Employment

Much like housing, finding suitable employment is a challenge for all offenders who are reentering the community, but it can be particularly difficult for adult sex offenders. Because of victim access concerns and the subsequent need for specific employment restrictions, the range of potential options that are appropriate for sex offenders is limited considerably. Moreover, many potential employers are reluctant to hire sex offenders because of the stigma (CSOM, 2002; Levenson & Cotter, 2005a, 2005b; Phillips, 1998; Tewksbury, 2005; Zevitz & Farkas, 2000b). In addition, some of the same barriers to housing for sex offenders (e.g., negative public sentiment, “sex offender free” zones) can exacerbate employment challenges for sex offenders (Levenson & Cotter, 2005a, 2005b; Phillips, 1998; Tewksbury, 2005). This is a particularly critical issue for sex offenders because instability in this area is significantly associated with recidivism (see, e.g., Hanson & Morton–Bourgon, 2005).

For general offenders with identified employment needs, educational and vocational services are among the evidence–based interventions that reduce recidivism and can enhance job readiness following release (Aos et al., 2006; Gaes, Flanagan, Motiuk, & Stewart, 1999; Lawrence, Mears, Dubin, & Travis, 2002; Seiter & Kadela, 2003). Also found to be promising are job linkage and placement services designed to connect the specific skills of offenders with complementary job opportunities in the community (Aos et al., 2006; Solomon, Waul, Van Ness, & Travis, 2004). Hence, it is important for professionals to recognize the importance of employment early in the period of incarceration, and especially during the transition planning process. Ideally, educational and vocational programming is provided within residential and institutional facilities to assist sex offenders with the development or enhancement of effective job skills and competencies that will facilitate their ability to secure and maintain employment upon release. As sex offenders approach release from institutional custody or residential care, professionals should provide offenders assistance with employment searches in the communities to which they will be returning.

Collaboration with community partners is another useful method for facilitating employment opportunities for reentering sex offenders (Bumby et al., in press; CSOM, 2002). For example, correctional case managers, supervision officers, workforce development boards, and employment agencies in local communities can collaborate to establish networks of employers who are willing to hire released sex offenders. In addition, community corrections, paroling authorities, employment agencies, and other entities can use inter–agency agreements to pool resources to “sponsor” or subsidize an offender’s placement with a specific employer for a prescribed period of time after release (CSOM, 2007). Initially, this limits the financial risk for the employer, as a portion of the wages and benefits are covered by the interagency funds. When the agreed–upon probationary period has ended successfully, the employer agrees to cover the wages and benefits of the offender.

In order to promote the ability of juvenile sex offenders to be successful in the community, it is vital to assist them with the development and enhancement of skills and competencies necessary to secure and maintain viable employment after release. Ideally, vocational training for these youth is targeted toward their individual skills, interests, and aptitudes, and as they prepare to exit facilities, attempts are made to match them to employers in the community.

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