Ongoing Research

Ongoing Research

The Presley Center currently has numerous ongoing collaborative research projects underway that advance scientific knowledge about issues related to the criminal justice system, crime, and public policies. The empirical findings that result from these projects will additionally provide practical solutions and recommendations to agencies, insights which can be used to inform policies.

1. Prison to Employment: Assessing and Evaluating Employment Opportunities for the Formerly Incarcerated in the Inland Empire

Abundant research finds employment is the single greatest predictor of a justice-impacted individual’s successful re-entry and California’s recent investment in rehabilitation to support the formerly incarcerated during their employment search (e.g. Prison to Employment Initiative, Ban the Box legislation) is a positive step to improve community reintegration. However, we know comparatively little about employers’ actual willingness to hire justice-impacted individuals – particularly against the backdrop of California’s Fair Chance Act (2018). Without this information, we are preparing individuals for jobs that may or may not exist for them.

This is a mixed-methods study that interrogates the hiring practices and preferences of employers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties through a survey and interviews with those charged with making hiring decision in our region. These efforts and subsequent analyses will clarify demand-side factors that impact companies’ willingness to hire justice-impacted individuals and provide insight as to whether companies abide by the non-discrimination procedures required by the Fair Chance Act. Together, these findings can inform workforce development strategies and targeted policies that promote economic opportunity for the justice-impacted population.

Forthcoming in the journal Criminology & Public Policy. 

*Supported by the John Randolph Haynes & Dora Haynes Foundation

2.  Prison to Employment: A Statewide Evaluation of California’s P2E Initiative

California has the second largest prison population in the United States, but has implemented a series of reforms and initiatives over the past decade that aim to reduce the State’s reliance on incarceration through models of alternative supervision and improved community re-entry. The $37 million Prison to Employment (P2E) Initiative funds the integration of workforce and re-entry services across California, specifically focusing on developing regional service models that promote warm hand offs and stronger partnerships between the criminal justice system, workforce development, and community-based organizations. The logic behind P2E is that justice-involved individuals can improve their economic wellbeing and lower their chances of recidivating by gaining marketable occupational skills and securing gainful employment through comprehensive, connected community reintegration strategies. These efforts theoretically improve public safety, promote economic growth, and conserve state resources, but the actual effect is as of yet unevaluated.

This evaluation will identify the causal effect of participation in P2E on key labor market and criminal justice outcomes, and insights gleaned through interviews with P2E staff and participants about their experience will help unpack the mechanism(s) that may drive the relationships observed. The findings of this mixed-methods study will be reported to the California State Legislature and used by the California Workforce Development Board to refine future investments in employment and training opportunities for the State’s justice-impacted population.

*Supported by the California Workforce Development Board

3. Vice for Sale: Neighborhood Change and Illicit Markets

A common assumption about gentrification, buttressed by a substantial body of research, is that gentrification displaces poor and minority residents, their local businesses, and even neighborhood crime. However, questions remain about displacement and the social control mechanisms of gentrification--especially on non-violent crimes. Extending these bodies of work, Sharon Oselin and Chris Smith explore what happens to illicit markets, such as sex work and drug selling, and the individuals who participate in them when urban neighborhood revitalization occurs. Using an international comparison of two similarly sized cities – Chicago and Toronto – they rely on longitudinal neighborhood-level data to examine whether gentrification displaces illicit and associated licit “vice” markets through the enactment of formal social controls, including policing. To that end, they deploy a two-pronged research design: (1) analyze the neighborhood clustering of illicit market arrests over time to see if gentrification or other neighborhood processes move the markets within the city, and (2) track the types, number, clustering, and longevity of legal (but illicit market adjacent) businesses over time to see if they are similarly impacted by gentrification. Understanding these trends will generate important insights about the relationship and tensions between urban revitalization and illicit markets, allowing for greater clarity about shadow economic enterprise among frequently marginalized denizens. Ultimately, these findings can be leveraged to inform urban policies to prioritize public health and safety for all.

*Supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada