ex-offenders need housing to be successful once released from incarceration.

1.2               Statement of Problem

Non-urban areas also have fewer employment opportunities compared to the opportunities for employment within urban cities. For PIPs, employment is necessary for successful reintegration back into communities (Anderson-Facile, 2009). Finding and maintaining employment is one of the greatest challenges for PIPs while reintegrating into society (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013; Holzer, Rahael, & Stoll, 2007; La Vigne et al., 2008; Visher & Courtney, 2007). In non-urban areas, potential employers might remember the behavior of an ex-offender prior to incarceration. For the PIP, not being able to escape this stigma may make finding employment more difficult. Potential employment opportunities are also less common in non-urban areas to the fewer businesses compared to the frequency in urban areas.

As a result of the reentry movement, the topic of employment as a key to crime desistance has again come to light as a major challenge for persons with criminal histories. Based on the currently available data, research studying the implications of reentry in non-urban areas would be beneficial, particularly the implications of ex-offenders gaining employment within a non-urban area. Many offenders are released from incarceration each year and have been found to return to non-urban and rural areas, not just urban areas. In order to reduce recidivism and better aid the reentry population it is important to know if PIPs will be able to find employment, housing, and transportation when returning to non-urban areas. If employment is less likely in a non-urban area, understanding why this is the case and what makes employment more likely in urban areas would be beneficial. Based on the notion that employment is a predictor of reentry success, it is important to understand if the successful reintegration of a ex-offender or failure of an ex-offender differs not only within what the literature describes about urban areas, but also what types of challenges occur within non-urban areas.

1.3 Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of prison rehabilitation programmes on the employment of ex-convicts, in Thika sub-county

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The study aimed at achieving the following objectives:-

1.To investigate the extent to which formal education programmes offered in Prison impact on the employment of the ex-convicts in Nigeria.

2.To assess how the Vocational training offered in Prison impact on the employment of the ex-convicts in Nigeria.

3.To explore the extent to which the attitude of the inmates towards the programmes offered in prison impact on the self-sustainability of ex-convicts in Nigeria.

4.To assess how the prison environment impacts on employment of ex convicts in Nigeria.

5.To establish the extent to which the aftercare support impacts on ex-convicts employment in Nigeria.

1.5 Research Questions

The study aimed at answering the following questions:-

1.To what extent do the formal education programmes offered in prison impact on the employment of ex- convicts in Nigeria?

2.How does vocational training offered in prison impact on the employment of the prison ex-convicts in Nigeria?

3.To what extend does inmates’ attitude towards programmes offered in prison impact on the employment of ex-convicts?

4.To what extent does the prison environment impact on the employment of exconvicts?

5.To what extend does the aftercare support impact on the employment of exconvicts?

1.6 Significance of the Study 

The prison service core mandate is to rehabilitate those sentenced to serve in their institutions and offer programmes projected to prepare them to competently handle life upon release and be useful not only to self and others but also to the state by contributing in nation building. It is hoped that the information obtained through the study may help in coming up with an education policy for convicts and also create rehabilitation programmes relevant to the needs of individual convicts. 

The already existing programmes it is hoped may be looked afresh and the necessary remedial measures taken to make them more beneficial to the prison convicts. The findings it is also hoped can inform potential employees on the particular areas of competencies the exprisoners posses and make it easy for them to make the right choice if they choose to employ them. The community has the opportunity through the study to understand the ex-inmates, accept them back and assist them settle down and even offer them support and jobs

1.7 Limitations of the Study

This research project is limited by some constraints which include; financial constraints, time constraints and limited research materials and information for this study. However, the researcher made use of the available materials as well as the research findings from the study.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

Employment: is a relationship between two parties, usually based on a contract where work is paid for, where one party, which may be a corporation, for profit, not-for-profit organization, co-operative or other entity is the employer and the other is the employee.

Ex-Convict: A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison". Convicts are often also known as "prisoners" or "inmates" or by the slang term "con". However, a common label for former convicts, especially those recently released from prison, is "ex-con" ("ex-convict"). Thus, Ex-convict is a prisoner recently released from prison.

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