Op-Ed: Some jobs are better than others right out of prison

March 19, 2024

What’s a good job for formerly incarcerated people?

You often hear this mantra from people in corrections: Get a job, any job. Work will reduce your risk of going back behind bars. As a result, people coming out of prison feel pushed to take jobs that have difficult schedules, low pay, no benefits or poor working conditions.

That’s bad advice. In my research with other scholars, we’ve found that formerly incarcerated people just churn through jobs like that. Indeed, taking a bad job doesn’t protect you from recidivism. In one study, looking at formerly incarcerated young men in Michigan, over one-quarter of people coming out of prison experienced persistent desperation and struggle, including periods of homelessness; one-third had intermittent periods of desperation, and struggle for survival.

Read more about UC Berkeley Sociology Chair Dave Harding's op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle about the need for society to provide meaningful jobs to formerly incarcerated people.