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Abstract

In 2002, over 600,000 individuals left state and federal prisons, four times as many as were released in 1975. However, according to a national study, within 3 years, almost 7 in 10 will have been rearrested and half will be back in prison, either for a new crime or for violating conditions of their release. Clearly, an individual's transition from prison back into a home and into a community is difficult, and avoiding crime can be the least of his or her problems. Understanding these pathways and the reasons for and the dimensions of an individual's success or failure is the focus of recent scholarly attention to the problem of “prisoner reentry,” the process of leaving prison and returning to free society. However, most of the existing research on prisoners' lives after release focuses solely on recidivism and ignores the reality that recidivism is directly affected by postprison reintegration and adjustment, which, in turn, depends on four sets of factors: personal and situational characteristics, including the individual's social environment of peers, family, community, and state-level policies. Moreover, individual transitions from prison to community are, we suggest, best understood in a longitudinal framework, taking into account an individual's circumstances before incarceration, experiences during incarceration, and the period after release—both the immediate experience and long-term situational circumstances. This review summarizes what we know about the four specified dimensions and how they affect an individual's transition from prison to community. The review concludes with a call to the research community for interdisciplinary, multilevel, longitudinal studies of the processes of reintegration for former prisoners. Such research may illuminate many dimensions of social life, including the effects of recent social policies.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.095931
2003-08-01
2024-07-13
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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