How Long Before Ex-Cons Considered ‘Redeemed’?


Carnegie-Mellon University criminologists are calculating how long is “long enough” for a convict to remain arrest-free before being considered “redeemed” by a prospective employer. Carnegie-Mellon’s Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura discussed the redemption research at the National Institute of Justice’s annual crime research conference Tuesday in northern Virginia. The research will be posted online soon by NIJ. It is based on the proposition that criminals’ recidivism declines steadily as they avoid arrest.

The criminologists are using a concept called the “hazard rate,” the probability that someone who has stayed clean will be re-arrested again. For example, a person first arrested at 18 had the same arrest rate 7.7 years later as someone the same age in the general population, based on an analysis of 88,000 people first arrested in New York state in 1980. Most detected recidivism occurs within three to five years of an arrest. The criminologists are trying to identify when the risk of recidivism has declined sufficiently to be considered irrelevant in hiring decisions. The research was welcomed at yesterday’s conference by Diane Williams of the Chicago-based Safer Founation, which helps ex-convicts get jobs. Williams suggested creation of a “redemption point system” that would help employers decide when it is worth the risk to hire someone with a criminal record. Blumstein and Nakamura write in the latest NIJ Journal that states could decide to stop providing employers with criminal records “that are determined by hazard-rate analysis to be no longer relevant.”

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