Date of Award

Spring 2-2022

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Melanie Leuty

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Ashley Batastini

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn


Gaining employment for returning citizens has been shown to reduce recidivism and contribute to a successful community reintegration. Yet, many employers remain skeptical when it comes to hiring formerly incarcerated job candidates for a variety of reasons. Though hesitations are often related to assumptions about a person’s dangerousness, there remain legitimate reasons, such as limited formal education and basic skills, that prevent returning citizens from finding work. Further, previous research suggests that hiring decisions are confounded by offense type, even if an employer would otherwise consider a person with a criminal history. Thus, it is unclear whether returning citizens’ level of education or training can mitigate barriers related to their offense history. Therefore, using hypothetical case vignettes of a formerly incarcerated job applicant, this study aimed to address this gap in the literature by examining whether hiring decisions are influenced by the presence (or absence) of basic education, specialized training, and offense type. A between-subjects design with a sample of 223 individuals were recruited via MTurk. Main effects and interactions were examined using a multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). Results yielded non-significant findings for the examining offense type by education. Results examining offense type, having a GED, and having a vocational certificate, yielded significant findings for vocational certificate status, however there were non-significant results for offense type, GED status, or interactions of GED and vocational certificate. These findings demonstrated the continued stigmatization that persons with a criminal history face when trying to obtain a job, as this study shows that having no formal education, a GED, or a GED and vocational certificate does not matter for hiring decisions. Yet, findings suggest that individuals with a vocational certificate are viewed to exhibit more positive work expectations. Implication and future directions are provided in the discussion.