Kaitlyn Harger researches how visible tattoos affect recidivism

Kaitlyn Harger, PhD candidate, University of West Virginia

It’s certainly no secret that visible tattoos can be an obstacle to success, whether in a job search or in one’s personal life. But they can also land ex-offenders back in prison faster than those who don’t have them.

And we know this thanks to work done by Kaitlyn Harger, a PhD candidate in economics at the University of West Virginia, whose research focuses on the general economics of crime and recidivism. But among her most interesting findings so far is what’s she’s learned about the effects of visible tattoos.

In a paper entitled “Bad Ink: Visible Tattoos and Recidivism,” Harger examines whether visible tattoos affect recidivism rates. Of course, she admits in the intro, that it may not be the tattoos themselves, but the lack of ability of those who sport them to obtain employment, one of the best ways to keep people from returning to prison.

She used data from the Florida Department of Corrections Offender Based Information System to compare the amount of time that those displaying visible tattoos were able to remain out of prison with the amount of time for those having no tattoos or tattoos that could be covered by clothing.

The data was for all inmates released from Florida facilities during 2008, 2009 and 2010 – a total of 97,156 people, with 88% of the sample male, 50% white, 46% black and 3.6% Hispanic. It included not just such demographic data as gender, race and age, and a list of offenses, but also information on the type and body location of all of the inmates’ tattoos.

While 22% of Harger’s sample population had visible tattoos on their head, face, neck or hands, 63% had them on any of those places plus their arms or legs. Arm and leg tattoos would be visible if the person was wearing a T-shirt or shorts, which might be the case in certain jobs, including construction worker or a lifeguard.

What she found was that the expected length of time between release and reincarceration for inmates with tattoos in general was 32.4% less than those without tattoos. And the expected length of time between release and reincarceration for those with tattoos on the head, face back or hands was 27.4% less than those with tattoos in other places.

Of course, as she mentions, this could be due behavioral factors. For example the fact that someone chose to get a certain type of visible tattoo might be one of the ways they indicate a commitment to a criminal lifestyle.

Regardless of the reason, visible tattoos are costing states and the Federal government a tremendous amount of money. In the case of Florida, ex-offenders with visible tattoos return to prison 419 days earlier than those without. At $47.50, the average daily price of housing an inmate, it would cost an additional $19,903 per year per inmate with a visible tattoo or a total of about $418 million over the three-year time period she studied.

To read the entire research paper, click on the link below:

goo.gl/637Gn8

 

Survey shows companies look beyond criminal record in hiring

Background CheckWhile the thought of a background check is enough to make anyone with a record cringe, a recent survey of employers on the subject reveals some rather surprising results.

The survey, The Unvarnished Truth: 2014 Top Trends in Employment Background Checks, was conducted by EmployeeScreenIQ, a Cleveland, Ohio-based international background check company early this year. Nearly 600 executives, managers and others representing a wide variety of companies – ranging in size from less than 100 to 5,000 employees – filled it out.

Compared with the previous year – the company does this annually – results show that more companies are adopting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines on background checks. At the same time, however, the majority are still asking for self disclosure – “the box” – which the EEOC recommends not including on employment applications.

Key findings of the report

Here are some of the key findings that indicate respondents’ current practices. Of respondents:

  • 45% refused to hire job candidates with criminal records only 5% of the time or less, meaning that they look beyond the applicant’s criminal background to consider their qualifications, dedication and references in making hiring decisions.
  • 88% have adopted the EEOC’s guidance on how to use criminal background checks, a significant increase over the 32% of the year before.
  • 66% still include “the box” on applications, in spite of the EEOC’s recommendation not to do so.
  • 8% said they automatically disqualify candidates who indicate that they have a criminal conviction prior to a background check.
  • 64% conduct individual assessments of those with criminal conviction records, going beyond their past to consider their qualifications.
  • 38% search online for candidate information as part of the hiring process, with LinkedIn the most commonly looked at site (visited by 80% of those who do online searches; followed by a general search on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. by 63%; and Facebook by 48%).
  • 50% refuse to hire 90% or more people who have lied on their resumes, indicating that falsifying information included on resumes may be worse than having a criminal record.
  • 14% conduct credit checks on everyone they hire. Counter to popular belief that most companies are running credit checks, 57% of respondents to the survey don’t do them at all.

Additional insight

Among other notable findings were the types of conviction records that would disqualify candidates from employment. Among them, 88% of respondents would disqualify an applicant with a felony for a violent crime, and 82% would do so for someone with a felony for theft or a crime related to dishonesty.

On the other end of the spectrum, only 8% would disqualify someone with a charge that didn’t result in a conviction, only 15% for minor infractions or driving offenses and 35% for a misdemeanor drug offense. In some situations, like in the case of driving or drug-related misdemeanors, the candidates may be disqualified because of the nature of the job they’re applying for (those that might involve driving or access to medications, for example).

When given a list of options that might make a company more likely to hire someone with a “troubling criminal conviction,” 46% mentioned a certificate of rehabilitation issued by a court or legal agency. Twenty-three percent said indemnification or other safe harbor relief from negligent hiring claims, such as The Federal Bonding Program.

Six percent said a tax credit, which could be the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a federal tax credit that employers who hire members of certain hard-to-hire groups can take advantage of. While some employers would consider these options, 41% said that nothing would make them more likely to hire candidates with troubling criminal records.

When asked how far back employers go in their criminal records search, 41% go more than seven years, 38% go six to seven years, 13% go four to five years, and 8% go three years or less.

For more details, download the entire report at the EmployeeScreenIQ website.

 

St. Louis Federal Bank highlights best job search technique

Compass ConceptIn a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,  James D. Eubanks, research analyst, and David G. Wiczer, economist, set out to figure out why, in spite of the fact the recession ended five years ago, the level of unemployment remains high. They wanted to see if it had anything to do with the techniques job seekers were using to look for employment.

And, in fact, it did. What they found revealed some interesting, but not particularly surprising, conclusions that were highlighted in an article published early this year.

The two researchers analyzed data gathered between 1976 and 2011 from the Current Population Survey, a survey of households conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In this survey, unemployed respondents are asked “What have you been doing in the last four weeks to find work?” and given a variety of choices as answers.

According to the survey results and authors’ calculations, the most popular job search method was contacting employers directly which was used by 65.7% of respondents. The second most popular method was answering ads, done by 25.8%, and contacting public employment agencies, done by 22.5%. Because job seekers could use more than one method, the figures total more than 100%.

Not only was contacting employers the most popular method, but it also was more effective than any of the others. More effective than employment agencies. More effective than networking with friends and relatives.

Again based on the Current Population Survey and authors’ calculations, they estimated the probability that a job seeker would gain employment using the various methods. During the first month of unemployment, the probability that those who contact employers directly will find a job is 46%. The probability for those placing or answering ads is 42% and networking with friends or relatives, 40%.

As time progresses, the probability that one method will work better than another gradually converges, and after one year they’re all about 20% effective, with only roughly a 2% difference from each other.

What you can do

This study once again confirms what we, at Jails to Jobs, have found to be the most effective job search technique – contacting hiring managers directly.

We recommend putting together a list of 100 employers who have the types of jobs you might be interested in. You can set boundaries like how far you’re willing to commute and the size of company you want to work for.

But don’t ignore the smaller employers. Depending on the type of work you do, you may want to concentrate on them. Companies with fewer than 250 employees hire nearly 75% of all workers in the U.S., and their hiring managers may be easier to get in touch with, since small companies are often less bureaucratic.

The list you compile should have the name of the company, its address, telephone number and the name of the hiring manager for the company or the department you would like to work in, if you can find it. Department managers, who usually function as the hiring managers, are sometimes listed on company websites or you might be able to find them by searching LinkedIn.

Pick up the phone

After you have your list together, the next thing to do is pick up the phone and call.

If you don’t have a name, tell the person who answers the phone, “I am trying to find out the name of the person who hires in (department). I want to send them a letter. How do you spell their last name? What is their official title?”  If they’re not sure, ask if they have a company directory handy and can look it up. Also try to get the person’s email address if at all possible, by saying “By the way, what’s that person’s email address?

Wrong extensions can often help direct you to the right person. Dial extensions starting with 1 or 2 and ask who is the hiring manager for whatever department you would  like to work in.

Avoid human resource departments. They support hiring managers during the selection process but don’t typically decide who gets hired. Their primary purpose is to screen you out.

Call – email – call – call

If the hiring manager answers the phone, you can give them a 15-second scripted message selling your strengths and saying you would like to get together to find out about opportunities at their company. Even if there are no job openings, it’s good to meet with a hiring manager, because they may know of a job in a different department or another company or know about you for the next time a job comes up in their department.

These days, however, most busy people can be difficult to get a hold of, so you will probably be leaving a voice-mail message. When you do, tell them you’ll send them an email – if you’ve been able to get their email address.

When you send the email explaining that you would like to set up an appointment to come talk to them, also include a resume, if you have a good one, or a JIST card, which just has your contact information and a short listing of your abilities and strengths. A JIST card is perfect for someone who has gaps in their resume or doesn’t have an extensive history of employment.

If you don’t hear back from them by phone or email in a couple of days, call them again. If you don’t hear the second time, wait for a week and try once more. If that doesn’t work, move on and continue calling others on your list.

Just walk in

Visit any employer, factory or office that interests you. Be friendly to the receptionist or whoever you meet when you walk in and ask to speak to the hiring manager of the department you’re interested in. It would be best if you called ahead to ask who that would be, so you can ask for that person by name.

If they’re willing to meet with you, talk to them about your skills and ask them for advice. If the hiring manager isn’t there, ask to talk to someone else in the department. Just have a brief chat, about five minutes. This may establish a valuable contact. When you call the hiring manager later, you can mention you met their colleague and are interested in learning more about working at their company.

A numbers game

Looking for a job is a numbers game. The more contacts you make, the more people you call, the more resumes or JIST cards you send out and the more interviews you go on, the greater your chance of finding someone who will be happy to hire you. If you look at it this way, you’ll be more likely to keep on calling than to get discouraged. Experts say that it is actually your job search activity that will sustain your spirit and keep you going until you find a job.

We’d love to hear success stories from people who used this technique. Please send them to info@jailstojobs.org.