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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Hooks for change? Family and employment as pathways to social inclusion among crime-prone individuals

Awarded: NOK 11.6 mill.

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Project Period:

2011 - 2017

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The project has focused on the whether social inclusion affects crime, what leads to desistance from crime and how crime in adolescence affects later outcomes. Employment after release from prison has been regarded as an important factor to reduce recidivism. Even if this is the case, little documentation exists from Norway. We have found that, overall, recidivism figures are relatively low, but there is substantial differences between those who has a job before imprisonment and not. Moreover, there is substantial differences between those having a job at release and not as well. More important, recidivism is lower in periods after release when they are employed compared with periods when unemployed, even when controlling for other characteristics. In 2008, electronic monitoring (EM) was introduced in selected areas in Norway as an alternative to imprisonment. One main goal was to improve employment chances upon release. Earlier studies have shown those serving with EM have lower recidivism rates, but selections problems have not been ruled out. We have estimated the effect to be a 10 percent reduction in recidivism, which confirms earlier findings on the importance of employment for reducing crime. Most offenders end their criminal career sooner or later. If employment is a salient factor in desistance patterns, then we hypothesize that the changes in offending should occur after getting a job. Alternatively, changes in lifestyle might lead to increased employment chances. We find the latter to be the typical pattern: changes in offending occur before employment, and only a small proportion of the offenders desist from crime after getting a job. A similar argument applies for family formation. Our studies show that patterns of desistance from crime show up to several years prior to marriage and child birth. This might be due to romantic relations starts years before marriage, but also that changes in behavior is likely to be a precondition to getting married in the first place. Similar findings applies if the partner has a criminal record, and for the transition to parenthood. This applies to both men and women, but seems to be more lasting for men. As such, our findings seem to be at odds with earlier international findings. However, we have found similarly using Dutch data. A systematic review of the literature suggests that earlier studies have not handled well the methodological issues we discuss in our findings. Generally, we do not find strong support for the effects of life course transitions on crime. Social services directed at adolescents provide supporting activities to enhance self-support in the longer run. We have studied the effects of changes in the services across municipalities to stricter regimes considering payment of social security, and how this reform has affected youth crime. Our main findings are that stricter regimes with greater demands on activities (i) reduced crime, (ii) lowered drop-out from school, and (iii) reduced number of social security benefits recipients. The effects are limited to youth aged 18-19 with parental characteristics implying high risk of becoming social security recipients. Crime in adolescence might have long term consequences. We find that being charged with a crime at age 16-19 is correlated with drop-out from school, not having any degree by age 28, low income from work, and early death. These correlations might reflect selection effects by family background, but we find the associations to hold also when comparing brothers who share family environment. This indicates that youth crime have lasting consequences on other areas of life long into adulthood.

Our research proposal relates directly to the VAM Work Programme which asks whether the most effective crime prevention measures are based on a high degree of inclusion in social arenas. The project studies the interactions between criminal activity, fami ly events and labour market outcomes, focusing on how employment, partnerships and parenthood represent pathways to social inclusion among crime-prone individuals. There is limited knowledge regarding how family and work affect - and are affected by - cr iminal activities, and the processes and mechanisms that can facilitate exits from a marginal position are far from clear. Employment represents a possible turning point for deviant individuals. It provides access to legal income, imposes structure throug h routines and schedules, and strengthens self-esteem. Family formation and parenthood may offer an opportunity to rewrite one's 'life script' with a new social role and identity, and with increased motivation and support for legal employment. Thus, emplo yment and family may be important resources in crime reducing polices and rehabilitative initiatives. Data limitations largely explain why knowledge on the dynamics between work, family and crime is so limited. The rich longitudinal data required for su ch studies are hard to collect in surveys. The Norwegian register data at our disposal, however, contains information that is particularly suited, and they open new avenues for research on the dynamics of work, family and crime. In addition to addressing new research questions, the richness of the data also allows use of sophisticated statistical methods, like complex life-course transition models accounting for unobserved heterogeneity as well as methods suited to identify causal mechanisms. The proposed project will therefore advance existing approaches and provide new and important contributions to the international research literature and to national policymakers.

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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon