30+ Out of Prison Employment Statistics: From Cell to Career [2024]

December 1, 2023 0 Comments

Getting out of prison is the beginning of a new hustle. A hustle to find opportunity and earn a livelihood.

Is the process and struggle to find a job the same for the general population and Out-of-prison people?

No! Statistics suggest otherwise.

The unemployment rate of former inmates is 5x higher than the general population.

64% of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal record.

There are not enough opportunities available for out-of-prison employees to carry forward their lives. 

Here we have presented insightful out-of-prison employment statistics with strategies to get employed after being released.

Top Out-of-Prison Employment Statistics

64% of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal record
  1. Prisoners have an unemployment rate of 13.6% after over four years of release. [8]
  2. Former inmates are 10 times more likely to be homeless than non-former prisoners. [1]
  3. 82% of all FIPs are rearrested within a ten-year time period. And three-fourths of those re-arrested were reported to be unemployed. [4]
  4. An average former inmate has 3.4 jobs over a four-year period. [7]
  5. 64% of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal record. [11]
  6. 27% already have a job lined up while still in prison. But only half of these actually got the job after prison. [9]
  7. The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated black women is 137% higher than that of white women. [12]
  8. In 20% of out-of-prison employees no employment or educational programs were offered to them in prison. [1]
  9. 79% spent days searching for a job after being released from prison. [6]
  10. The general type of jobs after prison are manual labor like construction(27%), maintenance (12%), and factory jobs (12%). [9]

Out-of-Prison Employment Statistics by Demographics

The job market is different for all Formerly Incarcerated People (FIPs). Some categories face more difficulties in securing good employment. 

Go through the statistics presented here to get a clear picture of the out-of-prison-employment scenario.

Based on Race and Gender

  • Black FIPs are more likely to face unemployment than white FIPs. [12]
  • The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated black women is 137% higher than that of white women. [12]
  • If we look at FIPs and non-FIPs, women experience more hardships in unemployment rates. [12]
  • The unemployment rate for black women is 43.6% and 23.2% for white women. [12]
  • Formerly incarcerated black women are 5.8x and white women are 4.4x more likely to be unemployed compared to non-FIP women. [12]
  • Formerly incarcerated black men are 3.6x and white men are 3.2x more likely to be unemployed compared to non-FIP men. [12]

Here we have compared unemployment rates for the general population and FIPs:

DemographicFIP Unemployment RateGeneral Population Unemployment Rate
Black Women43.6%6.4%
Black Men35.2%7.7%
White Women23.2%4.3%
White Men18.4%4.3%

Based on Type of Job

  • FIPs receive different jobs based on their ethnicity and background. [5]
  • Only 70% of female Hispanic FIPs work full-time jobs compared to 80% of Hispanic men. [5]
  • As for part-time work, black women are most likely to get the job at 29%, and white men with the lowest percentage of 10%. [5]
  • As for occasional Jobs, white women have the least chance with 2%. [5]

The following table covers the percentage of FIPs with different jobs:

DemographicFull-Time JobPart-Time JobOccasional Job
Black Women67%29%4%
Hispanic Women70%25%5%
White Women76%22%2%
Black Men77%15%8%
Hispanic Men80%14%6%
White Men87%10%4%

Based on Educational Qualification

  • Only 11% of FIPs complete a college degree. [5]
  • Out of 11%, 9% have achieved a bachelor’s degree and 2% have completed an Associates’. [5]
  • 7% have attended trade school or a certificate degree. [5]

In-Prison Employment Programs and Experiences

Do they really organize employment programs in prisons? Do incarcerations have jobs?

Yes! To both.

Various programs are held in prisons for skill enhancement and increased work experience.

According to a survey, half of the respondents (53%) reported holding a job during their incarceration. [1]

9% worked in the community in a “work release” job, earning an average of 20 cents per hour. [1]

65% worked to learn new skills through education and employment programs while in prison. [1]

32% participated in a GED or other educational program if it was available, with 35% of those individuals who were offered or took an educational course earning a GED. [1]

20% said no employment or educational programs were offered to them in prison. [1]

in-prison employment programs participation

Formerly Incarcerated People Unemployment Statistics

  • 27% is the average unemployment rate of FIPs. [8]
  • 64% of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal record. [8]
  • The unemployment rate of former inmates is 5x higher than the general population. [8]
  • Unemployed FIPs are 2x more likely to be re-arrested than employed FIPs. [8]
  • Prisoners have an unemployment rate of 13.6% after over four years of release. [8]
  • Covid affected out-of-prison employment as 15% were unemployed in 2020. [8]
  • Retention rates for FIPs are lower than general employees being employed for only 58% of the time. [1]
FIP unemployment rates according to time period

Cause Behind Unemployment

  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of opportunities
  • Lack of motivation and courage to find a suitable job with a criminal record
  • Negative career attitude

Best Job Hunt Strategies to Kick Start Career

FIPs face many problems while hunting for jobs, 64% felt that their criminal record affected their job search. [11

79% spent days searching for a job after being released from prison. [6]

We understand that FIPs go through so much struggle to find the right job opportunity and get employment. 

So, here are the best job hunt strategies for FIPs to follow and restart their career as soon as possible. Most people (almost 86%) used these strategies to find jobs:

  • 72% talked with friends and relatives [6]
  • 61% responded to newspaper openings
  • 30% got help from help-wanted ads
  • 32% spoke with their Parole Officer and 20% felt that their parole officer was helpful.
  • 21% got jobs by contacting their former employers

Common Reasons for Not Actively Searching for a Job

27% already have a job lined up while still in prison

Why are FIPs not looking for jobs just after release?

The most common reasons cited for not actively looking for a job are

  • 27% already have a job lined up while still in prison. [9]
  • 15% struggle with health problems.
  • 15% being permanently disabled.
  • 10% have other engagements like attending school.
  • 6% participate in treatment programs or house detention.
  • 5% have to take care of their family.
  • 4% do not want to work.
  • 29% other reasons.

Source of Income: Pre-Prison and Post-Prison

What was the source of livelihood for FIPs before prison? 

Pre-Prison Income Statistics

FIPs make money from both legal employment and illegal employment.

If we look at pre-prison statistics, people earned quite well legally before their incarceration.

70% worked in the last year of their incarceration and earned an hourly wage was $9. [2]

More than 68% were working in the last six months before their incarceration. [9]

The most popular jobs among these prisoners were in the construction, maintenance, cleaning, automotive, and food service industries. [9]

As for the illegal means, 35% of people had illegal financial support and 11% admitted that all of their income was sourced from illegal activities. [9]

pre-prison and post-prison sources of income

Post-Prison Income Statistics

After two months of being released, 43% of FIPs reported being employed since leaving prison, but unfortunately, 31% were soon unemployed due to their criminal records. [10]

Only half of those with a job lined up get the job, while the rest are not hired. 

The general type of jobs after prison are manual labor like construction (27%), maintenance (12%), and factory jobs (12%). [9]

72% of those employed had a full-time job, and hourly wages for all jobs ranged from $2 to $80 with a median wage of $8 per hour. [9]

When FIPs were asked after eight months of release, many were still looking for jobs. [2]

In the first year of release, FIPs earn less per week than the average US employee. [2]

Comparison between the Weekly income of FIPs and general employees in respective time periods after getting a job in the US:

Time Period FIPsGeneral Employees
One Year$269$507
Four Years$464$700

Lack of Opportunity in the Labor Market

Is the labor market fair with FIPs? No.

There are not enough opportunities available for out-of-prison employees to carry forward their lives.

  • Due to legal restrictions, former inmates are not eligible to work for all employers.
  • There are restrictions in education, government, medical, and security fields.
  • FIPs cannot even apply for jobs that require a character certificate and background check.
  • Former inmates are left with very few options which are usually low-paying.

What Do Companies Think About Formerly Incarcerated Employees?

Did you know that hiring 100 FIPs can increase their earnings by $55 million?

However, most of the companies do not trust FIPs with responsible and sensitive tasks. 

FIPs get almost no work in financial departments due to their ruined reputation.

Fortunately, People are changing slowly with mindsets shifting.

Are you curious to know why companies should hire FIPs?

  • A boost to the economy. Hiring FIPs can highly benefit the economy and increase income tax revenue by $1.9 million. [10]
  • Lower recidivism rate. FIPs with employment only have a lower recidivism rate (16%) than unemployed FIPs (52%) within three years. [3]
  • Saves government money in criminal justice fees. [3]
  • A second chance at improvement and becoming a better citizen. Providing jobs to FIPs is very much like giving them a chance to become better people and stay away from old illegal jobs and crime. [12]

FAQs

What problems are faced by prison employees?

Out-of-prison employees go through a lot of problems while looking for livelihood outside the cell. First, they find it very difficult to find the right job opportunity due to their criminal record. 

And even if they find a job, retention rates and wages are very low compared to general employees. They do not have the power of negotiation.

Are FIP unemployment rates higher than non-FIPs?

Yes. FIPS face a lot more difficulty finding work compared to non-FIPs. 

The unemployment rate of former inmates is 5x higher than the general population.

The average working person is employed 78% of the time, versus just 58% of the time for formerly incarcerated people.

Do out-of-prison employment rates depend upon race and gender?

Yes, out-of-prison employment rates are highly dependent on gender and race. Women find it more difficult to find a good job and black women face more bias.

Out-of-prison demographic statistics reveal that Black FIPs are more likely to face unemployment than white FIPs.The unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated black women is 137% higher than that of white women.

The unemployment rate for black women is 43.6% and 23.2% for white women.

Conclusion

With the rising population, employment is a big concern for everyone and those with criminal records go through even more hardships. 

A new struggle starts after being released from cells, the struggle to get employment.

Out-of-prison people find it very difficult to find suitable job opportunities due to their criminal record. Due to a lack of options available to them, they end up doing jobs with low wages. 

The general type of jobs after prison are manual labor like construction(27%), maintenance (12%), and factory jobs (12%). 

Hiring out-of-prison employees results in boosting the economy and increasing income tax by $1.9 million. 

The labor market should provide more opportunities for them. 

Sources

  1. Urban.Org. Employment after Prison
  2. Ackerman. Background checks and the fair credit reporting act 
  3. Harvard Politics. Recidivism imprisons American progress 
  4.  ASPE. Incarceration & Reentry
  5. IRLE. Benefits of Higher Education for Formerly Incarcerated People
  6. Prison Policy. org. Out of prison & out of work
  7. Hr Daily Advisor. Benefits to hiring ex-convicts
  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment situation – October 2022
  9. Prison Policy.org.  New data on formerly incarcerated people’s employment reveal labor market injustices
  10. United States Census Bureau. Great Recession Had Long-term Economic Impact on People With Felony Convictions, Prison Time
  11. CNBC. 64% of unemployed men in their 30s have criminal records, a barrier to landing a job
  12. Prison Policy.org. Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022

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