On average, the United States prison systems release about 600,000 prisoners back into society each year, as found by Freeman and Holzer [2, 4]. While these prisoners have served their sentence and effectively paid their debts to society, nothing returns to normal for them once released. If anything, their new lives are more difficult than their lives of crime from before. As Debus, Visher and Yahner report, obtaining a legitimate job is very difficult for a citizen with a rap sheet, but it is the key to avoiding becoming another part of the high recidivism statistics in the US [1], a statement agreed upon by Holzer, Freeman, and McKeon and Ransford [2, 4, 8]. Because of lack of employment opportunities, many ex-cons end up in manual labor-based transitional jobs, many of which include warehouses. According to Warehouse Workers for Justice [9], these warehouses often hire ex-cons through temp agencies. These workers make on average $9.00 an hour and need to work another job - or two - to make ends meet.

 

These low-wage jobs are not ideal for ex-cons to move up in society. Society tells these men and women that when they are released, they should find a job and begin to build an honest life, but then all society gives them to work with are these jobs that are dead ends. In fact, many of these work conditions in warehouses create an environment where crime thrives. These warehouses are possibly the most difficult way out for ex-offenders because they offer so little. The conditions are terrible for workers, and they are exploited and their minimum wages will not support them [9]. But the effects of these jobs go beyond their wages. Workers live in poor neighborhoods and housing, find difficulty establishing strong social lives [6], and are unable to find relief from medical problems [2], or have these problems compounded on the job [9]. In addition, these jobs and the employers come with very little tolerance of mistakes and missed work [3] which are difficult adjustments for ex-cons. They often have never held down legitimate jobs so need to still adjust to a schedule and timetable for work.

 

With all these rough conditions, it is no wonder many of these workers return to crime in order to reach even a modest income. But these conditions are the ones that facilitate these acts; warehouses are sometimes full of ex-inmates, many of whom aren't committed to staying straight and instead have returned to - and promote - crime as a means of making ends meet. The bad housing situations are filled with crime and easy access to drugs and illegal money, but the ex-offender status hurts chances of getting housing anywhere else, such as public housing programs or private housing [6]. With all these disadvantages, society needs to do more to help these people become reintegrated into the working world. The dead-end jobs offered, such as warehouse work, only place these men and women in more situations where temptation lurks and where they have no chance at pulling themselves up and out of poverty. Society says that if you want to, you can get up and out, but at the same time, it does nothing to help.

 

While all the literature presented on this subject does a good job of providing data about the lives of ex-cons, there is not much - if any - literature that adequately looks at the solutions to these problems. Almost all of it focuses on what the problems are instead of looking at what can be done to help.