“You have a lot of time to think in here” : incarcerated males and their expectations for the future
Goldstein, Lea R.
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Today in the United States, approximately 3.1% of the adult population is incarcerated, in federal and local jails, on parole or probation. With more than 650,000 individuals leaving prison each year, the transition from prison to society for former prisoners is of significant importance to everyone. While a great deal of previous research examines rates of recidivism, causes of crime and barriers to re-entry, little has been done to investigate the personal plans and perceptions of the future that incarcerated individuals hold. The purpose of my research is to explore the personal expectations, attitudes, fears, and plans of incarcerated males for their life after prison. My analysis relies on qualitative data obtained through interviews with males currently incarcerated in the Maine State Prison System who anticipate release within five years compared with interviews with males who have previously been released from prison. My results indicate that while prisoners do make plans prior to release there is a discrepancy between the reality of post-prison life and the expectations that prisoner’s hold. Despite access to rehabilitation and education programs, prisoners’ perceptions of their own futures underestimate the significant obstacles of re-entry. In other words, prisoners are seemingly not prepared for the significant barriers that they may face as they attempt to secure employment and housing and to reestablish family relationships. While prisoners are aware that stigma and discrimination against ex-convicts exists, they largely believe that they will not be negatively affected by these forces. The personal narrative created by incarcerated males creates the impression of an incoherent self because of the dissonance between the more moral or changed self they try to portray and the reality of their situation.
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