Reentry Programs for the Formerly Incarcerated: the Framing of Criminality and the Performance of Transformation in Stigma Management

Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted (Opt-Out)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Arsalan Khan




reentry, incarceration, stigma, performance, transformation, criminality


This ethnographic research examines the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals participating in reentry programs. Due to the stigmatizing effects of a record of arrest and incarceration, members of the formerly incarcerated population face numerous difficulties in trying to resume their lives, particularly in their search for stable employment. In order to address these difficulties and facilitate reentry into society, many community organizations have instated reentry programs that aim to ease the post-release process by providing much needed psychological, emotional and social support. The objectives of this research were to understand the process of reentry and barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals; examine the different focuses of reentry programming; and study the methods by which these programs function to teach and/or empower formerly incarcerated individuals. Data was collected through participant observation at a community organization during reentry program classes and staff interviews. In this research, I show how reentry programs teach techniques of stigma management that enable formerly incarcerated individuals to present themselves as "reformed" subjects who are worthy of a second chance. In doing so, reentry programs help lessen the burden of stigma but do not eliminate it.

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