Changes in Criminal Offending Around the Time of Job Entry: A Study of Employment and Desistance




Torbjørn Skardhamar, Jukka Savolainen


8 APR 2014

DOI: 10.1111/1745-9125.12037


Does employment promote desistance from crime? Most perspectives assume that individuals who become employed are less likely to offend than those who do not. The critical issue has to do with the timing of employment transitions in the criminal trajectory. The turning point hypothesis expects reductions in offending after job entries, whereas the maturation perspective assumes desistance to have occurred ahead of successful transitions to legitimate work. Focusing on a sample of recidivist males who became employed during 2001–2006 (N = 783), smoothing spline regression techniques were used to model changes in criminal offending around the point of entry to stable employment. Consistent with the maturation perspective, the results showed that most offenders had desisted prior to the employment transition and that becoming employed was not associated with further reductions in criminal behavior. Consistent with the turning point hypothesis, we identified a subset of offenders who became employed during an active phase of the criminal career and experienced substantial reductions in criminal offending thereafter. However, this trajectory describes less than 2 percent of the sample. The patterns observed in this research suggest that transition to employment is best viewed as a consequence rather than as a cause of criminal desistance.