More prisoners likely to see early release. Then what?

Both the federal government and the states have a strong interest in reducing prison populations and have been moving to do so. The growing costs associated with housing inmates has become a budget-buster, leading to the increased use of early releases of inmates doing time for nonviolent offenses as a way to cut costs. Once out of prison, however, these former inmates must find a way to reassimilate into society, including the labor market. As Steven Raphael points out in his new book The New Scarlet Letter: Negotiating the U.S. Labor Market with a Criminal Record, and as shown in the figure below, employers are often reluctant to hire applicants with a criminal record. (Twelve states have adopted “Ban the Box” which prevents employers from inquiring about an individual’s conviction history on a job application.)  Raphael addresses this reluctance along with other issues critical to the reentry of former inmates into the labor market with a set of policy recommendations aimed at facilitating this reintegration into the noninstitutionalized society. Raphael’s book, part of the Upjohn Press WEfocus series, is available as a free PDF download.

“. . . concrete steps that can be taken to shift some of the risk from employers onto the private sector, and by extension the broader society, may induce more employers to overcome their inhibitions and offer former inmates a chance.”–Steven Raphael

Previous Research Highlights

What Does the Minimum Wage Do?
Dale Belman and Paul J. Wolfson

This book attempts to make sense of the research on the minimum wage that began in the early 1990s. The authors look at who is affected by the minimum wage, both directly and indirectly; which observable, measurable variables (e.g., wages, employment, school enrollment) the minimum wage influences; how long it takes for the variables to respond to the minimum wage and the size and desirability of the effect; why the minimum wage has the results it does (and not others); and the workers most likely to be affected by changes to the minimum wage.