Friday, April 21, 2017

URSP Student Laurel Robinson Conducts Secondary Data Analysis on Employment for Previously Incarcerated Individuals

This semester, I am conducting secondary data analysis on employment for previously incarcerated individuals. I am looking at the first industry of employment for people that have just ended their prison sentence, and if those industries that are hiring ex-offenders varies dependent on the race/ethnicity and sex of the individual.

I became interested in my research for two reasons. First, it was a great intersection of my two majors, criminology and sociology. It took a criminological topic, incarceration and reentry, and looked at it through a sociological lens. Second, I wanted to challenge myself to become more comfortable working with data analysis and quantitative work, as content and qualitative is much more of my comfort zone. To be completely honest, I was inspired by watching one of my favorite shows Chopped on the Food Network! There were always professional chefs who, either in their spare time or as a full-time job worked with previously incarcerated individuals in the kitchen. This sparked my interest not only due to my studies, but also just general intrigue as to why the food industry would be such a hot spot for those with criminal convictions. I wanted to see if this was just a stigma I created due to my experiences, or if it was really a phenomenon.

I hope to work heavily in non-profits in my life, hoping to one day run a non-profit dream child that intersects food, helping those in need, and providing employment opportunities to unique individuals. This research is giving me an incredible knowledge foundation to take into the real world with me, whether I am employed in a research based position or a non-profit.

On a weekly basis, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, trying to get the coding right for my statistical analysis. I am self-taught on SPSS, so a lot of time at the beginning was just figuring out how to get the program to do what I wanted it to. I also meet with my mentor on a weekly basis to check in and answer my many, many questions.

This project this semester has inspired me that every bit of research counts and helps contribute to the larger picture. I do not think that my research is going to create an executive order anytime soon, but it is just another puzzle piece in the criminology and sociology field to help understand and analyze how crime and incarceration affect and shape our society.