We study the entry to formal employment and earnings of a large sample of convicts released from Hungarian prisons in 2002-2008. We identify the effect of the prison service on post-release careers by exploiting differences in the timing of incarceration, on the one hand, and estimating fixed effects models, on the other. For convicts with a single prison spell, we find initially negative effect on employment that turns positive after about one year while the impact on wages is permanently negative. A comparison with recidivists, for whom the employment effect is negative and the wage effect is weaker, suggests that these results are driven by a drop in the reservation wages of 'converted' criminals rather than the lack of discrimination. This reading is supported by further data showing that the ex-inmates, on average, make increased effort to find legitimate sources of living and support to finding jobs.
incarceration unemployment wage loss discrimination