Geller, Amanda, Irwin Garfinkel, and Bruce Western. 2011. “Paternal Incarceration and Support for Children in Fragile Families.” Demography 48: 25-47.
Geller, Garfinkel, and Western use data from the Fragile Families study to examine the reduction in financial support received by children with incarcerated fathers. They find that formerly incarcerated men are less likely to provide financial support to their families, and those who do contribute provide significantly less. The authors contribute their finding of decreased financial support to not only the low earnings of formerly incarcerated men but also to the fact that they are less likely to live with their children.
Wildeman, Christopher and Bruce Western. 2010. “Incarceration in Fragile Families.” The Future of Children 20(2): 157-177.
Wildeman and Western discuss the effects of mass imprisonment on poor and minority men with little schooling. Because incarceration negatively affects the socioeconomic status, health, and family structure of these men, their children are also disadvantaged. Poor and minority children, for whom paternal incarceration is now a common experience, are subject to further racial and class inequality. To address the challenge of paternal incarceration, the authors argue that we do not just need criminal justice reforms, but also a serious evaluation of our nation’s family and employment policies.
Sirois, Catherine and Bruce Western. 2010. “An Evaluation of ‘Ready, Willing & Able.’” The Doe Fund, New York, New York.
In this report, Sirois and Western evaluate The Doe Fund’s “Ready, Willing & Able” (RWA) program, based in New York City. RWA provides transitional employment, housing, and other services for men who are homeless (many of whom have recently been released from prison). Sirois and Western review program participation and completion, the criminal justice impacts of RWA, and the cost-effectiveness of the program. They find that three years after release from prison, RWA participants are less likely to be arrested than a matched group of parolees. Though program impacts on recidivism begin to decline after two years, cost-benefit calculations show that the program benefits of RWA participation exceed the costs by as much as 20 percent.
Western, Bruce and Becky Pettit. 2010. “Incarceration and Social Inequality.” Daedalus 139(3): 8-19.
The prison boom in the past 40 years has produced extreme rates of incarceration, particularly for young African American males with little education. In this paper, Pettit and Western examine new research on the social and economic impacts of mass imprisonment. They argue that incarceration has contributed to a large growth in inequality in the United States and that this inequality is defined by its invisible, cumulative, and intergenerational nature.
Pager, Devah, Bruce Western, and Bart Bonikowski. 2009. “Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment.” American Sociological Review 74: 777-799.
In this study, Pager, Western, and Bonikowski sent young white, black, and Latino men to apply for low-wage jobs throughout New York City. Job applicants were matched on demographic characteristics and interpersonal skills, yet differed by race and criminal background. Pager et al. find that black applicants are half as likely as white applicants to receive a job offer, and that black and Latino applicants with no criminal record fared no better than white applicants with a recent prison record. The author’s results lend evidence to the theory that discrimination in the labor market remains a significant cause of economic inequality.
Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records
Pager, Devah, Bruce Western, and Naomi Sugie. 2009. “Sequencing Disadvantage: Barriers to Employment Facing Young Black and White Men with Criminal Records.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 623: 195-213.
Pager, Western, and Sugie present the results of a large study conducted in New York City that investigates the effects of race and a prison record on employment. Young men were matched and sent to apply for low-wage jobs, with their resumes differing only by race and criminal background. The authors find that black applicants are less likely to get a job interview, and the presence of a criminal record is particularly harmful for black job applicants. They conclude that the stigmatizing characteristics of minority and criminal status make rapport-building, and thus finding work, more difficult to achieve.
Western, Bruce and Christopher Wildeman. 2009. “The Black Family and Mass Incarceration.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 621: 221-242.
In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan released a report which called for social investment in the urban poor, particularly to address the high rates of black families headed by single parents. In this article, Western and Wildeman argue that instead of investing in communities, U.S. urban policy turned toward punitive measures, which have contributed to the unprecedented rise in the prison population during the past 35 years. Mass imprisonment has further strained the structure of black families living in communities of concentrated disadvantage in the United States.
Western, Bruce. 2008. “From Prison to Work: A Proposal for a National Reentry Program.” Discussion Paper 2008-16. The Hamilton Project, The Brookings Institution. Washington, D.C.
Each year, about 700,000 men and women are released from prison. Within three years, about two-thirds of these people will be re-arrested. In this paper presented to The Brookings Institution, Western outlines a proposal for a national reentry program, which would feature transitional jobs for people coming out of prison. The program would also provide greater programming inside of prisons, post-release housing and substance-abuse treatment for releases, and the restoration of federal benefit-eligibility for those with criminal records. Western argues that a program such as this would increase economic opportunity for people coming out of prison, and reduce prison populations in the long-run.
Jacobs, Erin and Bruce Western. 2007. “Report on the Evaluation of the ComALERT Prisoner Reentry Program.” Kings County District Attorney, Brooklyn, New York.
This report evaluates the ComALERT program based out of Kings County, New York, which provides substance abuse treatment, employment and housing services to parolees. Jacobs and Western evaluate criminal justice, employment, and housing outcomes for participants in ComALERT. They find that program clients are less likely to be arrested two years after release from prison than a matched group of parolees. In addition, ComALERT participants appear to have higher employment rates and lower rates of drug use than members of the comparison group.
Western, Bruce. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
In Punishment and Inequality in America, Western asks what role incarceration plays in the increasing economic and racial inequality in America. He finds that rising rates of imprisonment among young black men without college education have caused a rift in African American society, and that those with less education are increasingly separated from those with higher education. The book also studies the key social and economic effects of mass incarceration: serving time in prison reduces earnings, skews statistics on wages and employment, and destabilizes families.
Pettit, Becky and Bruce Western. 2004. “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” American Sociological Review 69(2): 151-169.
Pettit and Western extend the conversation about mass imprisonment beyond the size of the system to the inequality that exists within it. The authors examine lifetime risks of imprisonment for men based on race and education. They find that for black men born between 1965 and 1969, 30 percent without a college education and 60 percent without a high school education went to prison by the year 1999. Pettit and Western argue that incarceration is a new stage in the life course of young black men with low levels of education.