First Advisor

Larry Martinez

Term of Graduation

Spring 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Ex-convicts -- Employment, Criminal records, Ex-convicts -- Economic conditions, Ex-convicts -- Social conditions, Stigma (Social psychology)



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 101 pages)


It has been established that there are numerous barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment following a criminal conviction, including background checks, which occur as part of most selection processes. Barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment may be higher for individuals with drug-related criminal histories as they may face particularly severe negative stereotypes. This study examines the experiences of individuals with drug-related criminal histories' integration into the workplace and society. Additionally, because stereotypes about individuals with drug-related criminal histories are contradictory to those of individuals with stable employment, I examine how these individuals are impacted by reductions in the stigma that they experience. In this thesis, I analyzed audio recordings of semi-structured interviews with individuals with drug-related criminal histories from 2017 who were employed at the time of the interview using the principles of grounded theory methodology. Most importantly, results demonstrated the importance of obtaining employment for reducing participants' likelihood of recidivism. Additionally, contrary to commonly held stereotypes, those with criminal backgrounds are highly dedicated and motivated to perform at work considering that employment provides the resources needed to maintain sobriety and avoid engaging in criminal activity. Finally, gratitude, distancing, upward spirals, and stickiness were themes associated with decreases in experienced stigma. I discuss theoretical and practical implications, study limitations, and avenues for future research in the stigma literature, and in the workplace literature.


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Persistent Identifier

Included in

Psychology Commons