Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

Ease hurdles for ex-cons?

A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment — even over a decade after returning to society.

Researchers from Public Safety Canada and the Correctional Service also concluded women and Indigenous offenders faced additional hurdles in trying to make a living after leaving a federal institution.

The study says securing work following release is key to successful reintegration and is associated with lower rates of reoffending.

It recommends measures to improve the employment prospects of newly released people — from strengthening anti-discrimination laws to identifying inmates most in need of support — in the interest of public safety.

The study looked at thousands of federal offenders admitted to Correctional Service institutions across Canada between Jan. 4, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2001, who were also tax filers in 2014.

On average, participants had lived 14 years in the community and were 47 years old in 2014.

"We found that the economic outcomes of Canadian federal offenders are quite poor, even after an average of 14 years following release from a correctional institution," the study says.

Only about half of released offenders who filed tax forms were in the labour market, compared with 69 per cent of the general Canadian population. Consequently, many were earning below the poverty line, the researchers found.

Those who reported employment income made an average of $14,000, compared with earnings in the general Canadian population that year of $39,580 for men and $27,750 for women.

As a result, it is not surprising that many individuals with a criminal record rely much more heavily on government support agencies than those in the general population, the study says.

Women released from a federal prison who had an income earned on average just under $10,000, substantially less than their male counterparts. In addition, Indigenous people made less money than non-Indigenous offenders following release.

"Given that federal offenders vary in their ability to secure gainful employment, identifying offenders who require additional support before release is essential," the report says.

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