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The Ethnography of Prisoners Transitions

Working with a criminal record - strategies, obstacles and solutions


Some information about 'The ethnography of the prisoner's transitions' project (EPTrans) Abstract 3. Well, then who does?
The ethnography of the prisoner's transitions aims at developing an advanced understanding of the re-entry process from the subjective Departing from findings from the Ethnography of Prisoners Transitions (EPTrans) research, this poster touches on one of the key issues Most research participants mobilize traditional webs of solidarity:
perspective of prisoners themselves. The processes, interactions, meanings and conflicts involved in re-entry are examined from Roma involved in reentry, namely how former inmates find and secure employment. We discovered that the concept of becoming economically Members of the extended family
and non-Roma prisoners point of view. The research is conducted in two countries: Norway and Romania. The research sample consists active better replaces the concept of work. Becoming economically active can either mean finding a job, a short-term project, starting or Friends
of: planning a potential business venture, and most often, thinking about immigration. Even if there is consistent evidence that employment Former employers.
20 Romanian prisoners with Roma background plays a key role in desistance, the process through which inmates manage to get employed has received little attention. By focusing on Finding work is highly dependent on networks of solidarity. Former inmates appeal to personal networks of support in order to find
20 Romanian prisoners with non-Roma background, the employment strategies as well as on the web of personal relations, state institutions, and forms of solidarity that former inmates use employment or to become economically active.
10 Romanian prisoners held in a Norwegian prison in order to become economically active, this poster seeks to address this gap.
4. Attitudes towards work:
5 Romanian prisoners with Roma background held in a Norwegian prison.
The research methodology is based on an ethnographic design where researchers immerse themselves into the subjective realities of the (a) look for a job conventional narrative. Active job search, ask family and friends about vacancies, visit former work sites, get in
Research questions
prisoners. contact with former work colleagues, ad-hoc character of finding employment.
How do Romanian former inmates find jobs?
The main research methods are: (b) create a job entrepreneurial narrative. Self-employment, advantages such as personal schedule and work hours, disadvantages
In what sectors do they work?
observation, such as vulnerability in terms of payroll, ad-hoc character of becoming economically active.
What problems and obstacles do they encounter in the path to respectability?
in-depth interview, (c) refuse to work waiting narrative (also in Hlavka et al 2015): planning long-term migration, a great deal of support from the
What is the role of work in former prisoners discourse about reentry?
psychometric tests nuclear family, dependence on family support.

photography. 5. Where do research participants usually work?


Literature review
During the research, the researchers spend as much time as possible with the participants prior to and post release. The participants Construction sites.
Criminological literature shows that the most important factors that can significantly reduce recidivism are:
shadow the released prisoners in the first day of freedom. Interviews are conducted: one before release and four after release (after one Entrepreneurial activities (commerce and retail, construction, informal exchange and barter economy)
employment (Lipsey 1995);
week, after one month, after three months, after one year from release). Psychometrics is monitoring changes in motivation, agency, Migration
strong marital relationships (Sampson and Laub 1993);
hope, problem solving and coping abilities.
family support. To be honest, I didnt want to work in construction, but you cant find work anywhere else. I wanted to work at a club as a bodyguard
One team of researchers is conducting the research: five researchers at the University of Bucharest and two researchers at the University Work and employment have received considerable attention and have been dubbed as the most important correlates in desistance from or something like that, you know? But you cant find it. So when this gig showed up, I didnt think twice because there wasnt any
of Oslo. Both universities have extended experience in sociological research. University of Oslo has a special expertise in conducting crime (see, for example, Lipsey 1995; Sampson and Laub 2001). Employment represents an investment in the conventional other solution (ZICC24).
ethnographic prison research that will support the development of the work by Romanian colleagues. work(Meisenhelder 1977: 327). Employment is part of the respectability package (Giordano et al, 2002).
6. Obstacles
The ultimate objective of the research is to contribute to improving the living standards of the prison population with a special focus on
The search for a conventional job is usually impaired by the existence of the criminal record. Here is one email one research
prisoners with Roma backgrounds. Both groups are considered vulnerable. The research has two kinds of contributions: a scientific one Findings
participant received after a job interview:
and a policy development one. At the scientific level, this research will add to the existing body of knowledge about meanings and 1. Expectations about a place to work in pre-release interviews. First of all thank you for the time and interest in our company; as promised during our interviews, we will give you a response
understandings attached by the ex-prisoners to the re-entry process. It will also demonstrate if and to what extent these meanings are
Pre-release interviews are, in most cases, optimistic. Inmates are involved in the conditional liberation process, they were at the regarding your application. We want to let you know that we appreciate your strong assets, such as adaptability, communication, and
different for prisoners belonging to the Roma minority or if and to what extent cultural and social environments and structures impact on
penitentiary commission or they are about to present in front of the judge, so they see future from a different perspective. Asked about honesty. Rigorously selecting our applicants, we discovered other candidates that fit our profile more, and, at the same time, have a
their understandings and experiences of reintegration.
their future plans, a big part of them bring work in discussion. They will easily find a place to work after release, they have family clean criminal record. Unfortunately, talking to my colleagues revealed that we cannot let this aspect go.
From the policy development standpoint, this research is identifying resources for obstacles to reintegration and develops members or friends who could provide them a job or they will find one on their own. There was no one who saw himself back in Job instability: work is usually project-based, with lengthy stretches of inactivity between projects. Encourages the emergence of
recommendations on how to over-ride obstacles and develop resources. These recommendations will be delivered to the inter-ministerial penitentiary at the interview before release. For almost all participants, release was seen as a second birth, the beginning of a new life. business on the side, side business, usually in informal or unregulated sectors of the market.
committee that will be set up under the Romanian strategy for social inclusion of former prisoners. A film based on true stories was also
My plan is to go and find a job as soon as possible. So as soon as possible! (AR) Ad-hoc character of finding employment
produced and will be presented in order to challenge and better inform public attitudes towards prisoners and towards Roma prisoners in
Vulnerability in terms of payroll
particular. (Did you told me that you want to work as a taxi driver?) Yes, it's not difficult, because I have worked this in the past. My brother
Undocumented work: very few research participants are legally employed!
has already 2 cabs using right now, so he's just paying the taxes and the station. So it's not difficult, it' quite easy. I will do this job
The innovative side of the proposal consists of the ethnographic methodology employed. The use of visual data alongside with narrative Nonstandard work (temporary work, part-time employment), leads to less job security and lower pay and fewer benefits (Hollister
for sure, everything is already prepared, if I don't set up outside. (CA)
data is expected to produce a more complex understanding of the spatial dimension of the reintegration process. Comparing and 2011: 312).
contrasting narratives of Romanian prisoners from both countries will shed a new light on how environment and social institutions impact Next Monday I will present myself to the company, I will talk to the chief, because I have a paper in my file saying that he accepts Short-term migration, no longer than a couple of months. Envisaged as the only form of achieving personal success.
on the subjective journey of prisoners. This aspect might be also relevant when looking at how immigration affects states from Western me back anytime. I was an important person in the company. (PC) Lack of marketable skills and/or formal education: leads to a vulnerable position in the work market
Europe. The recommendations will be presented to the Inter-ministerial Committee for social inclusion by the researchers together with Forms of work exploitation: underpayment or even lack of payment.
My plan is like that: first, I open a store in my yard, to give an occupation to my old man, to stay there, even I could stay. This, for
the ex-prisoners. By doing that, the users will have the opportunity to co-produce the policy that will affect other prisoners in the future. me to have that place so I could stay closer to my parents, my family and not to be away all the time. (DD)

After two or three days I will go to work, considering the time my boss is giving me. I don't have to physically recover, because I
don't have trauma. I am good for work. (FG)

Yes, I want to work, as a mechanic or to wash cars. But in the first place I have to recover, because here I am stressed, I don't have
power and I'm unconscious. Outside it would be different, I will stay calm. (DF)

2. Does the state help?


The state is absent from research participants narratives. When the state is present, former inmates seems to see its role as hindering.
See, for example, the three statements that measure citizenship from the questionnaire. All participants strongly agree to these
statements:
(1) People should not rely on the government; they should take responsibility for themselves.
(2) The government does not listen to people like me. Conclusions
(3) The government does not care about what happens to people like me.
Although there is considerable evidence that work and employment play a great part in the desistance process, a little attention had been
I wanted to request a meeting with the mayor and they told me thats not possible, since he had a lot of work and that I should put paid to the strategies and obstacles that former inmates confront when searching and securing employment. At the same time, recent
my name on a list. I already was a bundle of nerves, I didnt want to fight or cause a scene. I just left. [...] If you are released from scholarship focuses on a conventional understanding of work. We propose instead the notion of becoming economically active which can
prison and have no income, no family, you walk out the gate, how will you live? What will you eat? What will you wear? Where will help us better make sense of the actual condition of working with a criminal record. The state and its institutions should be partners in the
you live? I was conditionally released. Why in the name of God did they release me? (ZG21). reentry process and provide support both for former prisoners but also for employers. Job searching as well as preparation for
employment after release should begin in prison, so as to minimize the time spent without any resources.

If you have any questions regarding this research, you can contact the project leader:
Dr. Ioan Durnescu, University of Bucharest, email adress: idurnescu@gmail.com.

www.reentry.eu