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Good Jobs can Help Ex-Offenders Stay Away from Crime

Criminality can make it harder to find work, but having a job can steer someone away from crime


June 13, 2023 

OTTAWA, ON – Canada’s federal and provincial governments should promote jobs and employment as a way to reduce crime in our communities. That recommendation comes from Curbing Crime with Employment: Exploring Work as Crime Prevention for Canadians with Criminal Records, a new report from non-partisan think tank Cardus. The report’s key finding is that there is evidence of a two-way relationship between crime and employment—criminality can make it harder for someone to find work, while having a job can also help steer someone away from crime.

The report comes in the midst of a debate about how governments should be dealing with rising crime rates. Curbing Crime with Employment suggests that employment policy would be common ground on which those with differing opinions about crime might agree.

“Well-designed, pro-employment policies can go some way in addressing the root causes of crime,” says Renze Nauta, author of Curbing Crime with Employment and Work & Economics Program Director at Cardus. “Programs and policies that encourage employers to hire ex-offenders may well lead to a reduction in criminal behaviour among this population.”

The Cardus report examined ban-the-box initiatives, which prohibit employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal records. Such initiatives are meant to protect those previously involved in the justice system from the stigma of their criminal record when they apply for jobs. However, Curbing Crime with Employment found that such initiatives lead to serious, negative, and unintended consequences. Some employers engage in racial profiling in the absence of individual information from criminal records.

Evidence of a two-way link between crime and employment, as well as the problems associated with ban-the-box policies, suggest this subject is ripe for further research and policy development.

“Society and government have a moral responsibility to use work and employment to help those caught in the criminal justice system to lead new lives of greater meaning, direction, and dignity,” says Nauta.

Curbing Crime with Employment: Exploring Work as Crime Prevention for Canadians with Criminal Records is freely available online.

Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

Cardus – Imagination toward a thriving society

Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.