Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Sociology

First Advisor

David Grazian

Abstract

The following manuscript is the result of a year length intensive participant observation and interview case study of a street level bureaucracy focused on prisoner reentry in a large northeastern city. I use the pseudonym Afterward for this bureaucracy. What goes on in prisoner reentry bureaucracies is determined a great deal by their surrounding social context, and the life-courses of the individuals who seek out these bureaucracies for their services. The macro issues of urban poverty, the labor market, politics, and racial stratification meet with the micro level issues of client and staff accumulated experiences, perspectives, and emotions, in the context of a meso-level public bureaucracy.

Both the clients and the organization that I studied had limited resources. For Afterward, its response to limited resources was typically to focus on its legitimating function and its survival, which I argue superseded its service provision function, where resources were rationed, or its public safety function, which was largely nominal. Additionally, both clients and staff at afterward were actively engaged in social interaction organized for the purpose of construction of narratives of agency. The social construction of agency, however, is often not enough to prevent any client from returning to prison or jail. Moreover, clients go to obtain jobs through Afterward, but then their wages received through formal paycheck may also be garnished in order to pay for outstanding court costs and fines.

Afterward is also part of a broader project of surveillance and control. Afterward provides much needed services, but is also part of punitive carceral continuum. In the context of the physical office space of Afterward there is a great deal of monitoring of clients based off of the presumption that they are a violent threat. Additionally, Afterward regularly coordinated with other criminal justice bureaucracies in the monitoring of its clients. In my final chapter, I combine a number of themes to focus on the small group of African American women clients of Afterward, with a special focus on the looming punitive role of the foster care system as well as the gendered significance of interpersonal violence and victimization.

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