In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Prisoner Reentry

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Institutional Barriers to Reentry: Context and Consequences
  • Theoretical Perspectives
  • Programs and Strategies
  • Process and Outcomes Evaluations

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Criminology Prisoner Reentry
Andres F. Rengifo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0043


Approximately 650,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of these ex-prisoners recidivate within three years. The social costs associated with this phenomenon are significant for prisoners and their families (e.g., higher penalties for repeated offenders, further detachment from pro-social networks) and government agencies (e.g., public safety concerns, growing fiscal pressures). Some of these obstacles are not new; however, their relevance and impact has been amplified by mass imprisonment and more conservative policies and ideologies. In response, practitioners and scholars have reconsidered the logic and structure of the reintegration process for ex-prisoners in order to provide more effective services and interventions. A growing body of research has begun to document these reentry initiatives from various perspectives and methodologies.

General Overviews

From a policy perspective, prisoner reentry encompasses a wide array of policies and programs that seek to influence the process of reintegration of offenders into the community. These interventions may be implemented as part of broader correctional policies (e.g., preparing prisoners for release based on assessments of risks and needs upon admission) or may reflect narrower adjustments to more traditional practices (e.g., early release policies, case management). Hughes and Wilson 2007 summarizes the characteristics of individuals released from prison using corrections data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Petersilia 2003 reviews trends in prison releases and systems of supervision in the context of mass incarceration while providing a more in-depth assessment of the challenges for returning prisoners and current policies. Travis and Waul 2003 explores reentry from the perspective of the prisoner, their families, and communities emphasizing the multiple burdens caused by incarceration. Travis and Visher 2005 summarizes empirical evidence on the relationship between reentry and crime at the individual and ecological levels. Solomon, et al. 2008 provides an overview centered more on policy and programmatic issues from the perspective of jail reentry. Patillo, et al. 2004 provides a broader view on the relationship between incarceration and other social institutions. Despite the significance of these works, National Research Council 2007 reports that few systematic evaluations of reentry programs have been conducted to date.

  • Hughes, Timothy, and Doris James Wilson. 2007. Reentry trends in the United States. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Tracks the growth in prison and parole populations across states 1990–2002. Describes general attributes of these populations (e.g., most serious offense, time served, demographics) as well as rates of parole success by release year and release type. Available online.

  • National Research Council. 2007. Parole, desistance from crime and community reintegration. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Overview of models of community supervision and related programs. Highlights tools and practices that facilitate the reintegration of prisoners upon release within a desistance framework. Argues that more and better research is needed to assess the impact of reentry programs on future criminality.

  • Patillo, Mary, David Weiman, and Bruce Western, eds. 2004. Imprisoning America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Examines the social dimensions of prisoner reentry in the context of mass imprisonment. Contributors explore the multiple challenges of reintegration from various perspectives, including prisoners, their families, and their neighborhoods. Recommendations include the realignment of social policies to include not only corrections but also broader initiatives across policy domains.

  • Petersilia, Joan. 2003. When prisoners come home: Parole and prisoner reentry. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Documents obstacles for the reintegration for ex-prisoners, including the effectiveness of institutional responses. Defines prisoner reentry as the planning “for inmates’ transition to free living—including how they spend their time during confinement, the process by which they are released, and how they are supervised after release.”

  • Solomon, Amy L., Jenny W.L. Osborne, Stefan F. LoBuglio, Jeff Mellow, Debbie A. Mukamal. 2008. Life after lockup. Improving reentry from jail to the community. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Describes the needs and attributes of individuals released from local jails. Highlights opportunities for interventions and the need for collaboration across government agencies and between agencies and community-based organizations and providers. Chapter 3 provides useful examples. Good resource for practitioners. Available online.

  • Travis, Jeremy, and Michelle Waul, eds. 2003. Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Summarizes the individual, family, and community-level impacts of incarceration. Argues that social policies may be more effective at reducing future criminality than interventions based on a crime-control framework (severe sanctions, heightened surveillance).

  • Travis, Jeremy, and Christy Visher, eds. 2005. Prisoner reentry and crime in America. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Comprehensive review of facts, figures, and approaches linked to reentry trends in the United States. Documents changes in prison populations, parole agencies, and community-based resources for offenders. Combines theoretical pieces on reentry and desistance, crime rates, etc., with policy recommendations.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.