The effects of prisonization on the employability of former prisoners: First-hand voices

Jessie Harper, University of Pennsylvania


Each year, hundreds of thousands of prisoners will return to their home states from federal and state incarceration (Travis, 2005). Research suggests that engaging individuals in work after they are released from prison is an important component of successful reentry (Solomon, Johnson, Travis, & McBride, 2004; Travis, 2005). Thirty-five interviews were conducted with stakeholders (former prisoners, Employment Specialists, hiring companies) involved in former prisoners' resocialization into the workforce. It explored how such stakeholders conceptualized the challenges of reentering the workforce after a period of prisonization and how these challenges differ by gender. It also explored the ways that former prisoners and other stakeholders understand success in employment after release from prison. ^ This study demonstrates that even though most former prisoners want to work, that prisonization impacts employability by affecting the ability of former prisoners to function well emotionally and interpersonally in the employment setting by disrupting or impeding the development of the interactional processes, thinking, and behaviors associated with successful employment experiences. These include the ability to work and communicate well with others, follow directions, and demonstrate self-efficacy and achievement (Herr & Cramer, 1996; Neff, 1986). Major findings of this study are that these interactional processes may be disrupted as a result of prisonization's psychological impact. Prisonization may also cause prisoners to internalize and display the behaviors that are common in prison, but that are unacceptable or counter-productive in the employment setting. This study also shows that although there are similarities in the ways that prisonization impacts the employability of men and women, several differences in workforce conduct have been reported. Men may have more difficulty adjusting to the employment setting and may exhibit more anger and aggression (Irwin, 1970; Liebling & Maruna, 2008). ^ Successful prisoner reentry has important implications for former prisoners, the community, and public safety. However, current reentry employment preparation is inadequate in helping former prisoners deal with the effects of prisonization. Discovering what supports help people with employment may significantly inform programs that support those who are in the criminal justice system to reenter the workforce (Travis, 2005; Vacca, 2004). ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Social Work|Political Science, General|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Harper, Jessie, "The effects of prisonization on the employability of former prisoners: First-hand voices" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3455383.