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Returning Home
Reintegration after Prison or Jail
Stephen J. Bahr
ISBN: 978-0-87101-461-0. 2015. Item #4610. 220 pages.
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Did you know each year approximately 600,000 individuals are released from prison in the United States?

How do they reintegrate into society after their release? Are there any programs to help prepare inmates for reintegration during incarceration, and which of these programs are effective? What are the differences between the people who manage to break the cycle of release and re-arrest and those who return to prison, despite their efforts at a successful reintegration?

These are some of the challenges that individuals face after being released from prison or jail. In Returning Home: Reintegration after Prison or Jail, the author presents results of his interviews with dozens of parolees who shared their life experiences about being released from prison and managing reintegration. Bahr explains the challenges faced by former inmates after they are released, including finding living arrangements, dealing with mental health and substance use issues, and avoiding relapse and re-arrest. He also explores how race, gender, and social context affect outcomes. Although there are existing resources, Bahr provides a more comprehensive look at the process of reintegration using both qualitative and quantitative data to address these major concerns. Returning Home will serve as an excellent resource for practitioners, researchers, students, and individuals who have friends and family members that have been in jail or prison and are attempting to reintegrate.
About the Author

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Preparation for Reintegration

Chapter 3: The Reintegration Process

Chapter 4: Living Arrangements: The Impact of Where and with Whom You Live

Chapter 5: Training and Employment: Preparing for Self-Support

Chapter 6: Family Relationships: How Family Bonds Can Support or Interfere with Success

Chapter 7: Friends and Frenemies: How Peers Can Help or Hinder Success

Chapter 8: Overcoming Substance Abuse and Dependency: A Key to Success

Chapter 9: Mental Health Challenges: Stacking the Odds against Success

Chapter 10: Social Context: Neighborhood and Community Influences

Chapter 11: Programs and Policies

Chapter 12: A Look Back and a Look Forward


The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2013, there were more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails. More than 95 percent of those will eventually be released to reintegrate into society. In 2013, there were about 850,000 people on parole after having been released from prison. A critical question is, how well will these parolees adjust as they return to the community? As they reenter society, are they any better off than when they were incarcerated? How many will commit new crimes and return to prison?

Recent data indicate that within three years of their release from prison, three-fourths of parolees will be re-arrested and half will be reincarcerated. Why are such large numbers incarcerated and why do so many commit new offenses and return to prison? What can be done to reduce the number of those who return to prison?

The high incarceration rate is very costly monetarily but even more costly in terms of human suffering. Victims are harmed, families are broken up, and opportunities are lost. Rather than being contributing members of society, prisoners are supported by taxpayers at a cost of more than $30,000 per inmate per year. State budgets on corrections were $48.5 billion in 2010. What can be done to help more offenders reintegrate successfully? What are the characteristics of parolees who are able to remain crime free and reintegrate successfully? There is much we do not know about the reintegration process. In this book, I use quantitative and qualitative data to examine reintegration from the perspective of parolees themselves. Using longitudinal data, I look at how housing, employment, family, and friends influence the reintegration process. In addition, the impact of neighborhood, drugs, and mental health is explored. Finally, I evaluate various programs designed to help parolees reintegrate successfully. The implications of the findings for programs and policies are discussed.

The objective is to understand better what helps offenders reintegrate successfully so that the knowledge can be used to help improve programs and policies. Ultimately, I hope that more of those who are released from prison are able to desist from crime and live productive, satisfying lives. Far too many have their lives disrupted by prison, and far too many who have been in prison return to prison a second or third or fourth time. A better understanding of the reintegration process will enable social workers, therapists, correctional workers, and policymakers to help more parolees prepare for reintegration and to reintegrate successfully.
Stephen J. Bahr, PhD, is professor of sociology at Brigham Young University. He received his BS and MS degrees from Brigham Young University and PhD from Washington State University. Before returning to Brigham Young University, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin. He also served as a professional fellow at the Bush Institute for Child and Family Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously he was chair of the department of sociology and an associate dean in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University. In his research and teaching, he has focused on what helps offenders reintegrate successfully, the evaluation of drug treatment programs, how parenting behavior influences adolescent drug use, why marital relationships fail, how marital dissolution affects children and adults, and what helps children and adults adjust to marital dissolution.
Each year in the United States, more than 600,000 inmates are released from prison. Unfortunately, a large number of these inmates return to a life of crime and usually reenter the correctional system. However, there is hope. In Returning Home, Professor Stephen Bahr provides a thorough description of what works and what doesn't work for these former inmates. Through a meticulous review of previous studies and analyses of the best data on prisoner reentry, Professor Bahr shows that providing housing and employment assistance, support from families, and substance abuse and mental health treatment go a long way toward preventing recidivism and encouraging crime-free lives. Meanwhile, the "get tough on prisoners" approach and the frequent lack of care on their release lead only to a revolving door of recidivism. Social workers, penologists, policymakers, and anyone else interested in creating a better society would be wise to heed Professor Bahr's evidence-based prescriptions.

John P. Hoffmann
Professor, Department of Sociology
Brigham Young University
Returning Home was reviewed by Young R. Do for the journal Social Work.

Determining the countless variables that could possibly influence the reintegration process of prison and jail inmates is at the very least a difficult exercise. Returning Home is a laudable attempt at exploring the many issues needing consideration when evaluating the transition of criminal offenders from incarceration back into society. Bahr divides the book into chapters that review the major factors affecting criminal recidivism, which ultimately sabotage the reintegration process. The early chapters focus on the stages of the reintegration process, including pre-prison experiences, experiences while in prison, the transition shortly after release, and the post-release integration. Subsequent chapters examine factors such as housing, education and employment, family and other social relationships, substance abuse, mental health, as well as neighborhood and community factors. Bahr also offers brief reviews of the main theoretical perspectives that help to explain each of these factors. The last chapters deal with contemporary programs that offer interventions to avoid recidivism and reincarceration, and also a commentary on what specific areas researchers should focus on in the future. The principal issues that Bahr proposes to address with this work include what it is like for prisoners to transition back into society after incarceration, the characteristics of a successful reentry, the barriers to successful reentry, and what types of programs and policies are effective in helping incarcerated individuals reintegrate successfully.

Read the full review. Available to subscribers of Social Work.
Earn 7.0 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.