Crime and Unemployment: What’s the link?
The rates of unemployment of those entering prisons, compared to the general population, illustrate the strong relationship between employment and crime. One study showed that 75% of those admitted to federal institutions were assessed as having some or considerable difficulty in the area of employment. The latest Canadian data indicate that both sentenced and remanded prisoners show dramatically high unemployment rates at admission of over 40%, while the national rate is normally between 6 and 7%.
Further to this correlation, researchers have identified unemployment as a significant risk factor for criminal activity and property crime in particular. Interesting evidence of this is found in Statistics Canada’s examination of crime and the broader labour market. The data below suggest that unemployment and property crime have been closely synchronized over the last 40 years.
These relationships, while significant and correlative, do not prove causality nor tell the whole story – after all, most unemployed people do not resort to crime. There are a myriad of predictive factors that interact to increase the likelihood that someone will commit crime.
Indeed, lack of employment may be entangled with the interrelated issues of education, literacy and learning delays. The relationship between employment and criminal behaviour can also be influenced by a variety of other social and health and factors, such as addictions, mental health concerns, developmental disabilities such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, poverty, discrimination and lack of stable housing.
Educational is a prime example of this interaction. Educational attainment has a clear relationship with stability and quality of employment, with, for example, unemployment rates in the general public being 12% for those with less than high school level education and 4% for those with university degrees, in 2006. Workers with less than a high school education unsurprisingly have significantly lower earnings on average.
It is also clear that educational attainment is related to criminality. While the 2006 census showed that 15% of the general population had not completed high school (with the concentration of this group being people over 55 years), the latest data show that more than half of those in custody have not graduated from high school. Given the increasing demand for higher levels of education and skill in the Canadian labour market, these low rates of educational achievement within the prisoner population underscore the need for employment-related interventions for those at risk of involvement in the criminal jus-tice system.
While the research in this area continues to clarify the nature of the relationship between crime and employment, we can confidently conclude that they are closely related. Offering client services that increase potential for stable employment for those at risk of future or further involvement in the criminal justice system can only have a positive impact on reducing criminal behavior.
(Source – John Howard Society of Ontario)
Chief Executive Officer
John Howard Society of Saskatchewan