In a job, out of trouble? Causes of joblessness after imprisonment and the consequences of employment outcomes for post-release reoffending


Common belief and criminological theories suggest that employment can lower reoffending, and policy efforts should be directed towards connecting ex-prisoners to jobs. Yet, there is hardly any research among ex-prisoners that tests whether employment is feasible for this serious offender group and whether and why employment can represent a turning point.

Theories within life course criminology offer multiple answers to both questions. Yet, theory-driven (explanatory) empirical studies are rare in the field of prisoner re-entry research. Instead, studies focused on post-release outcomes and consistently found low employment rates and high recidivism rates. In order to gain insight into the validity of theoretical explanations and develop credible re-entry policies, it needs to be ascertained why most ex-prisoners will not become employed and whether and why post-release employment outcomes affect reoffending.

The research proposed here addresses these two research questions using detailed longitudinal data on almost 4,000 Dutch prisoners. First, I aim to explain the low employment rates by distinguishing between different kinds of joblessness (non-participation, unemployment, informal employment) and by examining to what degree prisoners themselves (i.e., supply-side) or external responses to their behaviour (i.e., demand-side) are to blame for this joblessness. Second, I will test whether theory-based distinctions in the kinds of joblessness ex-prisoners experience and the kinds of jobs they find, impact their reoffending behaviour. Due to data restrictions, prior studies mainly examined demand-side explanations for joblessness and grouped all abovementioned kinds of joblessness and kinds of jobs (low/high wage, short/long duration, part-time/full-time) together.

My theory-driven approach and unique access to multiple longitudinal datasets assure, that the findings will constitute a significant step forward for life course criminology and policy responses to ex-prisoner re-integration problems.


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Dr. A.A.T. Ramakers

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Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid, Departement Strafrecht en Criminologie


Dr. A.A.T. Ramakers


01/01/2018 tot 31/12/2021