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Public Policy and Administration


Catherine Heck


Due to an increase in the number of convictions for minor crimes in Tennessee, a larger number of people are reentering society with the ex-offender label; there is a general lack of awareness among employers regarding their role in enhancing employability of ex-offenders with minor offenses, which limits employment opportunities for this population. Three main theories that explain the integration of ex-offenders into society underpinned this study: avoidance theory, social control theory, and labelling theory. The purpose of this general qualitative study was to explore the perceptions and practices of 10 human resource managers of middle-to-large companies in Tennessee related to hiring ex-offenders with minor offenses. Thematic analysis involving NVivo software was conducted to extract key themes associated with perceptions of employers regarding hire ability of ex-offenders with minor crimes. Findings indicated employers in Tennessee acknowledged that ex-offenders of minor crimes should not be denied employment opportunities, but rather should be selected or rejected based on their level of skill and experience. However, due to the ex-offender label attached to them, previously incarcerated individuals may only be employed if the magnitude of their offenses was minor and unrelated to their employment. Employers should help reduce chances of recidivism among minor ex-offenders by granting them employment opportunities. The implications for positive social change included raising awareness and informing employers of the Federal Bonding and Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) programs to help ex-offenders obtain employment.

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