Criminal Records, Hiring Decisions and "Redemption"

on Tuesday - June 12, 2012.

In the age of widely available electronic data and Internet background checks, it can be challenging for an employer to know what data is accurate and whether someone's criminal past represents a current risk.  The new EEOC ruling on hiring and employment practices related to criminal records will require employers to think more critically about what data they use and how they use it when it comes to criminal records.  

Recent research by one of the most prominent criminologists in the United States, Alfred Blumstein, Ph.D., may help employers concerned about hiring people with criminal records to make more informed decisions about when someone with a record may be considered no longer a risk, based on how long ago their criminal activity occurred. 

Employment and Recidivism

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Saturday - March 03, 2012.

Lancaster:  With so many people currently unemployed and looking for work, why help people coming out of prison to get a job?

There's evidence that doing so can:

  • Reduce crime rates
  • Rreduce homelessness
  • Reduce parole violations
  • Reduce recidivism

Helping people coming out of prison and back into the Lancaster County community to find employment is one essential part of the RMO program. The Lancaster RMO's Offender Workforce Development Specialist (OWDS*) team will be offering a training for professionals in social services and corrections who work with clients with criminal records. Here are the details:

PA Launches Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Sunday - February 12, 2012.

Harrisburg (WPMT-TV, York, January 27, 2012): Governor Tom Corbett today encouraged members of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a newly-formed panel of judges, lawmakers, state cabinet members and other officials, as they begin studying ways to increase public safety in Pennsylvania and reduce spending on corrections. "The justice reinvestment working group is here to look at the numbers, the costs, thegavel-and-money projections and the system" Corbett told the gathering at the Governor's Residence this morning. "We look to you to come up with solutions to make our system better. I expect this initiative will help reduce further our crime rate, decrease recidivism and manage corrections spending more efficiently."

Led by Mark Zimmer, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, the group will meet regularly during the next several months to review data analysis, hear from local government representatives, prosecutors and public defenders, victim advocates, treatment providers and others, before crafting policy proposals. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is a comprehensive, research-based approach that identifies factors driving the growth and costs in prison and jail populations. The data-driven model is designed to...

  • Develop and implement policy options to control and lower the costs of the state's corrections system;
  • Improve offender accountability;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the justice system to further reduce corrections spending;
  • Reinvest a portion of the savings into the community to prevent crime;
  • Measure the impact of policy changes.


Contributing to the project is the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice. The CSG Justice Center, which has helped policymakers in 15 other states using a justice reinvestment approach, reported the following about Pennsylvania at today's meeting:

  • Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people admitted to prison climbed 46 percent, with much of this growth driven by increases in the number of people convicted of property and drug offenses serving relatively short minimum sentences.
  • Over this same period, the number of people in prison grew 40 percent, from 36,602 to 51,312, and annual Department of Corrections spending increased 76 percent, from $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion.
  • Despite significant state investments in resident programs for people on parole supervision, a 2011 study showed that recidivism has declined but remains high: nearly half of people (44 percent) released from prison were re-incarcerated within three years.

"Today's meeting identifies issues that need to be addressed, and I am confident this group will work hard to use the data and other information gathered to make legislative proposals which will try to strike the delicate balance between public safety and reducing costs through improved efficiencies and prison population reduction," Zimmer said.

"The scale of this effort is exactly what Pennsylvania needs to see the complete connections that take place from the time someone is arrested all the way through discharge to parole supervision," Wetzel said.

"With the extensive data analysis and stakeholder input in this process, policy makers from across the political spectrum will develop strategies that answer a fundamental question we all ask ourselves: What more can we be doing to increase safety in our communities while getting a better return on taxpayers' investment?" "This is an excellent example of officials working together, across systems, levels of government and parties toward the common goal of improving the safety of our state," Corbett said.

The Price of Recidivism

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Sunday - May 08, 2011.

Russell Nichols, Governing, April 14, 2011:

It's just not fair, is it?

Somebody commits a crime, goes to prison, then gets out of prison, only to go back faster than you can spell recidivism. And you're paying for it. Big time.

According to the Pew Center on the States, more than four in 10 offenders return to prison within three years, and across the country, the rate of this revolving door has been fairly consistent - even though prison spending has spiked to $52 billion a year.

About 43 percent of prisoners released in 2004, and 45 percent of those released in 1999 were back behind bars within three years for committing a new crime or violating terms of their supervised release, according to state corrections data.

The Pew study - one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind - comes at a crucial time with states locked up in budget bedlam. This data gives policymakers evidence that goes beyond anecdotal, and forces them to face the math. As they crunch numbers (or more accurately, argue about crunching numbers), they can ask critical questions: What's working? What's not working? Can a strategic shift in state corrections systems lead to financial freedom?

NH Enacts Law to Reduce Recidivism

Written by Scott J. Sheely on Sunday - August 15, 2010.

Concord, NH:  On June 30, 2010, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, surrounded by a bipartisan group of state leaders representing all three branches of government, signed landmark criminal justice legislation (Senate Bill 500) into law that will increase public safety by lowering the state’s recidivism rate and, as a result, reduce both the prison population and taxpayer spending on corrections.  For a downloadable summary of the legislations and its implications, click here.

The state's prison population had increased 31 percent over the last ten years, despite New Hampshire's low and stable crime rate. The growth was caused by a 50 percent increase in the number of people released from prison each year who were later returned for violations or new criminal activity. In 2009, three of every five people entering prison had violated the conditions of their probation or parole supervision.

Furthermore, annual studies of recidivism by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections found that the percent of individuals released from prison who are returned within three years had increased from 40 percent in 2003 to 51 percent in 2005. The new law is projected to reduce the number of people who fail on probation and parole and are revoked to prison, respectively, by 20 percent and 40 percent. The recidivism reduction will gradually decrease the prison population over the next four years by 18 percent, resulting in between $7 million and $10 million in correctional cost savings.

The law will accomplish the following:

  • Focus supervision on high-risk offenders by reducing the length of supervision for low-risk offenders
  • Enable probation officers to employ short, swift jail sanctions for minor probation violations, when permitted, by judges at sentencing.
  • Establish a seven-day residential intermediate sanction for minor parole violators and a designated ninety-day parole revocation facility to re-engage parole violators in treatment and comply with supervision.
  • Ensure that everyone leaving prison receives at least nine months of supervision.
  • Require nonviolent offenders to serve no more than 120 percent of their minimum sentence.