An Exploration of the Sex Offender’s Perspective of the Factors that Contribute to the Successful Reentry: Finding Housing and Employment
Chapter II: Literature Review
Individuals convicted of inhuman offenses such as sexual abuses find it hard to reintegrate back in the society after incarceration. Public opinion remains negative with the obvious reason being the suspicion of recidivism. Researchers have documented various barriers and obstacles, as well as the risk factors for reentry of the sex offenders. Studies have also been done to assess the available strategies to help the sex offenders integrate back in the community successfully, the feasibility and effectiveness of the reentry strategies, as well as the risk factors associated with successful reentry. However, there is limited research done with the aim of getting the perception of the sex offenders on finding housing and employment for successful reentry. Tewksbury & Copes, 2013 and Huebner et al., 2013 opine that there is no better way of mitigating the reentry problem than involving the perception of the affected population. The inconsistent results across the U.S. and null outcomes when comparing the laws of sex offenders and non-offenders attest to this assertion (Huebner, 2014; Levenson & Hern, 2007; and Terry, 2015). The stakeholders who had previously ignored the opinions of the sex offenders in formulating legislation have been disapproved by various studies. The present study is based on a conceptual framework drawn from the hypothesis that using the perceptions of the sex offenders on finding housing and employment lead to successful reentry into the society.
Two major obstacles sex offenders face when they reenter the society are finding housing and employment. According to James (2015), 84% of offenders in the United States struggled to find employment and housing when they are released. Sex offenders, in particular, have been stigmatized and restricted, hence face serious challenges to find affordable houses and secure viable employment (Tewksbury & Copes, 2013). For felons, finding jobs and housing is significantly hard (Huebner et al., 2013). The case of sex offenders is even more complicated based on the restrictions and labels that come with committed such crimes. Since the upsurge of the residency restriction laws in the 1990s, studies have examined various strategies adopted by the law enforcement agencies in conjunction with the community and non-governmental organizations. The policies have aimed to assist the reentry of the sex offenders to reduce recidivism as well as social and economic adjustment. The limitations in the literature about the perspectives of the sex offenders on how finding housing and employment contribute to their successful reentry provide the impetus for the current study. The present study is a phenomenological research that aims to use a qualitative approach to explore the views of sex offenders concerning finding housing and employment as contributors to successful reentry. The literature review chapter explores the previous contributions of researchers on the topics of housing and employment, with an in-depth analysis of concepts such as transitional housing, residency restrictions, and employment difficulties for the released sex offenders.
Literature Search Strategy
To conduct a review of the literature, multiple searches were used to complete this process; as well as several databases. The databases that were used to consisted of PsycARTICES, ProQuest Central, PsycINFO, ProQuest Criminal Justice and Pubmed. In addition to this, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers was used. The following words were searched: rehabilitation, sex offenders, community reintegration, families of sex offenders, sex offenders’ perceptions, sex offenders’ reintegration, released sex offenders, recidivism, released offenders, employment, housing, unemployment, sex offenses, adult sex offenders, violent sex offenders, non-violent sex offenders. Combination of keywords included sex offenders and rehabilitation, sex offenders and reintegration, sex offenders and recidivism, sex offenders and employment, sex offenders and housing, sex offenders’ perception of reintegration, sex offenders’ perception of employment, sex offenders’ perception on housing, sex offenders and their families, sex offenders and successful reentry. The years searched for current peer-reviewed articles were from 2012-present. During the search process, the University of Walden database was used to help identify scholarly articles.
According to the national survey conducted by the National Reentry Resource Center of the Council of State Governments (CSG), 92% of the participants said that housing and unemployment was an impediment to the successful reentry of the adult sex offenders (CSG, 2015). The researchers surveyed reentry professionals who have been working in the criminal justice departments for more than ten years. CGS conducted the research in partnership with the Center for Sex Offender Management.
Residency Restrictions: The Influence on Housing and Employment
The present study is on the perceptions of sex offenders on how finding housing and employment affect their successful reentry. One of the themes touching on the two variables is residency restrictions on sex offenders. Sexual violence is a social calamity that is responsible for inciting enormous fear, hatred, and anger in the communities where they are committed. In the U. S., the Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994 and the Megan’s Law are among the pioneer legislation that restricted the stays of the sex offenders (Puls, 2016). Many states and municipalities have followed suit by making zoning laws that prohibit the convicts from staying close to places where children assemble. The laws serve chiefly to deter recidivism while neglecting the need for the aspect of the successful reentry of the sex offenders. The laws ban sex offenders from living within the range of 500 and 2500 feet of the areas where children congregate (Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, & Harris, 2015, Forbes, 2017, and Anderson, Sample, & Cain, 2015). The policy-makers point to the practical and symbolic reasons for restricting where sex offenders live. The practical supporters claim that restrictions protect the vulnerable such as children, with the focus of reducing the proximity of the sex offenders to the potential targets. On the other hand, the restrictions symbolize the strong stance against such ant-social behaviors.
The intended purpose of residence restriction is to reduce reoffending but the laws influence employment and housing after sex offenders difficult. Huebner et al. (2013) used a report by the U.S Department of Justice to conduct a cohort study on the influence of the residency restriction laws on the sex offenders. A sample consisting of offenders who were released immediately after the states of Michigan and Missouri implemented the laws in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The parolees were interviewed on their reentry experiences, with emphasis on housing and employment. There were 3, 968 sex offenders and another 3,927 non-sex offenders from Michigan and Missouri were asked about what they think about the effectiveness and fairness of the residency restriction laws. It was found that 51% participants felt that the residency restrictions were unfair while 46% said they were fair. The cohort study found that most of the sex offenders felt that the laws should be based on a “case-by-case” bases. Additionally, the sex offenders interviewed expressed how the stigma of being labeled a sex offender affected their self-esteem and confidence. Nevertheless, a few expressed that the laws were good because it provided boundaries from getting into trouble with the law and possible re-offending (Huebner et. al., 2013). The current study notes the importance of successful reentry of the sex offender in reducing recidivism and looks at the concept from the perspectives of the offenders.
In another study by Tewksbury, Connor, Cheeseman, & Rivera (2012), 41 female sex offenders were asked about what they will face after incarceration. The sample was drawn from prisons in New York City, where the qualitative researchers used focus group discussions on how legislative measures such as registration and restrictions would influence their housing and employment. The participants felt that they would face housing and employment challenges. They were also fearful of stigmatization and getting registered as sex offenders.
Impact of the Residency Restrictions
The restrictions that have only been in action for two decades have received support from the members of the masses, policymakers, and the government alike. Though there are numerous reports that downplay the effectiveness of the laws in sex offender recidivism, the proponents do not back down on implementation. The legislative registration of the sex offenders invariably affects reentry, especially when they live in unsupportive neighborhoods. Burchfield & Mingus (2012) assessed the perceptions of sex offenders through the lens of the effect of neighborhood support after release. The study was based in Florida and used 333 in-treatment sex offenders. The participants were interviewed on how neighborhood social support would influence their reintegration. It was found that the participants were less likely to get worried about the negative consequences of the status of being a sex offender in case they feel can get the social support. These findings lay emphasis on the significance of social support is to successful reentry of sex offenders. One way to provide such support is through helping them find employment and housing, using their perspectives. The current study asserts that sex offenders have distinct demographical differences which cannot be handled uniformly. Additionally, different neighborhoods would receive the offenders differently. The dangers of the unsupportive neighborhoods are many fold. Sex offenders cannot get jobs, live in stress, and are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors that can only take them back to prison (Burchfield & Mingus, 2012).
According to Levenson, Zgoba, & Tewksbury (2007), more than 22 states and hundreds of local governments have enacted sex offenders’ residence restrictions. Although laws limiting the civil liberties of sex offenders continue to increase, there are inconsistent results across the U.S. when looking at the effectiveness of recidivism (Huebner, 2014; Levenson & Hern, 2007; and Terry, 2015). Huebner et al. (2014) evaluated the efficacy of sex offender residency restrictions (Michigan and Missouri). The study used a quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching. The sex offenders were studied after the implementation of the residency restriction laws in the states of Michigan and Missouri. The study found a reduced likelihood of sex offenders living in the restricted area after the laws took effect. However, there were statistically insignificant effects on recidivism, with Michigan indicating slight reduction (Huebner et al., 2014). The researchers found that the laws had practical challenges and recommended that the stakeholders need to reframe the focus of successful reentry to provide alternative housing.
In a report from the Council for State Government (CSG) 2015, 600 professionals were surveyed on the barriers for successful sex offender reentry. It was found that 73% of the participants acknowledged that adult sex offenders are likely to recidivate with other types of offenses. Restrictions were found to interfere with the reentry process, since most the strategies like residency restriction do not take the different nature of sex offenses. The survey was conducted in line with the council’s goal of finding evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism in sex offenders. The report found barriers such as living in disadvantaged neighborhoods to influence reoffending among sex offenders. Such barriers are emphasized by psychological theories of social influence. For instance, the social learning theory postulates that human behavior is learned or nurtured (Stahler et al., 2013).
Unintended Consequences of Residency Restrictions on Sex Offenders
The purpose of the residency restriction is to stop the sex offenders from staying in areas frequented by children. The intention is to reduce the proximity of the offenders to the children, thus, reduce the chances of crime commission. However, researchers have found the opposite of what is expected. Levenson & Hern (2007) conducted a study to investigate the positive and negative, intended and unintended consequences of residency restrictions on sex offenders. They found that the residential restrictions created housing instability, limit access to jobs, and reduced social support among the sex offenders. The researchers used a qualitative design, with 148 participants from adult male sex offenders registered in outpatient counseling facilities in Indianapolis, New Albany, and South Band in Indiana (Levenson & Hern, 2007).
According to Nally et al. (2014), the restrictions have negatively impacted mostly the youthful segment of the sex offender population. They are left with few options for place of residence which are affordable. Additionally, the seclusion leads to living disillusioned lives, which could possibly contribute to recidivism, stress, and mental problems (Rolfe, Tewksbury, & Schroeder, 2017). Terry (2015) argues that the sex offender population who has higher possibility to recidivate experience poor social support and negative social influence. If these people are left to stay in areas specific areas, there is increased chances of influencing each other through peer pressure to commit other offenses for survival.
Mustaine & Tewksbury (2011) opine that residency restrictions increase the unavailability of optional housing for sex offenders, forcing them to opt for the isolated areas lacking essential services, job opportunities, and inadequate social support. Terry (2015), concurs and adds that the sex offenders experience public harassment and have their liberty rights violated.
The literature reviewed on the impacts of residency restrictions on the sex offenders is based on the perceptions of other stakeholders in criminology. The present research aims to bridge the gap by incorporating the views of the sex offenders on how the laws have affected them and the ways they think laws can be adjusted to help in their successful reentry.
The residency restrictions for the RSOs lead to transience (Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, &Harris, 2015; Levenson, & Vicencio, 2016; and Terry, 2015). An increase in the buffer distance increases transience, reduces job opportunities, and leads homelessness (Levenson, & Vicencio, 2016; Nally et al., 2014). This implies that the sex offender staying in those areas are taken away from the affluent sections of the society where information about employment chances flow frequently. In a study conducted in Florida to better understand homeless sex offenders in the context of restrictive laws, results showed that sex convicts were becoming transients in comparison to the general public (Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, &Harris, 2015). The homeless had the history violating the registry regulations compared to the non-transients. Additionally, the researchers found more transient sex offenders in counties where the residency restrictions were higher locally, wide-distance buffer zones, and where houses were expensive.
A report by Huebner et al. (2013) which explored the perspectives of sex offenders on the residency restriction laws in Michigan and Missouri found that many convicts are released across the U.S. without a clear home plan. Lack of a proper plan for the provision of stable housing left 30% to 50% of offenders homeless in San Francisco and New York (Huebner et al., 2013). The findings stress the importance of prioritizing finding housing for the sex offenders after completing jail terms. Additionally, landlords are also unwilling to consider sex offenders as prospective tenants as found by Evans & Porter (2015) in a study based in New York. The research point that ex-offenders with no place to live become homeless, transient, and at increased risk of re-offending. The current study continues to emphasize the need to incorporate the perspectives of sex offenders in determining where they live after coming out of jail.
The Perception of the Public on Residency Restrictions
Sex offenders’ residency restrictions continue to influence the reentry of the convicts because members of the public support them. The support is linked to the purpose for which the laws were created-to protect minors from sexual offenders. Anderson, Sample, & Cain (2015) conducted a quantitative and qualitative review of data to determine the feeling of the public on the areas (distance) where the sex offenders can live without threatening children. 1, 811 residents of Nebraska who were at least 19 years participated in the survey which used telephone interviews. The results showed that the public supported the exclusionary zones as contained in the residency restriction laws. The study was based in the Nebraska state. It highlighted the role of municipalities in implementing the residency restriction laws for the registered sex offenders (RSOs).
The effectiveness of the laws have also been the subject of research. Budd & Mancini (2016) evaluated the beliefs of members of a community on the effectiveness of the laws in reducing sex crimes. The researchers termed the legislation as crime control theater (CCT). They found that the Catholic members, parents with minor children, and those who believe in stranger danger have faith in the restrictive laws. On the other hand, the members of the society who believe that the integration of the sex offender back in the community remained coy on the need to restrict them in as much as sexual violence goes against the grains and gains of a civilized society, failure to accept that the correctional measures meted on the offenders were effective is equally uncivilized. People have to believe that the sex offenders are able to forget their negative past and carry on with their lives. Restricting their stay continually reminds the convicts of the regrettable past which could lead to the commission of other offenses.
Furthermore, the efforts by human rights activism for the offenders have been reported in the U.S. to hit a snag due to public opposition. The opponents have pointed to the violation of the 14th Amendment and the lack of empirical evidence on role of the laws on recidivism. For instance, when Barbara Farris wanted to build a community home for the sex offenders in Sorrento, Florida back in 2011, the community members were quick to petition against the move (Burchfield & Mingus, 2012). There were wild demonstrations led by mothers who mocked Farris for planning to house rapists and pedophiles (Burchfield & Mingus, 2012).
The mixed opinions on the issue have prompted the debate on the need to involve the community in monitoring the sex offenders. Forbes (2017) supports the importance of community involvement by asserting that the local authorities are best situated to implement the residency restriction laws on the RSOs. He conducted an exploratory research using the cases study of People v. Diack in New York (Forbes, 2017). Michael Diack who had served a twenty-two-month jail term violated the 4-2006 Local Laws of Nassau County by staying within 500 feet of the Lawrence Woodmere School (Forbes, 2017). He was arrested and charged with violating the residency restriction but the District Court dismissed the case because the sex offender registry laws of New York State preempt those of Nassau County (Forbes, 2017). The study points that the restrictions need to be community-based, as the needs, desires, and problems vary across villages, towns, and locations. Going to a uniform approach as in the case of New York State exposes the community to the negative effects of having sex offenders living close to minors.
In this section, researchers have pointed to the massive support of the residency restriction despite the limited empirical data to support the effectiveness of the laws. The reviewed studies have the knowledge gap in that they have not incorporated the views of sex offenders about the support the public give to the restrictions. The current study aims to fill the gap by adding what the sex offenders think concerning such support and how it will affect their efforts of finding employment and housing to help in successful reentry.
With the widespread implementation of residency restriction laws, the offenders have limited options to find houses. According to a study by Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, & Harris (2015), the densely populated areas in Florida like Broward County, the rental prices are high. The average rent for a one-bedroom was over one-thousand dollars per month (Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, & Harris, 2015). The affordability of housing highlighted in the Levenson, Ackerman, Socia, & Harris (2015) study has been examined with the general perspective of sex offenders in Florida. The current study narrows down to individual sex offender’s perception of how housing influences their reentry.
A number of studies have stressed the need for sex offenders to establish housing because this is an important factor for reentry. Huebner et al. (2013) stated that the central focus during reentry for sex offenders consist of some type of housing service or permanent address. Researchers have also pointed to the unintended consequences of the residency restriction laws (Western, Braga, Davis, & Siros, 2015; Evans & Porter, 2015; and Puls, 2016). As discussed earlier in the paper, the convicts are left concentrated in disadvantaged locations. Clark & Duwe (2015) conducted a research to examine the factors that are associated with the concentration of sex offenders in a large geographical area with few residency restrictions. They found factors such as concentrated affluence, affordability, and concentrated disadvantage. 1,329 participants were used. They were the predatory offender registration in Minnesota collected in January 2010 (Clark & Duwe, 2015).
In another study by Evans & Porter (2015), landlords were found to be significantly less willing to consider tenants with criminal records. Sex offenders registered for offenses on children were particularly found to be put off. Other than the legislative factors, affluence concentration contributes to the scenario. The rich were unlikely to let sex offenders live close to them (Evans & Porter, 2015). The researchers used a quasi-experimental audit methodology. The researchers contacted 500 landlords in New York City, Upstate New York, and Long Island (Evans & Porter, 2015).
In light of the difficulty in finding housing by sex offenders, researchers have pointed to the adoption of transitional housing service (Rydberg, 2018; Tarpey & Friend, 2016; and Lutze, Rosky, & Hamilton, 2014). A housing service that is popular in Minnesota is transitional housing. Transitional housing is only short-term and doesn’t provide long-lasting housing (Huebner et. al., 2013). Tarpey & Friend (2016) also mention transitional housing as a way to begin the reintegration process. Tarpey & Friend (2016), like Burchfield and Mingus (2012), also discovered that having a place to live was the cornerstone for successful reentry. Tarpey & Friend (2016) conducted their study in the UK to assess the perceptions of offenders on being placed under community housing scheme. The purpose of the study was to understand if housing schemes lead to offender reintegration/reentry. A sample of five participants (M=3 and F=2) were interviewed face to face interviews in a semi-structured format. The interviews were 50 minutes to an hour and all participants understood the meaning of confidentiality. The major themes gathered in this study consisted of a place to call home, expectations upon release and a suitable support system (Tarpey & Friend, 2016). The five participants expressed a need for a permanent residence as part of reintegration and having someone that they can talk to. The limitations of the study was that it consisted of a small focused group with first-hand experiences, but it did not include participants that were not successful or lived outside of the scheme.
Another form of transitional housing for inmates in the literature is work release centers (Bales et al., 2016). Bales et al. (2016) evaluated the effectiveness of the prison-based work release centers in reducing re-offending and finding its role in finding employment for ex-offenders in Florida. 27,463 inmates who completed a work release program (2004-2011) were examined versus a control group of 15,911. The program was found to influence the likelihood of getting jobs in the four-month after release, with the chances increased by the completion of the work release programs in a private facility. Also, the researchers found the placements to reduce the rate of recidivism. According to a 2013 report by the Florida Department of Corrections, 27% get rearrested with the first 3 years of release (Bales et al. (2016).
Transitional housing provides only temporary remedies and does not guarantee a sex offender will be able to stay (Huebner et al., 2013). Most transitional housing is meant for addicts that are being released from prison and have no place to go, in addition to being placed within a restricted area (Burchfield & Mingus, 2012). In Washington State, the Reentry Housing Pilot Program launched in 2007 to reduce the chances of re-offending (Lutze, Rosky, & Hamilton, 2014). In a longitudinal study (2008-2011) to evaluate the outcome of the RHPP interventions, Lutze, Rosky, & Hamilton (2014) used 208 ex-offenders enrolled in the program and compared with another 208 group of supervised traditionally. They found that RHPP reduced recidivism rate (40% compared to 56% in the group under traditional treatment. Due to living restrictions, sex offenders are forced to stay in regions away from people.
With the programs such as transitional housing or work release programs, the rate of recidivism is likely to reduce. The present research builds on the findings of the previous work that was based on the benefits of transitional housing and work release. It endeavors to fill the gap in the literature on housing and work release by incorporating the perceptions the sex offenders on such reentry programs. It is important to note that various inmates released have different needs as dictated by the segment characteristics such as age, sex, level of education, and the number of years taken in custody. Therefore, approaching the unique characteristics with the perspectives of sex offenders is invaluable for successful reentry.
Studies have pointed to the significance of employment to sex offenders after incarceration. Schnepel (2018) asserts that the failure of sex offenders to reenter the society is increases the scale of incarceration in the U.S, blaming the inability to get employed within the first three years as responsible for re-arrests. The findings point that finding employment is essential for reintegration into the society, reducing chances of re-offending, and the psychological healing (Socia, 2014 and Levenson et al., 2015). Schnepel (2018) estimated the effect of employment opportunities on recidivism using a sample of 1.7 million offenders in California State. Increase in the demand for labor in construction and manufacturing was found to reduce rearrests significantly. However, the jobs paying lower wages was found not to influence recidivism rates. The research was based on the offenders released between 1993 and 2009 (Schnepel, 2018).
However, the sex offenders have suffered for their evil deeds even after serving their respective jail terms, leaving researchers questioning the efficacy of incarceration (Rich et al., 2015; Bushway, & Apel, 2012; Nally et al., 2014; Mears, Cochran, & Cullen, 2015; and Levenson & Hern, 2007). Nally et al. (2014) conducted a five-year cohort study aimed at exploring the post-release employment and recidivism among different types of offenders including sex offenders. 6,561 participants were drawn from the Indiana Department of Correction, United States. 36.3% of the participants were sex offenders (Nally et al., 2014). The findings showed that the recidivism rate among sex offenders was 54.7% contributed by failure to find employment in the first year after incarceration. Furthermore, the results pointed a higher rate of recidivism due to unemployment among the youth (under 30 years). In the context of the current study, employment and housing are proposed as essential factors in helping the sex offender re-enter the society.
Freudenberg et al. (2008) conducted a study to determine the experiences of offenders released from New York City prisons after one year. The study sample consisted of 491 adolescent males and other 476 adult women. Intake interviews were conducted by project staff, with questions focusing on finding employment throughout the year following their release. 87% of the young men and 40% of women in a study of the experience of offenders in New York City said that unemployment was one of the challenges in reentry.
Sex offenders reentering the society need jobs to get income to cater for their basic needs due to the loss of social support (Griffiths, Dandurand, & Murdoch, 2007; Tolson & Klein, 2015; and Socia, 2014). Participants said that getting employed to be a key factor in reentry success. They are received by harsh laws that restrict where they should live as already discussed under the residency restrictions. The sex offenders have difficulty in finding employment after release for a number of reasons. According to Griffiths, Dandurand, & Murdoch (2007), sex offenders leaving prisons experience challenges in securing jobs due to personal factors. They have low-esteem, skill deficit, minimal training, are demotivated, and lack of stable accommodation. Similarly, the ex-offenders are deterred by social factors like negative peer groups, missing support from relatives, and poor employment record (Griffiths, Dandurand, & Murdoch, 2007 and Fox, 2017).
Skardhamar, & Telle, (2012) conducted a longitudinal study investigating the transition from prison to employment and how it influences recidivism. A sample of 7,476 people released from Norwegian prisons in 2003 was tracked to 2006 with monthly measures. The recidivism rate of 70% was observed for the unemployed compared to 30% for the ex-offenders employed (Skardhamar, & Telle, 2012). The statistics point to the need for the policy makers formulate policies that aid in the ex-offenders in finding jobs, especially the high-risk offenders like sex offenders (Matravers, 2013). Bushway & Apel (2012) argue that employment is an obvious starting point in the reentry process and reduces recidivism. Working is a routine activity of adults, making offenders to prioritize finding jobs after release.
Barriers to Finding Employment
Pogrebin, West-Smith, Unnithan, & Walker (2014) point that employment is one of the greatest need of people leaving prison. The researchers used an ex-offender sample consisting of 70 men and women on parole in Colorado in a qualitative study to explore the financial obligations of sex offenders. The participants were found to undergo financial stress due to the failure to find employment or only managing to find a lower paying job (Pogrebin, West-Smith, Unnithan, & Walker (2014; Freudenberg et al.,2008). The researchers concur with other authors on the necessity of finding employment for the sex offenders but add that it is not only finding employment that challenges the successful reentry but the right type of employment that can help solve their huge financial obligations.
Studies have also indicated the impact of family reception as a factor that impacts sex offender’s chances of getting employment upon release (Fox, 2017; Griffiths, Dandurand, & Murdoch, 2007, and Tarpey & Friend, 2016). A study by Tewksbury & Connor (2012) to examine the perception of incarcerated sex offenders nearing release on how they expect their families to receive them found that those with positive expectation believed their family members were vital in securing job opportunities. In this study, 24 inmates were subjected to semi-structured interviews in a medium sized security prison. All participants were male ages 24-67 and had committed at least one sex offense.
According to a research to examine the variation in social integration in the first month from prison in Boston City, 122 offenders were surveyed in a Boston Reentry Study (Western, Braga, Davis, & Siros, 2015). 60.7% of the participants were dependent on their families for financial support (received money) due to the failure to secure employment within the first two months. The researchers also note that the respondents sought for public assistance to secure job opportunities. However, the offenders were only likely to be considered after getting involved in programs such as enrolling in food stamps, going for addiction meetings, and other community incentives (Western, Braga, Davis, & Siros, 2015; Shivy, Wu, Moon, Mann, Holland, & Eacho, 2007).
In another study by Rydberg (2018) which used a qualitative design to examine the barrier to employment and housing, 65 sex offenders were interviewed during a reentry parole. The participants were drawn from prisons in Massachusetts. The researcher also used a control group of 30 non-sex offenders for contextualization. The two groups were subjected to semi-structured interviews using questionnaires that had been formulated for the qualitative researcher. Social stigma and the supervision of the sex offenders compounded the reentry process. The study found access to transitional housing facilities problematic to the sex offenders in the study.
Restrictions by Employers
Researchers have noted that employees often grill their prospective employee on their criminal records. However, the practice has been restricted by the Ban-the-Box legislation. Denver, Pickett, & Bushway (2018) estimated that over 31 million adults in the U.S. were questioned about their history of crime during an employment application in the previous year. The study was based on a survey data from a national probability sample of 1,023 adults (18 years and above). Telephone numbers and addresses of the participants were sampled randomly and then recruited in the survey panel. Data was collected using internet surveys. The results indicated that 58.4% in general and 71.1% of the people who applied for employment in the previous year were questioned about their criminal history. From the Denver, Pickett, & Bushway (2018), it is probable that sex offenders will not be successful in getting the jobs after the employer has known their past record.
Nally, Lockwood, Ho, & Knutson (2014) conducted a five year follow up study of sex offenders to explore the rate of employment and recidivism after their release. The follow-up was done between 2005 and 2009 where a sample of 6, 561 drawn from Indiana were observed. The findings indicated that only 36.3 % of sex offenders got employed within the duration. The lower rate of employment was found to be the background checks done during the recruitment process. Many employers were reluctant to hire sex offenders’ due to concerns and possible liabilities. Records of crimes is known to lower the chances of people getting jobs across the globe. Because sex offenses stigmatizes and affects the trust on the convicts, there is a need to help them find jobs to prove their worth. The current proposes that helping the sex offenders get employment is a way of ensuring a successful reentry into the society.
Geographical factor is also a barrier to finding employment after the release of sex offenders. As stated previously on living restrictions, sex offenders have to live in rural areas, hence affecting their employment. Huebner et al. (2013) reported that 89% of sex offenders faced employment challenges due to residency restrictions. The researchers studied sex offender who released from prisons in New York City. After leaving prison, the sex offenders found that the restrictions laws were operational. The urban centers which had more parks, schools, and bus stations left the sex offenders with the options of moving to rural areas. Living in rural areas keeps sex offenders from obtaining local jobs as well as others that they had before the arrest. The sex offenders are challenged by traveling costs since they do not have other sources of income. In some places, residency restrictions require that sex offender cannot work within a school zone, hence eliminating many landscaping and residential work (Huebner et. al., 2013).
In all the aspects of life, work and relationships are key pieces for human development. When it comes to sex offenders and employment that doesn’t seem to coincide due to the hindrance of jobs available to sex offenders. Maintaining a career path for sex offenders is challenging and in turn will affect the offenders’ self-esteem as well as self-efficacy (Schaefer et. al., 2013). The average annual income for sex offenders’ ranges of $15,000 to $20,000 and this includes sex offenders with masters as well as doctorate degrees (Schaefer et al., 2013). Schaefer et al. (2013) conducted an exploratory investigation that consisted of eight convicted child molesters. The purpose was to better understand how a child molester obtains work. Data was gathered through structured and open-ended interviews with a qualitative analysis. The results of the study consisted of four major themes to employment in that some work triggered thoughts of sexual behavior, possible employment was denied due to sexual conviction on the negative end, and on the positive side, some past connections helped obtain new employment, and new career paths helped with self-esteem and a new beginning. Since this study was only conducted with eight child molesters it could differ from other sex offenders. There is a gap in knowledge on how a sex offender can be successful in obtaining work after incarceration. The gap will be addressed in the current study. The recurring theme was that sex offenders have a reduced possibility of getting jobs because of their status. The importance of employment for sex offenders is that obtaining a stable employment helps in successful reentry into society with a sense of purpose. Offenders who obtain stable jobs, in turn, will have a sense of purpose and feel valued (Schaefer et. al., 2013; and Tarpey & Friend, 2016).
Education and Skills
To increase the chances of securing employment, Thompson & Cummings (2010) stated that sex offenders need to be prepared before being released from prison. They need to be taught various work skills and get engaged in restorative justice interventions. The provision of training equips sex offenders with skills the increases the competitive advantage in the job market, hence aid in obtaining employment during the reentry process (Thompson & Cummings, 2010).
In addition to skills training, themes surrounding stable employment consist of having self-fulfillment, excellence and the primary good of inner peace (Tarpey & Friend, 2016). For successful reentry into the community, sex offenders not only find housing challenging but also getting employment is becoming an even bigger challenge. Finding and keeping employment is part of reentry, and offenders who could not secure stable jobs were more than likely to recidivate and return to prison. Therefore, employment is a contributing factor to reentry and plays a role in whether a sex offender is successful in reentry or not.
The current research aims to build on other works that have laid emphasis on finding employment for the sex offenders. In exploring the perspectives of the sex offenders, the current study will handle among other concepts, the view of the participants concerning the types of jobs they think would help fill their financial obligations. Quality jobs have been recommended for successful reentry of former inmates (Schnepel, 2018; and Griffiths, Dandurand, & Murdoch, 2007).
The Perceptions of the Sex Offenders on Housing and Employment
There is limited research based on the perceptions of the sex offenders about finding jobs and housing after release. The present research aims to bridge the literature gap. Researchers have based views of the sex offenders on the restriction laws and how they expect the society to receive them upon release. Tewksbury & Copes (2013) examined the perceptions and expectations of sex offenders concerning the challenges and opportunities after release. The sample consisted of 24 sex offenders in a Midwestern state were interviewed with three of release. The interviewer queried the soon-to-be-released sex offenders about their views on the restrictions laws and the resulting effects on settlement and finding employment. It was found that the sex offender relied on the assistance of their families and friends to secure steady employment. What concerned the participants majorly was the possibility of finding housing and jobs to help them to lead normal lives. However, there was lack of in-depth understanding of the restriction laws.
In the Tewksbury & Copes (2013) study, the participants expressed their concerns about finding houses which were affordable, safe, and are situated as per the residency restriction requirements. Secondly, the sex offenders who were nearing their release were concerned with securing viable employment. Reese and Dylan, two of the interviewees in the study said learning they will not be legally permitted to stay with their families was stigmatizing (Tewksbury & Copes, 2013). Another sex offender, Jax, said the halfway houses were inaccessible. Most of such facilities were considered by the participants to be not ready to take sex offenders.
Shivy et al. (2007) conducted a consensual qualitative research to determine the challenges by offenders when they come back in their places of employment after release. Data was obtained from two focus groups. The first group consisted of 6 male offenders and the in second group, there were 9 females who were receiving services at day reporting centers. They were asked about their experiences of coming back to employment after incarceration. Shivy et al. (2007) found that the participants had challenges to obtain and maintain employment, they needed to train on practical skills and the challenge of getting support. Personal network was found to be vital for the offenders’ support in the workplace.
How Finding Housing and Employment Contribute to Sex Offenders’ Successful Reentry
Successful reentry is important to the safety of the community, reduces the government budget for incarceration, and helps the ex-offenders lead their lives well after jail terms. The significance of reentry turns the attention of criminal justice practitioners and theorists alike have looked at factors influence the process. Huebner et al. (2013) go along to say that a major role of reentry deals with social integration. Family ties are the main focus when it comes to finding jobs and, and connecting with other people offer social connections. When a sex offender cannot move back to where their family lives, changing the place of residence affects the family relationship, causing a disruption in social networks (Huebner et. al., 2013). According to Puls (2016), social stability is important to the lives of sex offenders as it increases the chances of successful reentry into the society after release from prison. When the sex offenders have stable housing and employment immediately after release, they are positioned to receive social support from friends, relatives, human rights agencies as well as the government. Homeless and predator sex offenders are difficult to track, hence miss the benefits drawn from social support.
The reentry of sex offenders’ posse many challenges and Thompson and Cummings (2010) and other researchers (Tarpey & Friend, 2016) have identified various factors which are related to successful reentry. Thompson and Cummings (2010) summarized the factors for successful reentry in the following domains: meeting the basic needs of the offenders, meaningful interpersonal relationships, positive intrapersonal attitudes, and understanding the role of social networks. Additionally, the sex offenders need to find motivators, come to terms with their status, and being spiritual. Burchfield and Mingus (2012) and other researchers (Tewksbury & Connor, 2012) have stated the importance of having not just friends and family, but their neighbors’ approval for successful reentry. Sex offenders that have neighbors who are open report feeling less stressed about hiding due to the sex offender status.
The reentry process posse many challenges to sex offenders in a bid to reenter successfully after release. Tewksbury and Connor (2012) observed the importance of family relationships, and that played a major role in a sex offender finding employment and housing. Due to the importance of family, the offenders that found housing and employment was due to a family member offering them a job once released. However, most of the time the offer was contingent on their behavior during reentry. This does not just occur with employment, but housing as well. Tewksbury and Connor (2012) observed a housing issue and the difficulty of obtaining housing during reentry. Sex offenders depend on family relationships to help them find housing if they were not able to stay with family. Finding housing accommodation is one of the main expectation because if a sex offender does not have housing then they will be homeless.
Recently Tarpey & Friend (2016) and other researchers (Schaefer et. al., 2013) have observed sex offenders during reentry dealing with what makes them successful. It was observed that the Good Lives Model (GLM) plays a role in reentry in that it teaches sex offenders how to achieve meaningful life plans (Tarpey & Friend, 2016). For this to work a sex offender must believe that change is possible and be willing to change. Tarpey & Friend (2016) found that all of the sex offenders agreed that an important factor to reintegration was “a decision to change” (p. 286). According to this researcher, having a sense of inner peace was also important to reintegration because it offered improved relationships with family and friends. This, in turn, helped sex offenders find housing, employment volunteer work and gave them a desire to change. Tarpey & Friend (2016) also found that some of the participants felt like they did not have a support system then they would have continued their offending behavior. So, having a support system to help find housing and employment is a necessity during reintegration.
Other researchers, Schaefer et al. (2013), have also discovered the importance of interpersonal relationships playing a factor in reintegration. Schaefer and colleagues also suggested the importance of obtaining work due it being a key ingredient to rebuilding a sex offenders’ life during reintegration; as well as, some type of support system consisting of family and or friends that understand and can be a form of help during reintegration. In Schaefer et al. (2013) study, many of the participants that had employment felt like employment was some type of freedom. These participants also acknowledge their employment to having a support system that helped them obtain work. The importance of a support system plays a role in interpersonal connections which allows positive developmental changes during reintegration. According to Schaefer et al. (2013), developing interpersonal connections and learning coping skills during reintegration are key areas that play a role in successful reentry.
The literature reviewed has shown that little is known from a sex offenders’ perspective on what made them successful during reentry. What is known is that during reentry, sex offenders face many obstacles in a bid to reintegrate successfully into the society. Researchers have shown how housing and employment are invaluable contributors to successful reentry as well as recidivism. The residency restrictions force the sex offenders to stay far from their families and support system causing, leading to their social isolation. We also know that employment and housing go hand in hand in that without employment, a sex offender will be homeless unless supported by family or friends. We know this from statistical data, sex offenders that were not successful, pols and feedback from sex offenders and their support system. What the literature has failed to address is how housing and employment discussed so far may be skewed due to a missing link, perspectives of sex offenders who share their successful reentry on what made them successful.
Many sex offenders express continued negative impacts and the most serious problems that sex offenders face deal with finding suitable housing and employment. Many landlords and employers will not hire a sex offender due to trust issues and have the title “sex offender.” In addition to this, family, family friends and even individuals that are willing to help and give a sex offender a chance are hesitant due to possible repercussions from other employers or tenants. Due to residency and other restrictions with employment it forces offenders to move away from their support system and social networks inhibiting them from finding employment and in turn being forced to live in rural areas or low income based areas. Therefore, being homeless and jobless have negative impacts on sex offenders’ recidivism rate. The authorities have difficulties in keeping their records, they join peer groups supportive of antisocial behavior, and are likely to re-offend from the pressure social pressure.
The reentry literature also minimizes the challenges faced by sex offenders by stating that a support system is a key factor in successful reentry; without that, a sex offender will possibly be homeless or go back to prison. The body of the relevant literature indicated a limited research from the sex offenders’ perspective which can enhance insight on how finding housing and employment is vital for their successful reentry. Approaching the constructs of housing and employment from the perspective of the sex offenders enables a case by case formulation of strategies to aid in reentry.
In the current study, finding housing and employment are in the perspective of the offenders as important factors for successful reentry. Residency restrictions on sex offenders appeal to the public but are against the feeling of the sex offenders. The present intends to bridge the gap in the literature, which has left the perspectives of the sex offenders in determining how they feel about finding housing and employment to make their reentry successful. The study is in tandem with the previous recommendations that policy response, treatment, and management of sex offenders after incarceration should be community-based. In this regard, the perspectives of every offender help in addressing specific and unique desires. In support of the enactment of programs that consider the unique and special cases of the sex offenders, Huebner et al. recommend the implementation of the containment approach. The program incorporates communities, treatment providers, and the law enforcement agencies. Huebner et al. posit that the approach is a way to locate the specialized needs of sex offenders, especially their academic limitations which reduce their chances of securing employment after release. Similarly, the containment ensures that the specific economic hardships of the convicts are taken into account on the basis that the offenders are of different economic status.
Scholars have pointed to the need to formulate appropriate laws to govern the management and treatment of offenders in the U.S. Through explorative study to examine the efficacy of the laws governing, various researchers have found no significant reduction in the rate of re-offending. Instead, they point that the restrictions have led to numerous and detrimental unintended consequences to the community and the offenders themselves. The sex offenders are pushed into neighborhoods with levels of social disorganization, forced to live with the social stigma, and are disconnected to their families.
The literature reviewed point to the need for rapid changes in dealing with inmates. Sex offenders are depicted as dangerous to the safety of the society as reported in Florida when residence held protests against Barbara Farris. The current study contributes to this cause by bridging the gap that exists in the lack of the sex offender perspective on finding housing and employment. The recommendations put forward by the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. that professionals in the criminal justice should adopt evidence-based practices (EPS) to reduce incarceration and promote public safety are plausible. However, the present study asserts that involving the sex offenders in the formulations of policies that affect them as supported by the proponents of EPS, is the preferable way of ensuring they reenter the society successfully.
The present is based on the theoretical foundations of the social control and Hegel’s theory of responsibility. The social control theory was developed by Hirschi, who was analysis the reasons for committing crime from a functionalist’s perspective. The commission of the crime is partly due to the antisocial behaviors of the sex offenders and the failure of social institutions to control individuals. The weakness in families, law enforcement agencies, and lack of trust in the government’s role in crime deterrence are some of the institutions that the social control theory looks at in controlling crime. The community and government agree that sex offenders require housing and jobs reduces the chances for re-offending, improves their social reintegration, and psychological healing. However, there is a limitation in the use of views of sex offenders to make the support programs more successful. Consequently, most ex-offenders become homeless, pushed to disadvantaged neighborhoods, and loiter around with no jobs. They get to re-offend and get rearrested. That is a failure in the social institutions.
The next chapter will draw on the literature review as the basis for the use of the phenomenology as the conceptual framework to research on the perceptions of the sex offend the two practical issues of housing and employment. As shown in the literature review, finding housing and employment increases the likelihood of the sex offenders to re-enter the society successfully.
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