Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Although inquiry into reentry has grown significantly in the past decade, studies concerning formerly incarcerated persons entrance back into society tend to look at the outcomes and consequences of reentry, not the process. This "what works and what doesn't work" research approach (Seiter and Kadela 2003) leaves some very important aspects of reentry unexamined. While determining the efficacy of programs designed to reduce recidivism is important for public safety, social policy creation, and budgetary considerations, the role of the community in reentry remains largely unexplored.

This dissertation examines how reentry is done at the community level; by practitioners of reentry, those who are in the process of reentry, and those who influence the political and structural environment in which reentry is attempted. Taken together, these varied stakeholders influence the climate towards formerly incarcerated persons within a community. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with a variety of reentry stakeholders and parolees, this case study examines the reentry environment for formerly incarcerated persons returning to a suburb of a large Midwestern city.

This study looks beyond the human agency of the formerly incarcerated and their ability (or lack of ability) to desist from criminal behavior by exploring the role of community in reentry? In other words, how does the structure of a community impact the reentry environment and reentry process for a formerly incarcerated person?

Despite widespread verbal acknowledgment regarding the need for collaboration between various agencies that have contact with formerly incarcerated persons, the reentry environment in this community was marked by limited cooperation, competition over resources, personal tensions, and political strain. Services such as job search assistance, housing, and transportation aid were most needed but consisted mainly of "training" or referrals, not direct help. Narratives on the topic of reentry attained from a wide variety of stakeholders remain firmly entrenched within a framework of personal responsibility and the development of a "disciplined self," with little consideration given to structural-level forces impacting reintegration. In particular, stakeholders discounted any influence the stratified and segregated community had on criminal behavior and reintegration efforts. Given the empirical evidence that race, ethnicity, and class are significant factors regarding the probability of engagement within the system criminal justice system, culturally-appropriate interventions must be an integral part of any reentry efforts. Finally, this study contends that reentry is not a solution to the problem of mass incarceration in the United States, but rather social and political triage.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.