The Strategist

Would ex-convicts save the world's economy?


08/18/2016 - 14:55



Governments of developed countries are trying to diminish number of convicts in prisons. For the first time in decades, America and Europe now release more convicts than commit to prison.



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After-care can help ex-convicts stay away from prison. However, economists warn support in employment, popular in recent years, leads to a completely opposite result.

Now job applicants are bound to declare their criminal past. Despite all the good intentions, this allows employers to filter and prevent ex-prisoners to find a profession that would help them become productive members of society.

That is why various human rights activists and organizations around the world are calling to create laws that would prohibit employers from asking about the applicant’s criminal past before the job interview.

24 states and a large number of municipalities in the United States have already approved similar laws. A number of European countries has done the same. Thus, the British government banned by law asking candidates for public office any questions about previous convictions. This was one of the key points of Cameron’s plan to fight racial inequality.

The thing is that Afro-American applicants for open positions are more likely to have a criminal record (precisely, five times more often in the United States). Activists argue that abolition of the question about criminal past should help reduce the discrimination.

However, economists do not agree. On the contrary, the prohibition would foster racial stereotypes among employers, and would eventually cause trouble to those representatives of national minorities who want to find a good job.

Jennifer Doleac from the University of Virginia and Benjamin Hansen from the University of Oregon analyzed consequences of the ban in American. The researchers have discovered that hidden criminal records makes employers see number of groups as if they all had criminal past.

In areas where the ban came into force, job opportunities decreased by 5.1% for low-skilled young Afro-Americans, and by 2.9% for low-skilled young Hispanics. This effect is higher in regions with historically low levels of racism, such as the north-east, central and western states of America.

According to scientists, the more information the candidate reveals, the better for him. Abigail Wozniak of the University of Notre Dame says that employers, allowed to drug-test applicants, were 30% more likely to hire Afro-Americans. Just the same, possibility to check a candidate’s credit history can reduce unemployment among Afro-Americans by one-sixth.

Thus, prohibition of additional questions in the job questionnaire is an "easy solution that does not work", at least in the fight against racial inequality, concludes Doleac.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice on Wednesday published a report. According to the document, American prisoners, worked on one of the Pentagon structures’ contractors, made hundreds of thousands of defective Kevlar helmets for the Army and Marine Corps of the United States. The contract’s price was more than $ 30 million.

According to the report, Federal Prison Industries (FPI) company, owned by the US government and a subcontractor for ArmorSource company, in 2006 won a tender for supply of new helmets for the Army. Cost of the lots amounted to $ 30 million. 

In 2010, the command of the land forces withdrew 44 thousand helmets, some of which had already got at disposal of American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The army claimed that the materials were non-certified, moreover, the goods were made with violation of the technology. Ministry of Justice conducted an investigation and found out that "systematic violations took place at FPI’s production". "Helmets of both types were delivered with defects, and they were made with violations of technical assignment indicated in the contracts," - said the department.

The report also contains photos. The pictures show individual pieces of Kevlar, which prisoners used to stuff holes in the helmets. Moreover, they used self-made instruments, in particular, simple wooden sticks with screws. At the same time, the company managed to provide quality products for testing, although the samples were selected from the entire party in a random order.

The military leadership has withdrawn 126 052 helmets in total, the government’s financial loss amounted to approximately $ 19.1 million. The Commission had to replace 23 thousand helmets and stop new deliveries. As reported by The Washington Post’s sources in the Pentagon, the military is investigating the report for further action. At that, its authors failed to find any evidence that the unreliable protection caused death or injury of any of troops.

source: economist.com, washingtonpost.com