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Attitudes of employers, corrective services workers, employment support workers, and prisoners and offenders towards employing ex-prisoners and ex-offenders

Abstract

This is a report on a project funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project was 'Attitudes toward employability of non-violent ex-offenders: employer, corrective services worker, employment support worker and offender perspectives'. The study described in this report investigated attitudes of employers, employment services workers, corrective services workers, and prisoners and offenders toward the employability of ex-prisoners and ex-offenders. The investigation involved conduct of a large scale survey in Queensland and Victoria. Respondents from all four stakeholder groups rated the probability of a number of hypothetical persons with different forensic histories obtaining and maintaining employment, in comparison to other disadvantaged groups. Respondents also rated the importance of several employment-related skills and characteristics to employability and the likelihood of members of the general workforce, ex-offenders, and ex-prisoners exhibiting those employment-related skills and characteristics. Several remarkable findings emerge from the study, which concludes that attitudes toward the employability of ex-prisoners and ex-offenders cannot be understood in simplistic terms. The study found that attitudes differed, not only in relation to the two questions that were investigated, but also in relation to particular stakeholder positions and other characteristics of respondents. Employability ratings for people with forensic histories were found to be comparable with those of other disadvantaged groups, despite the probability of employers and employment services workers (at least) having less 'sympathy' for them than for other groups. Members of the general workforce were rated significantly higher, but not very highly, and ex-prisoners and ex-offenders were not rated very poorly, rather, they were rated 'fairly likely' to exhibit each of three employment-related skills and characteristics. These results are more positive than what is generally suggested in the literature. Previous experience with employment of ex prisoners or ex offenders also proved to have a significant effect on ratings of employability, as did reported quality of previous experience. It appears that exposure has a generally positive effect, and moreover, that positive exposure has a predictably positive effect on attitudes. The study concludes by suggesting that action is required in three areas in order to promote positive attitude change on the part of all stakeholder groups and to promote greater workforce participation by ex-prisoners and ex-offenders. These areas are: the provision of specialist employment assistance for ex offenders in obtaining and maintaining employment; skills training for prisoners and people serving community corrections orders with a specific focus on development of the employment-related skills and characteristics considered important to employability; and broad community-wide promotion of reintegration of ex prisoners and ex offenders.

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