However, just as early employment contacts can enhance the prospects of getting a job and subsequent occupational mobility, contacts with crime and the justice system seem likely, in a converse way, to increase the probability of unemployment. For example, criminal involvements of family and friends are more likely to integrate young people into the criminal underworld than into referral networks of legal employment. And youthful delinquent acts and justice system supervision are likely to further distance juveniles from the job contacts that initiate and sustain legitimate occupational careers. Criminal embeddedness is a liability in terms of prospects for stable adult employment. This embeddedness is compounded by the effects of becoming officially labeled and known as a criminal offender, especially in distressed community settings in which few jobs are available in any case.

These risks are reflected in a recent analysis of juveniles tracked from childhood through adulthood in a London working-class neighborhood (Hagan, 1993). This study reveals that intergenerational patterns of criminal conviction make youth especially prone to subsequent delinquency and adult unemployment (Hagan, 1993; Hagan and Palloni, 1990; Ward and Tittle, 1993). Other studies similarly show that working-class males with conviction records are uniquely disadvantaged in finding and maintaining employment (Laub and Sampson, 1995; Schwartz and Skolnick, 1964), and that a criminal arrest record can have negative effects on employment as much as eight years later (Freeman, 1992; Grogger, 1995; Thornberry and Christenson, 1984). Conviction and imprisonment have also been shown to have a permanent impact on legal earnings (Freeman, 1992; Hunt et al., 1993; Needels, 1996; Sampson and Laub, 1993). For example, Freeman's (1992) analysis of the Boston Youth Survey indicated that youths who were incarcerated had exceptionally low chances of employment; similarly, his analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth revealed that men who had been in jail or on probation experienced “massive long-term effects on employment ” (Freeman, 1992:217). Sampson and Laub (1993) found that unstable employment and a higher likelihood of welfare dependence characterized the lives of the delinquent boys in a prospective sample of 500 delinquents and 500 non-delinquents. Moreover, juvenile incarceration was found to have an indirect effect on the incidence of future crime, because “incarceration appears to cut off opportunities and prospects for stable employment [and] job stability in turn has importance in explaining later crime” (Laub and Sampson, 1995:256). Other data indicate that while more than half of state prisoners are employed before going to jail, only about a fifth of those on parole are employed following imprisonment (Irwin and Austin, 1994).

It is therefore important to emphasize the role of the police, courts,



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement