Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar David Weiman Lecture: Barriers to Reentry? A Labor Market Perspective on Mass Incarceration

Event Date

Thu, 02/09/2017 -
7:00pm to 8:00pm


Room Number

Hardie Auditorium


Teresa Gramm



Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar David Weiman questions the conventional utilitarian calculus that has favored the use of prison as a criminal sanction, even for more marginal offenders convicted of less serious, victimless crimes. His analysis of the labor market experiences of released prisoners identifies an important unintended social cost of mass incarceration. A prison record, he shows, further isolates released prisoners in the new “urban” labor market, where they are confined to secondary jobs with lower pay, higher turnover, and dimmer prospects.  The evidence also suggests that employers reflect the spatial-racial concentration of mass incarceration by tarnishing all young less educated inner city minority men with the stigma of a prison record.  The significant “barriers to entry” facing released prisoners do not preclude their “going straight,” but significantly diminish the odds. In turn, their greater recidivism risk has sustained the high rates of incarceration despite the recent sharp downturn in crime rates.

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