Breaking cycles of crime through employment

George Mason University researchers study an innovative job placement program and its impact on stigma-related barriers to securing stable employment following incarceration.

Breaking cycles of crime through employment
George Mason University professors Daniel Houser (left) and Cesar J. Rebellon (right).

Daniel Houser, chair professor in the Department of Economics and director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science at George Mason University, is leading a project titled “Breaking Cycles of Crime Through Employment: A Study of Tempus Novo’s Successful Rehabilitation Model.” Houser and co-principal investigators Cesar J. Rebellon, professor in Mason’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society, and Jia Liu, associate professor of behavioral economics at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, will analyze data from an innovative rehabilitation model to provide important insights for reducing recidivism. The project received a 2023 Office of Research Innovation and Economic Impact (ORIEI) Seed Funding Award of $100,000. 

"The United States has long had one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and recidivism data suggest that half or more of those who are incarcerated are likely to be re-arrested within two to three years of release,” Houser explained. He added, “Although research suggests that stable employment is one key factor that may lower the risk of recidivism, the stigma associated with incarceration often leaves this difficult to achieve.” 

Houser and Rebellon note that even when prospective employers are barred from asking applicants explicitly about their criminal record, research finds that stigma remains difficult to avoid.

In the past, job placement programs that attempt to help former inmates obtain employment have yielded mixed results. The team’s research will focus on a non-profit UK-based organization Tempus Novo, whose data suggest approaches that may overcome stigma-related barriers to securing stable employment. Of particular note, recidivism rates among Tempus Novo clients are well below 10%, an 80% improvement in relation to overall rates in the UK and U.S.

The research team will study Tempus Novo’s rehabilitation model to understand what explains its participants’ remarkably low recidivism rate, with the eventual goal of replicating its model in the United States.

“Such replication would not only have the potential to bring Tempus Novo’s successes to the U.S., but could likewise generate these successes at a relatively low cost and in multiple states and jurisdictions facing similar challenges,” Houser said.