Public attitudes towards the employment of ex-offenders with a disability

Published date13 March 2017
Date13 March 2017
AuthorAdrian Darakai,Andrew Day,Joe Graffam
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Learning & intellectual disabilities,Offending behaviour,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Education,Special education/gifted education,Emotional/behavioural disorders
Public attitudes towards the employment
of ex-offenders with a disability
Adrian Darakai, Andrew Day and Joe Graffam
Purpose Ex-prisoners often face significant challenges in their efforts to find meaningful and stable work,
undermining their chances of successful reintegration back into the community. These problems are likely to
be compounded for those who have an intellectual disability (ID), given evidence that the disabled generally
experience high levels of discrimination when applying for and maintaining jobs. The purpose of this paper is
to determine whether members of the public hold different attitudes and expectations towards the
employment of ex-offenders who have an ID and a history of criminal offending.
Design/methodology/approach Samples of 642 participants, recruited via social media, were presented
with vignettes, and then completed a short survey designed to measure their attitudes and expectations
towards the employment of ex-offenders.
Findings Whilst the presence of a mild ID did not significantly affect community attitudes towards
ex-offender employment, it did change expectations about employment outcomes.
Research limitations/implications It appears that ex-offenders are perceived as a homogenous group
of people, despite actual and substantial differences existing within this population.
Practical implications There is a need to actively educate the community about differences between
subgroups of ex-offenders in relation to the employment needs of those with an ID.
Social implications The social inclusion of ex-offenders with an ID lies at the heart of any effective and
progressive criminal justice policy.
Originality/value This is one of the only studies that has examined public attitudes towards this group.
Keywords Intellectual disability, Public attitudes, Reintegration, Community attitudes,
Ex-offender employment, Type of offence
Paper type Research paper
It is now well established that unemployment and recidivism are closely associated (Farrington,
2003; Gillis, 2001; Uggen, 2000). Drawing on the findings of a series of studies which
demonstrate that being engaged in employment does help to prevent re-offending,
La Vigne et al. (2008) have even proposed that employment is the single most important
predictor of successful community re-entry for prisoners (see also Harrison and Schehr, 2004;
Solomon et al., 2006; Uggen, 2000; Uggen and Staff, 2001; Visher et al., 2008). And, yet,
significant barriers prevent ex-offenders from achieving employment success (Petersilia, 2003).
Holzer et al. (2007), for example, found that employers report that they are between 60 and
75 per cent less likely to hire ex-offenders than those with other negatively perceived
characteristics, such as being long-term unemployed or lacking work experience (see also
Graffam et al., 2008), and Albright and Denqs (1996) survey revealed that only 12 per cent of
employers would be inclined to employ an ex-offender. Such conclusions are in addition to
Pagers (2003, 2007) data which show that ex-offenders receive job application call-backs from
employers at less than half the rate of those who do not have a criminal background even when
their applications are similar. Thus, while there is a broad community support for prisoner re-entry
(Garland et al., 2013), employer prejudice may mean that ex-prisoners continue to experience
considerable difficulty in finding work.
Received 4 November 2016
Revised 24 November 2016
Accepted 24 November 2016
Adrian Darakai is an Honours
Graduate at the Deakin
University, Burwood, Australia.
Andrew Day is a Professor at
the Australian Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Centre,
James Cook University,
Townsville, Australia.
Joe Graffam is a Pro
Vice-Chancellor at the
Research Training and
Performance Enhancement,
Deakin University, Burwood,
DOI 10.1108/JIDOB-11-2016-0021 VOL. 8 NO.1 2017, pp. 3-12, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2050-8824

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