Peter Leasure

Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Robert J. Kaminski


Employment has been cited as a factor that can aid one's desistance from criminal activity. However, research has consistently demonstrated that those with criminal history face significant barriers to securing employment. In recognition of this problem, most states have implemented various rights restoration mechanisms aimed to increase employment opportunities for ex-offenders. One of these mechanisms, the certificate of relief, aims to aid ex-offenders in their job search by ensuring employers that certificate holders are not a safety risk, providing employers with negligent hiring immunity, and removing occupational licensing bans. A handful of studies have examined whether this mechanism improved hiring outcomes for ex-offenders, but these studies produced mixed results and suffered from important methodological limitations. The goal of the current study was to address the limitations of previous research to provide a more comprehensive test of one state's (Ohio) certificate. This goal was achieved with the use of two field experiments. Both experiments utilized a correspondence approach where hypothetical applicants submitted resumes to entry-level job postings. The first portion of the study utilized a mixed experimental design that included a within-subject criminal record variable and a between-subject race variable. The second portion of the study utilized a between-subjects experimental design that included a between-subjects criminal record variable and a between-subjects race variable. Results showed that certificate holders received significantly fewer callbacks for interviews than those with no criminal record. Results also showed that certificate holders fared no better in terms of callbacks than those with a criminal record and no certificate. Further, African American applicants received significantly fewer callbacks than White Applicants in all criminal record categories. These results were supported in several robustness checks. Policy implications of these findings are discussed in detail along with study limitations, directions for future research, and technical notes on correspondence studies.


© 2019, Peter Leasure