Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Andrea Doyle, PhD

Second Advisor

Samira Ali, PhD


The United States currently has the largest prison population in the world. Every week, over 10,000 people are released from US state and federal prisons back into their communities, and two thirds of these will likely be rearrested within three years of their release from prison. People released from incarceration face more significant barriers to successful engagement in the community than when they entered prison. Scholars have noted the lack of effective services for this population, leading to recidivism rates of about 70%. This study examines the ways innovative and effective practices can be implemented for people released from incarceration. It examines the factors that shape innovations at a community center (The Center for Carceral Communities, University of Pennsylvania) serving people with a history of incarceration. Observation and participant observation of public events were utilized to examine the implementation of innovation. Publicly available discussions, speeches, and interviews with public figures, Center brochures, field notes, and reflexivity journals were analyzed. A grounded theory approach, informed by sensitizing concepts drawn from the Theory of Institutional Logics was utilized to analyze the data, and explore the manner in which internal and external organizational factors shape innovation. The results indicate that the carceral field is shaped by competing logics, whereby multiple institutional fields, actors, social movements, and frames of understanding interact and result in opportunities to resist institutionally normative processes. These then allow innovative practices to emerge, flourish and establish themselves in the carceral institutional field.

Included in

Social Work Commons