Would you employ someone with a criminal record?

Do you think about the consequences when you deny their application?

Employment is regarded a symbol for success for those exiting the criminal justice system (Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014). Employment secures a consistent income, creates opportunities for social connections and gives the individual higher status in society. Although there are structures in place for ex-offenders in Australia to integrate into the workforce, barriers still persist. In Australia, Centrelink and parole officers would typically refer the individual to an employment service provider, however research indicates that ex-prisoners are less employable than many disadvantaged groups, such as those with disabilities or mental health issues (Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014). Cherney and Fitzgerald (2014) found that stigma or a discredited social identity, that is associated with having a criminal record, acts as a barrier to employment. It serves as an institutional marker of untrustworthiness, potential danger and fear for employers (Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014). Many ex-offenders state that attempts to escape this stigma are nearly impossible and unimaginable as many employment applications include an identification of criminal histories (as per figure 1). However, it is important to highlight that many ex-offenders want to identify and be honest about their pasts as part of their process of moving forward or moving on (Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014), however these efforts are often not given the credit they deserve and are faced with further stigmatisation.

Figure 1.

Stigmatisation and various other limitations that exist for ex-offenders create barriers to employment making it nearly impossible to avoid re-offending (Cherney and Fitzgerald 2014). Although many ex-offenders experience turning points in their life and a changed social identity, this is not the case for all. The negative stigmatisation and judgements from society push ex-offenders out of employment and back into the exact life they may have been trying to avoid. Additionally, as discussed in earlier posts, adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) impact the individual’s likelihood to reoffend. Baglivio (et al. 2014) found that the higher number of ACE’s you have the higher the risk of reoffending. Evidently statistics from the Australian Bureau of Crime Statistics (2019) found (as per figure 2), that in New South Wales, in 2017, 64.7% of juveniles reoffend within 12 months of existing prison. This high percentage shows the impact of stigmatisation and other factors, such as ACE’s, that contribute to a young offenders future.

Figure 2.

Past criminal record and negative stigmatisation greatly impacts the success of gaining employment for ex-offenders. It was discussed that the rates for reoffending are increased when the individual is unemployed, has a high ACE score and when they are continually labelled as a criminal. In my next blog post I will discuss the physical and psychological vulnerabilities young offenders experience.


Baglivio, M., Epps, N., Swartz, K., Sayedul Huq, M., Sheer, A., and Hardt, N. 2014. ‘The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the lives of Juvenile Offenders’, in the Journal of Juvenile Justice, Vol 3 (2) p. 1-17

Cherney, A. & Fitzgerald, R. 2014. ‘Finding and keeping a job: the value and meaning of employment for parolees’, in International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 60(1), p. 21-37

Figure 1:
Marketplace. 2019. ‘Young, with a juvenile record, and looking for work’, accessed online on the 2nd of April 2019, via [https://www.marketplace.org/2013/04/11/wealth-poverty/young-juvenile-record-and-looking-work]

Figure 2:
Australian Bureau of Crime and Statistics Research. 2019. ‘Re-offending statistics for NSW’, accessed online on the 2nd of April 2019, via [https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_pages/Re-offending.aspx]

One thought on “Would you employ someone with a criminal record?”

  1. In total agreement with your statements, the stigma surrounding youth offenders when employers consider them as employee’s always has and will be forever around. Whether the judgement is made upon them conscious or unconsciously, youth’s holding a criminal record will sustain a disadvantage compared to youth without a record when it comes to hiring. Whether employers automatically presume them to be untrustworthy, unreliable and/or less worthy, youth offenders usually don’t get to the interviewing or trial period of a job which unfortunately leads to reoffending. Supporting your statements made, periods of unemployment tend to be substantially higher for youth offenders aged 16 to 18 (Emmert 2019, p. 721). A prevention to reoccurring crime trends in youth offenders could be if employers overlooked their criminal history and judged them upon their interview performance etc. and considered their employment as a source of crime prevention.
    Emmert, A 2019, ‘Doing Time and the Unemployment Line: The Impact of Incarceration on ExInmates’ Employment Outcomes’ Crime and Delinquency, vol.65 , no.5, pp. 705-728 https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1177/0011128718779363


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