Sadé Lindsay (Postdoctoral Associate, Policy Analysis and Management)
The Prison Credential Dilemma: How Race and Prison Credentials Shape Post-Release Employment in a Skilled Trade Labor Market
Location: In person 423 CC - ILR Conference Center ~ Also available via Zoom - Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for Zoom access information
Abstract: Prison credentials are proposed as a solution to improve human capital and reduce employment challenges among formerly incarcerated people. Yet, their efficacy is mixed, which scholars largely attribute to inconsistent program quality and methodological limitations of evaluation research. I present an alternative explanation, the prison credential dilemma, highlighting how prison credentials may have counteractive effects by conveying both human capital and criminal histories. I account for previous explanations by drawing on an audit study of 1,502 employers in five states to examine (1) the efficacy of prison credentials on employment and (2) whether effects differ for Black and White men. Results suggest employers were more likely to call back formerly incarcerated men with credentials than their formerly incarcerated counterparts without credentials, signifying a positive effect. However, formerly incarcerated applicants with credentials were less likely to receive callbacks than those without criminal records, suggesting prison credentials were inadequate for overcoming criminal stigma. While the efficacy of prison credentials did not differ by race, Black applicants had much lower odds of receiving callbacks than White applicants, such that combined main effects of race and credentials still resulted in racialized outcomes. This study furthers our understanding of how race, human capital, and stigma coalesce to shape post-prison employment.
Sadé L. Lindsay is an Assistant Research Professor in the Brooks School of Public Policy and Department of Sociology at Cornell University. Her research examines racial inequality and the criminalization of deviance, women’s incarceration experiences, prisoner reentry, and drug policy and use. Her work has been published in Social Problems and Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, among other outlets. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Justice and the National Science Foundation. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from The Ohio State University in 2021.