On the OutsidePrisoner Reentry and Reintegration

On the OutsidePrisoner Reentry and Reintegration

David J. Harding, Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Jessica J. B. Wyse

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226607504

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book examines the lives of formerly incarcerated individuals as they return to society, situating their experiences within the broader framework of US poverty and inequality. It considers the challenges these individuals face in securing stable employment, housing, transportation, and their struggles with stigma, parole supervision, mental health, and drug and alcohol addictions. The book argues that successful reintegration depends not only, or even primarily, on individuals’ traits and proclivities when they entered prison, but also on the family, neighborhood, and institutional contexts they encounter after prison and on the social roles, identities, and reentry narratives they construct for themselves after release, thereby moving beyond recidivism by examining reintegration more broadly. A central conclusion is that, in the current era of mass incarceration and racial exclusion, there is a profound mismatch between the resources available to the formerly incarcerated with which to rebuild their lives and the institutions and contexts in which they find themselves embedded after release, including high poverty neighborhoods, instant and cheap background checks, a brutal labor market for low-skill workers, and a highly punitive criminal justice system. Improving their prospects will require shifting resources from costly imprisonment toward educational and rehabilitation programs, supporting prisoners and their families during the critical period immediately after release, and removing formal barriers to reintegration in the housing and labor markets.