Reviewing The Risks Of Employment Through Offenders Criminology Essay

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The review of literature in the previous chapter has outlined the main theories of risk that are relevant for exploration given the findings gained following primary research. Research was conducted to provide insight and support towards the overall aim of this paper which is to evaluate risk, its causes and finally what is being done to reduce this risk.

This chapter will draw reference to retrospective risk factors encountered by four participants in the sample. By no means does this research claim to be of sufficient stature to enable generalisation, however it is felt that a rich picture has been created of risks posed in today's society. This chapter will also address the second part of the research question what is being done to minimise this risk in order to reduce re-offending? To draw an analytical conclusion this process will use the triangulation method.

With reference to the literature review, the analysis of findings will be discussed under the realms of school factors in relation to truancy and alienation, family factors in relation to parenting styles and criminal families, neighbourhood factors in relation to deprivation and characteristics, individual risk in relation to drugs and alcohol and finally to enable an assessment of individual reform, the effects and barriers to employment will be discussed. Due to the limitations (word count and time constraints) and interrelated findings in this study, the findings will be discussed and analysed in a single chapter.


Minimising Risk through Employment

The first method of investigation was to formulate a case study which was through the means of an interview with a practitioner, materials available via their website and other publications that were sought relevant. Following the interview and the findings gained, permissions were granted to enable a more in depth data collection using questionnaires, it was through the practitioner that enabled the use of the snowball technique; as discussed in the methodology.

The aim of the case study was to identify the interventions that are implemented to reduce recidivism. The overall goal promoted within this programme is to engage individuals with sustained employment which is widely recognised as playing a central role in desistance from crime (see Farrall, 2002; Laub and Sampson, 2001; Uggen, 2000; Visher and Travis, 2003). Sustainable employment reduces the likelihood of an individual reoffending by between one-third and a half (LGA, 2005:1). As a result of this, government policy has increasingly focused on addressing the obstacles that ex-offenders face in accessing employment opportunities. In 2005, the Government published Reducing Reoffending through Skills and Employment, which sought to place employment as key to leading a crime-free life (HM Government, 2005; 2006). These findings suggest that employment is a significant counteracting formula in the reduction of recidivism, therefore the findings from the case study will be analysed to provide a conclusion as to its capability.

The following sections will outline the main risk factors that need to be addressed in order to engage an individual into employment and also to reduce recidivism.

Before carrying out the interview and distributing the questionnaires, all permissions were granted and all participants received a full briefing as to the nature of the research. An explanation was also given regarding the publication of the results and an assurance of confidentiality was agreed.

The questionnaire responses were received from four participants [1] and all are now employed as a result of engagement with an employment and training agency (of which the case study is based) The questionnaires draw upon retrospective biographical responses to enable the identification of risk and the case study will provide evidence of minimisation techniques.

The main focus of this paper is risk and how outside agencies can minimise this risk, for the purpose of this paper factors such as school risk factors will be briefly discussed however, the appendix will be used if further exploration is required.

School Risk Factors: Truancy and Alienation

The participants in the sample were asked a series of questions that were used for retrospective analysis. School risk factors are deemed relevant for exploration given the literature in this area and also to create an image of the participant's early life course. However, the case study is based on an agency and practitioner that works with adult offenders hence this paper will focus on what can be done now.

The findings from the questionnaires show truancy and alienation to be key concerns during secondary schooling [2] . Truancy is a measurable and researched indicator of student alienation which has a strong association with juvenile offending. The findings here are comparable with the argument proposed by Graham (1988), Graham theorised that alienation from school was a key indicative feature towards the increased risk of crime and antisocial behaviour. In this context, alienation can be teamed with a lack of social bonds as argued by Ayers et al (1999) which was found to be a risk factor for later delinquency. Further support for this theory is Johnston, (1991) who argues his findings from an American study (in the context of drug misuse) and conclude that lack of commitment to school also posed as a risk toward antisocial behaviour in adolescence, West, (1982) also found similar findings in a comparison study.

When asked about what participants did during the hours of disengagement from school, all of the participants admitted to smoking, drinking alcohol and conducting mischievous behaviour but did not report criminal activity. An example of this reads;

'we never did anything too bad but we would sometimes smoke and drink beer and sometimes we would nick bikes and mess about' (Participant C).

This finding is taken in the context of mischievous as oppose to criminal behaviour but does show the signs and potentialities for progression toward more serious and persistent offending. It appears that the link between truancy and delinquency is not straightforward, when thinking in terms of cause and effect it is easy to assume that delinquency leads to truancy, this research shows that the events taking place during those hours of disengagement are deviant in the context of misdemeanours, however it is apparent that 'nicking a bike and underage drinking and smoking' are not considered by the participants as criminal behaviour, which it is by law. In short conclusion these findings reject the theory argued by Graham, (1998) that delinquency leads to truancy and also that of Ekblom, (1979) who found that truants rarely offend during school hours.

Educational attainment

When asked about educational attainment, it was clear that minimal qualifications were gained and participants had no wish to continue onto further education. However, a further revelation was reported as an example as to why one participant did not continue into further education;

'I wanted to go to college to do plumbing and my head of year told me she wouldn't give me a reference to wheel trolleys at a supermarket never mind a college course. So I just thought why bother' (Participant A).

This quote signifies the importance of positive role models, the derogatory comment received by his teacher was enough to stop him from pursuing further education and possibly act to minimise his risk of criminal behaviour. Low educational attainment and truancy are strongly linked as argued by Bosworth, (1994). Hibbert and Fogelman, (1990) concluded that this is also a strong indicator of 'poor life outcomes' which is true to this research when taken collectively.

The practitioner reports this barrier to be true of most, if not all of the individuals which he works with, this finding was also found in the report conducted by the Social Exclusion Unit, commenting that ex-offenders have low skill-levels and minimal formal qualifications (SEU, 2002). The programme offers a wide range of initiatives ranging within the area of further education, hairdressing, security and door work training and a series of basic skills courses as well as guidance with curriculum vitae's and interview skills. It is widely recognised that ex-offenders may lack many of the soft skills that employers demand and the processes involved such as attending interviews, writing applications can prove to be both difficult and daunting for individuals (SEU, 2002). This agency is small in regards to resources however an enormous emphasis was placed on the importance of multi-agency cohesion;

'The programme would not work without the input and resources from external agencies, we all have the same aims and goals which is to provide an ex-offender with a new beginning'

The use of multiagency interplay serves to provide ex-offenders with the much needed skills to engage within mainstream society. When asking the participants if they felt that any barriers stood in the way of them and employment it became clear that they felt hopeless in the quest for work. The first barrier was the lack of educational attainment at school and having no work experience leaving a feeling of inferiority when applying for jobs.

The practitioner offers a wide range of 'in house' work based and educational training opportunities for all candidates. The practitioner reports that when the agency was first established they used to enrol individuals onto college courses where the individual would be given expenses to and from the college and were also provided with the necessary equipment (books and pens). It was soon found that a large majority of people were disengaging from college. When the individuals were asked for an explanation it was found that the 'school environment' was far too intimidating for them and the class numbers were so high they felt withdrawn. This was soon changed and the agency now holds courses on the premises with only small numbers of people all with similar backgrounds.

Neighbourhood Risk Factors: Deprivation and Characteristics

Neighbourhood characteristics and deprivation are all well documented in classical and contemporary literature. Factors concerning ones neighbourhood is deemed very relevant in the field of criminology due to the direct and indirect effects it can have on any given individual. The features surrounding delinquent peer groups will be discussed within this section, however it is felt that it could easily take presence in any number of these sections. The findings drawn throughout this section were concluded with the existing literature in mind.

The findings show that all participants lived in housing provided by the council as a youth and all but one (participant D) of the participants had moved out of their family home at some point after adolescents. Those who have moved are still in housing provided by the council and some on the same estate. It was realised through this research that the four participants were divided between two neighbouring areas which were known well as crime prone areas. Following the study conducted by Park and Burgess, (1925) it was deemed worthy to investigate the characteristics posed by the two main areas of criminal recognition. The characteristics hypothesised by the authors are somewhat outdated (in relation to cheap theatres), however, the chaotic and poverty based elements can be applied to today's social problems and in turn this research.

The descriptions were very similar for all participants, finding that vandalism; violence, gangs, lack of local amenities and an influx of immigrants were key features. Additional to this it was found that all four participants felt that their neighbourhoods were labelled as 'scruffy' and crime prone areas, as one participant commented;

'I only have to walk down the street and the cops would stop me and ask where I was going and what I was doing'. (Participant A).

All of the participants described the police as bias and unfair, three of the participants had been arrested a number of times by the police for crimes of burglary and violence of which all three denied being part off.

Further to this it was reported that they felt discriminated against because of their postcode and the stigma that was attached. The adviser provided an account of the area's characteristics which reads:

'these places aren't nice, they are very intimidating places. Most of the local businesses are boarded up and that's mostly to do with them getting broken into all the time. The housing is mostly provided by the council and acts as a breeding ground for criminals' (Adviser)

In support of this the local newspaper reported, 'only four shops are still trading at a run-down mall in the middle of Ordsall, Salford.' (Manchester Evening News, 2008). The Salford annual baseline review also reports that The District is the third most deprived in the country.'

This evidence suggests that close proximity to the city centre, deterioration of housing stock and social disorganisation in terms of the abolition of local amenities are in support of concentric zone theory. Theoretically, this image of 'criminal breeding grounds' is shared by many, Farrington (1991) and Bursik and Webb, (1982) concluded that poor living conditions in economically deprived areas with high unemployment rates acted as a significant risk factor towards criminal behaviour.

The primary research indicates that many of the offenders reside within some of the most troubled and deprived areas which are known 'hot spots' for criminal activity. Shaw and McKay (1969) reported similar findings, documenting a large percentage of offenders belonging to a relatively small proportion of neighbourhoods, which is true to these findings. Kolvin et al, (1988) found that rates of criminal and anti social behaviour rose in accordance with levels of deprivation. Although rates of financial deprivation was not recorded we may assume that these areas of reside are not for those with a large disposable income.

Delinquent Peers

As briefly shown earlier, the antisocial behaviour that occurs is seemingly not conducted in isolation. The participants all report having a small group of delinquent peers to whom they spent much time with and committed most acts with, much of the existing literature report similar findings. Reiss, (1998) supports the notion that delinquent acts are carried out in small groups and similarly Thornberry and Krohn, (1997). Delinquent peer groups are recognised as an individual risk factor in the Cambridge study finding that having such peers has a strong association with committing crime as a young adult.

A further finding which initially was not considered during this part of the research was the impact of stigmatisation within neighbourhoods. In support of this finding (amongst others who??) is the study conducted by Wilson (1968), despite its classical origin, it is the belief that today's society continues to attach negative labels to an image or stereotyped offender or potential offender (Irwin, 1985). Wilson concludes that lower class individuals are targeted by the police for the belief that they commit more crimes therefore takes more action to arrest them. This finding seems apparent in the research conducted here, in a neighbourhood context as Bittner (1970) reports, the police tend to allocate more patrols and resources to the areas that are most affluent crime prone areas and have a population of lower class individuals. The work by Bittner and Wilson is important to this research as it suggests that the police are more aware of these areas however, as suggested in this research everyone is perceived to be a potential offender which may lead to a 'wrong place at the wrong time' scenario leading to injustice. SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY??

There is an enormity of evidence that one's neighbourhood can act as risk factor (as already seen) the argument put forward to the practitioner was 'is employment enough to keep ex-offenders from crime' the practitioner reports that in his experience it is too easy for an ex-offender to slip back into crime when posed with significant risks. In the context of neighbourhood risk factors the practitioner referred to a partner company for whom he works with regularly (this agency will be referred to as project A). Project A works specifically with drug and alcohol addiction. The practitioner refers to the risk assessment that is carried out for all individuals and highlights that the risk factors are considered in all realms of the individual's life. If it is recognised that one's neighbourhood is posing as a significant risk then project A is contacted. Project A provides housing for individuals who show commitment to making positive changes to their lives and engage with training and employment. The individual is then re-housed in a different neighbourhood; the housing accommodates four ex-offenders and does so until it is decided the individual can live independently. The interviewee refers to an individual case for which he worked with, the client was a 24 year old male who was well known by the police as being a heroin addict and had a history of non-violent crime. The interviewee recalls his experience with him;

'We've got a lad I got to know when I was a policeman 25 years ago. He turned his life around after heroin and last year engaged with us and gained employment. ...His neighbourhood and family home were identified as the biggest risk factors affecting his drug misuse and criminal behaviour so we contacted project A. However he went back to heroin last week. He went home and told his mother how well he was doing...his mother made a comment that he wasn't doing as well as he should be and he said he felt so low. He had a 24 hour binge on heroin and nearly died again and has now been removed from the project and back into his old family home and neighbourhood where he can prove himself right again and can be considered for the project A.' (See appendix ??).

In cases such as this, it is clear that not all elements of risk can be eliminated from someone's life, in this case the catalyst for re-offence was his mother and despite his progress and new residence her demeaning comments were enough to cause relapse. This case prompted questions regarding support and guidance.

The literature suggests that employment alone cannot eradicate risk, as Laub and Sampson (2001) have suggested, employment and family encourage desistance, as they involve individuals within a web of responsibilities, obligations, and institutions of social control that lead to a reduction in criminal association and behaviour. This reiterates the point made earlier that employment alone cannot act as a significant deterrent from criminal activity without counteracting other barriers.

Family Risk Factors: parental supervision and criminal records

Parental supervision

The literature in chapter 2 suggests that family factors play a large and influential role in relation to criminal behaviour. The questions put forward to the sample within this research were heavily influenced by the existing literature. However it was felt that questions regarding family histories and circumstances may generate levels of discomfort which in turn would be unethical to pursue, due to this the questions used were very brief, yet open for participant interpretation.

When asked about whether or not the participants had grown up in a single or two parent family, the findings show that participants A and B lived with their mothers, C lived with both grandparents and participant D's parents were together. Participants A, B and C reported a lack of supervision whilst at home, suggesting that they were free to come and go as they pleased.

Participant D reported his father as being a very lenient parent who was unemployed and did not enforce rules. However, his mother (who was a local barmaid) was a far more aware of setting boundaries yet failed to enforce them regularly due to working fulltime antisocial hours (evening shifts).

With the emphasis being placed on risk and criminality it was important to investigate how the individuals behaved whilst 'unsupervised'. The general consensus found was that a lack of activities led to delinquent acts with peers such as, making prank calls from the phone box, smoking cannabis, drinking alcohol and being driven around by older peers.

When considering these findings in relation to the surrounding literature Farrington (1986a, 1986b) also found that poor supervision was indicative of future criminality which was the case for all participants in this study. Related literature argues the effects of parenting styles and the subsequent effects of them, however due to the ethical barriers felt within this research only the issue of supervision was addressed. That said, we might argue that a regularly unsupervised adolescent is a neglected adolescent which sees the negative effects of neglect, this is supported by existing literature (West and Farrington, 1973) and (Newson and Newson, 1989) as posing as a risk towards criminal behaviour. In direct endorsement are the findings from the Cambridge study which concluded that poor supervision at aged 8 led to future criminal convictions (Farrington, 1978).

In addressing the first part of this section it is easy to assume that certain family structures have an increased risk of producing a delinquent child, for example lone parents, but there is evidence to suggest that two parent families can also be the product of risk. As seen in this research, there are differing parental guardianship, however criminal behaviour was apparent in all cases. To reiterate, the findings here are sparse in their content due to reasons already discussed although, that considered still enables a conclusion to be drawn. It is argued here that a lack of supervision may lead to a lack of rules and subsequently social norms and regulation. This theory of 'unsupervised' adolescents teamed with the negative characteristics of one's neighbourhood leads to a conclusion conveyed best by the famous proverb 'the devil finds work for idol hands'.

Does crime run in the family?

The next question's was to assess the extent of whether 'crime runs in the family'. Participant A reports his father as having been in prison for most of his life for a range of offences from drink driving to actual bodily harm (ABH). Participant B reported his older brother being a known gang member and in regular contact with the police. Participants C and D did not wish to disclose any criminal convictions in their families.

Risk of delinquency is said to be increased if one or both parents have had an involvement in crime, this is also the case if any siblings have, or still are delinquent (Farrington, 1995). These findings are supportive of this research when taking into account the participants who recorded their families' criminal histories. This theory was further endorsed in the Cambridge study which found that of boys with convicted fathers, 60% went on to be convicted themselves.

Individual Risk: Drugs, Alcohol and Delinquent Peers

Given the nature of the individuals in the sample, an easy assumption to make here is that a dependency on drugs and alcohol is inextricably linked with offending behaviour. However, these factors may not act alone in determining ones decisions. Further to this, it will be interesting to evaluate which behaviour came first for example, does drugs and alcohol lead to offending? Or does offending lead to the utilisation of drugs and alcohol?

Drugs and Alcohol

It was established earlier in this chapter that on occasion cannabis and alcohol was consumed during truancy hours from school. When probing further it was found that occasional use of cannabis and alcohol at aged 15/16 led to friendships with peers of a similar level of deviance which through these peers saw the increased use of (in particular) drugs from a recreational frequency to a dependency. The progression of such transitions is not known however; all participants disclosed their drug histories as shown;

Participant A, B and C have a history of heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis misuse. Participant D has a history of alcohol and cannabis misuse.

The availability of drugs in their neighbourhoods was reported to be ubiquitous and easily accessible. The final question asked participants why they chose to continue taking illegal drugs into adulthood. Participant D did not see the harm in smoking cannabis retrospectively and recalls it as something to do with friends. The remaining three; report a vague recollection of any conscious decision making but state that delinquent peers and boredom led to a natural progression of illegal drug taking.

When probing further it was identified that many of the drug users had been formally cautioned and even incarcerated for their involvement in drugs. The evidence collected did not have the scope for a life course analysis of each individual however, it seems obvious that these individuals did not respond to such sanctions positively. Although the impact of labeling in this context was not fully made apparent, this behaviour is in accordance with that of Kaplan and Johnson (1992).

In a study conducted by Kaplan and Johnson (1992) it was found that the most indicative predictor of increased drug use was the effect of specific labelling. This theory of labelling suggests that drug use increases as a result of negative social sanctions. According to the authors the drug user firstly interprets the label in a positive way; secondly, the drug user loses motivation to conform. And thirdly, the drug user becomes alienated from 'mainstream' society which results in less opportunity to socialise with non-drug users. The theories posed by advocates of the labelling process are felt to be relevant to this research whether the individuals were conscious to this occurrence or not.

When considering the retrospective findings and the future outcomes of these individuals, this research is in full support of Robins and Przybeck, (1985) who found that those who use drugs at an early age are more likely to become non-recreational users of addictive drugs than those whose initiation is delayed.

Criminal Record

With relation to the negative effects of labeling, the final and most resounding barrier to employment was having a criminal record. All participants felt that being labelled an ex-offender was far more detrimental than any other factor. Participant B had sought work at a local supermarket for a low skilled position and felt discriminated against because of his criminal record and postcode. Participant D has never been incarcerated but saw the prospect of work pointless due to his criminal label.

The vast majority (95%) of individuals that the programme works with have been in contact with the criminal justice system, most have been in prison and all have criminal records. Although the criminal justice system aims to reform and rehabilitate, there is evidence from both documented theories and the participant responses that this may not work as well when put into practice. The literature suggests a breadth of knowledge surrounding the implications of negative labeling.

The programme works closely with the prolific and persistent offender (PPO) team (who work with those individuals who are responsible for 90% of crime in that area) and it is clear from the interview that it is these offenders that require the most help and support. The ideas from labeling theorists have great significance when looking at those with criminal records and in particular the prolific offenders.

The ideas of labelling theorists such as Lemert (1967) were intended to explain why some people become locked into a cycle of offending. On this view, those who are caught and punished are deliberately stigmatised by the criminal justice system. Typically, they change their view of themselves to fit the criminal label, and adopt a way of life and a circle of associates that turn them into confirmed criminals. The primary case study is supported by Lemert's theory of labeling and in the words of the interviewee:

'at the moment I have 6 PPO's on my books and they are all between the ages of 24 and mid 30's, they are very difficult to work with because they have no respect for authority, the law or have a fear of punishment. I am familiar with these guys from when I was in the police and they have been committing crime and been in and out of prison for over 10 years. None of them see the point in going straight and finding a job as they have been labelled a convict and a druggy'.

This is a prime example of how individual's lives can be shaped by the criminal justice system, offenders may be reproduced due to subsequent labeling in a system that aims to rehabilitate and reform. The resettlement of prisoners upon release however, was found to play an enormous role in whether recidivism was to be played out. A partner company for whom plays a significant role in re-educating and resettling ex-offenders in relation to drug misuse states that:

'The new drug treatment strategy post 2008 will need to focus more on the total and complete liberation of the addict as well as focus on how to counteract the stigmatisation that still exists in our society, where people can be labelled due to their past histories. In addition it will need to look at the long term development of some people who have never been accustomed to the employment market, who need a tremendous amount of coaching and managing as they prepare for the culture of work and be supported when they enter employment. We need to open the door to specialist human developers who can influence strategic thinking and transform the clinical perception of strategy.'

It is becoming increasingly obvious that labels and the stigmatisation of individuals are lingering factors that need to be addressed.

A compulsory component of the programme is teaching the individuals to disclose their offences. The 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act made it easier for employers to obtain details about individuals and placed greater burdens of disclosure on ex-offenders;

[The Act] requires ex-offenders, if asked, to disclose their previous convictions to employers. This requirement lasts until a period of time has passed without further convictions, when they become spent. For many ex-prisoners this process will take 10 years. For those sentenced to over two and a half years the requirement to disclose lasts for the rest of their lives- a requirement which affects around 100,000 ex-prisoners (SEU, 2002:59).

The practitioner is in agreement that this attitude exists in today's society and foresees this as a common problem that is far from being eradicated.

Labeling theory

According to labeling theory, the criminal justice system is limited in its ability to control unlawful conduct but also can act as a catalyst towards criminal careers. Individuals who are arrested, prosecuted, and punished are labeled as criminals. It is well established that young people with a criminal record have a more difficult and less successful transition to 'adulthood' (Home Office 2002, Furlong & Cartmel 2007). Society perceives and treats these individuals as criminals and this will increase their likelihood to engage in criminal behavior for a number of reasons. Labeled individuals may have difficulty obtaining legitimate employment, which in turn increases their level of strain and reduces their stake in conformity. These labeled individuals may experience a reluctance of association from mainstream society, and my associate with other 'criminals' as a result. Criminal association can adopt the social learning of crime which can lead to an individual labeled due to a minor offence but being later associated with crime which is much more serious in its nature. Finally is the view that those labeled individuals will eventually come to view themselves as criminals and act in accordance with it, this can be captured by Merton's term 'self-fulfilling prophecy'.

A number of early criminologists noted that prisons were a severe form of societal reaction and acted as a breeding ground for crime. As Bentham comments;

'an ordinary prison is a school in which wickedness is taught by surer means than can ever be employed for the inculcation of virtue. Weariness, revenge, and want preside over these academies of crime' (Cited in Hawkins, 1976, P.57).

Lombroso also made a similar argument in 1911, finding that;

'the degrading influences of prison life and contact with vulgar criminals...cause criminaloids who have committed their initial offences with repugnance and hesitation to develop later into habitual criminals' (Lombroso, Ferrero, 1972, p,110-111).