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Employment after incarceration: managing a socially stigmatized identity

Kemi Salawu Anazodo (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St Catharines, Canada) (School of Human Resource Management, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Rose Ricciardelli (Department of Sociology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John’s, Canada)
Christopher Chan (School of Human Resource Management, York University, Toronto, Canada) (Faculty of Law and Business, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia) (Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, France)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 10 June 2019

Issue publication date: 25 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the social stigmatization of the formerly incarcerated identity and how this affects employment post-release. The authors consider the characteristics of this identity and the identity management strategies that individuals draw from as they navigate employment.


The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 22 men at various stages of release from federal institutions in Canada. Participants were actively searching for employment, intending to or would consider searching for employment, or had searched for employment in the past post-incarceration. Participant data were simultaneously collected, coded and analyzed using an inductive approach (Gioia et al., 2012).


Formerly incarcerated individuals have a unique awareness of the social stigmatization associated with their criminal record and incarceration history. They are tasked with an intentional choice to disclose or conceal that identity throughout the employment process. Six identity management strategies emerged from their accounts: conditional disclosure, deflection, identity substitution, defying expectations, withdrawal and avoidance strategies. More specifically, distinct implications of criminal record and incarceration history on disclosure decisions were evident. Based on participants’ accounts of their reintegration experiences, four aspects that may inform disclosure decisions include: opportune timing, interpersonal dynamics, criminal history and work ethic.


The authors explore the formerly incarcerated identity as a socially stigmatized identity and consider how individuals manage this identity within the employment context. The authors identify incarceration history and criminal record as having distinct impacts on experiences of stigma and identity management strategic choice, thus representing the experience of a “double stigma”.



Anazodo, K.S., Ricciardelli, R. and Chan, C. (2019), "Employment after incarceration: managing a socially stigmatized identity", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 564-582.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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