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Institute of Education

Former Convicts and the Work Environment – an Area of Conflict between Social Norms and Subjective Attitudes and Expectations

Gainful employment plays in important social and psychological role on an individual level in modern industrial or service societies. Wage labor can signify inclusion into social structures, acknowledgement by others, and it enables a certain degree of financial autonomy. For individuals, most of all men, who experienced imprisonment or sanctions, (re)entering the labor market is connected with great difficulties and feelings of frustration in many cases. Maybe former inmates have less relevant training certificates, they experience disadvantages because of their actions and/or imprisonment, or they are not used to regular labor. Nevertheless, a great many former delinquents aim for taking up gainful employment, or it is required by the professional support services, e.g. parole services, respectively. Labor is one of the factors acknowledged in social work, which promotes a lasting withdrawal from delinquency.
    In this area of tension of socio-normative expectations and individual preconditions, it is valid for the released to convey a positive self-concept regarding labor to the social counterpart. For most individuals, upholding a coherent and consistent (labor) identity and its communication is important. This depiction takes place via narrations and proceeds along certain structures of constructing a narrative identity. It can be assumed, therefore, that, most of all, individuals with a disruption in their biography are interested in integrating these disruptions into a meaningful and representable life design. Narrations with omissions and/or exaggerations are to be expected that can be made accessible only through a thorough textual analysis in regard to their meaning. The dissertation is embedded in the research project “Ways out of Delinquency”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, and focuses the field of labor integration. In doing so, the project tries to take on the perspective of the former delinquents consequently and, thereby, to comprehend their attitudes, wishes, and expectations concerning (gainful) employment or to describe the correlations within the area of tension in between normative requirements and individual assessments. The data foundation is based on selected, within the framework of the mentioned research project conducted interviews that took place and will take place, respectively, during two time periods.


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