The Missing Organizational Dimension of Prisoner Reentry: An Ethnography of the Road to Reentry at a Nonprofit Service Provider
Sociological Forum 31(2): 291-309
Prisoner reentry has received great interest in political sociology, criminology, and beyond. Research documents the struggles of individuals trying to find their way back into society. Less attention has been given to the organizational aspects of reentry. This is unfortunate given the rapid growth of nonprofit reentry organizations in the U.S., which introduces a new set of questions about the context and challenges to prisoner reentry. Drawing on an ethnography of Safe, a nonprofit reentry organization in the Northeast, I describe the organization's pivotal role in institutionalizing the pathway to prisoner reentry: a road to reentry, which takes former prisoners through a process that reconfigures their morality, identity, and social relationships. The road to reentry concept helps bring together scholars of the welfare state and criminology by highlighting how the challenges of prisoner reentry rely on how this process is organized. The way in which prison reentry is organized, in turn, affects former prisoners' agency and shapes the relationship between these men and women and their respective families and communities.