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“Work Your Story”: Selective Voluntary Disclosure, Stigma Management, and Narratives of Seeking Employment After Prison

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2020


Using interviews with forty formerly incarcerated people in the Greater Toronto Area, I explore how criminal record holders describe seeking work. People articulate being driven by a desire to be selective to whom, when, and how they disclose their past criminal record; they simultaneously want to talk about their past, at least to some people, some of the time. Many say they are quite selective in what types of jobs and employers they seek out, and their efforts to secure employment are driven by broader projects of stigma management. In light of these findings, I coin “selective, voluntary disclosure” (SVD) as a new set of policy configurations that aim to facilitate not only employment but also dignity, privacy, and empowerment. SVD is well attuned with what former prisoners describe doing on an everyday basis, and it accords with their goals, aspirations, and rehabilitative self-projects.

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