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ERIC Number: ED509526
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 38
Preparing Prisoners for Employment: The Power of Small Rewards. Civic Report No. 57
Piehl, Anne Morrison
Center for Civic Innovation
To the average citizen, the reasons for obtaining gainful employment and obeying the law seem obvious: the freedom to pursue, and the ability to afford, the good things in life--such as a home, a family, and a comfortable standard of living. The high rates of recidivism and unemployment among ex-offenders suggest that the reasons to make an honest living--and to take the necessary steps toward doing so--are anything but obvious. Far more than a lack of education or skills, discrimination, or other external obstacles, it is ex-offenders' impulsiveness and unfamiliarity with the world of work and its trade-offs between sacrifice and reward that explain their poor outcomes after release from incarceration and, for that matter, their lapses preceding it. That is the theory behind a residential prisoner-release program in Montgomery County, Maryland. Realizing that neither the powerful incentives of freedom and financial solvency nor the powerful disincentives of re-incarceration and impoverishment have sufficiently reshaped this troubled population's behavior, the program has resorted to the "small stuff": (1) later curfews; (2) access to phone cards; and (3) more frequent visits from family to induce program participants to get and keep jobs in the surrounding community. This study concludes with a discussion of how the principles of this and similar programs might be adopted by parole agencies, which today focus on getting parolees to comply with the rules governing their release, not on instilling a work ethic in those they supervise. The Montgomery County PRC provides an alternative to incarceration and a bridge to employment and social reintegration. It recognizes the social and psychological deficits common to the incarcerated population and has constructed an effective and instructive system to compensate for them. (Contains 2 tables and 46 endnotes.)
Center for Civic Innovation. 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Tel: 212-599-7000; Fax: 212-599-3494; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute
Identifiers - Location: Maryland