Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Program Name/Specialization

Studies in Social Work Practice


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Bree Akesson

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Ann Curry-Stevens

Advisor Role

Committee Member

Third Advisor

Jennifer Lavoie

Advisor Role

Committee Member


People who have been in prison tend to struggle to find meaningful employment (Opsal, 2012). While research delves into the topic of how criminalized people attain employment (Ricciardelli & Mooney, 2017; Anazodo et al., 2017), there is little known about their experiences maintaining employment. Therefore, the objective of this study is to identify the supports and challenges to maintaining employment after release from a Canadian women’s federal prison.

Following Research Ethics Board (REB) approval, semi-structured interviews lasting up to 90 minutes were completed with each of six participants. Participants included two Indigenous women, three White women, and one White transgender man who all had experience in the Canadian women’s criminal justice system. Interviews explored participants’ employment history including necessary supports for seeking and maintaining employment. Interviews were analysed following the thematic analysis process outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006), which entailed generating codes and meaningful themes.

This research found the ability to attain and maintain employment are negatively impacted following imprisonment. For participants, a criminal record led to a lack of employment opportunities after prison (unless the work was low or minimum wage) and the feeling of being continually punished or constantly “paying back” for their decisions after release from prison. Feelings of continued punishment and defeat often led people to contemplate returning to crime, feeling it may have been easier than facing daily challenges in the community. Additionally, the two Indigenous women participants experienced frequent racism that negatively impacted their employment opportunities. Participants stated they were best able to maintain a job when connected with compassionate and comprehensive support services and workplaces that fostered flexible, compassionate, and supportive environments.

To increase employment opportunities and ability to maintain employment after prison, participant recommendations included addressing the stigma attached to criminalized people in the workplace and in broader society through education and storytelling. Educational work and communications strategies may support criminalized people in maintaining their jobs through increasing the number of employers who do not ask for record checks or who will hire people with criminal records. Policies that allow employers to ask about criminal background should be re-evaluated, and employers should consider excluding criminal record checks from hiring processes. Additionally, anti-Indigenous racism should continue to be addressed in Canadian society to increase employment opportunities and healing for Indigenous people. Culturally appropriate services should be implemented into a wraparound care model. A variety of healing methods in addition to culture, such as fitness or fine arts, should be explored in post-release support services. Finally, improved employment programming in prison and after prison is evident for rehabilitation and post-release success.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season