Ninety-five percent of individuals who are currently incarcerated will one day be released. This means the vast majority will reenter society and attempt to rebuild a life. Study after study reveals the difficulties awaiting them: from acquiring employment and government benefits to obtaining housing and education—not to mention, the general stigma that will follow them.

In a new policy paper, R Street Senior Criminal Justice Fellow and Associate Director, Nila Bala examines methods to reduce the stigma associated with formerly incarcerated individuals – particularly as it pertains to employment prospects.

Employment after incarceration is one of the key indicators to ensuring that individuals do not reenter the criminal justice system. While multiple reform measures exist—including ban the box, state regulations that can prevent the consideration of certain records, certificates of rehabilitation and expungement—many fall short because they do not take into account human cognitive biases. An examination of these, therefore, is critical to successfully implementing these reforms.

The paper argues that we need to give individuals an opportunity to be employed and legislators are remiss not to consider how the human mind works, at both its best and its worst. The author concludes, “If we are serious about reintegrating justice-involved individuals into society, then a robust expungement policy . . . is our best bet.”






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