DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL ECONOMY D I S S E R TAT I O N C O V E R SHEET P r ogram me: BA International Politics Module Title and Code: 6SSPP312 60 Credit Dissertation Candidate Number: W28207 Title: Labeling Effects on the Social and Economic Behavioral Patterns of Former-Prisoners. Supervisor name: D. Skarbek Submission date: 6 May 2016 Word Count: 16308 1
Table of Contents Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………….3 Previous Research………………………………………………………………………………...3 Employer Dimension………………………………………………………………….….3 Prisoner Dimension……………………………………………………………………….4 Theoretical Framework…………………………………………………………………………...6 Operationalizing Labeling Theory….…………………………………………………….6 Secondary Deviance……………………………………………………………………....7 Labeling Theory Critiques.……………………………………………………………….8 Methodology……………………………………………………………………………………...9 Findings………………………………………………………………………………………….10 Finding 1………………………………………………………………………………....10 Isolation from the ‘Constantly Compliant’..……………………………………..10 Skepticism towards Outsiders…………………………………………………....13 Trust Based on Shared Experiences……………………………………………...16 Finding 2…………………………………………………………………………………17 Interpersonal and Emotional Support...………………………………………….18 Implicit and Explicit Reinforcement of Self-Labeling…………………………..20 Leveraging Economic Availability………………………………………………21 Proximate Assistance…………………………………………………………….23 Finding 3…………………………………………………………………………………24 Finding 4…………………………………………………………………………………26 Finding 5…………………………………………………………………………………27 Elimination and Consolidation Techniques……………………………………...29 Gravitation to the Union…………………………………………………………33 Conclusion....…………………………………………………………………………………….34 Implications………………………………………………………………………………………34 Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………..36
Introduction ‘Paying one’s debt to society’ as an idiom imposes a transactional bent to deviance. Were one to deviate from socially accepted norms, a fine would be issued to the deviant actor, placing him into debt. Following payment—be it fine, public humiliation, or complete removal from general society—the debt is resolved, and the former-deviant becomes just that, a former-deviant, and fully-returned citizen. Part of this benefit is economic advancement, or at least, economic participation. This is particularly beneficial for released prisoners, with the finding that employment exists as a ‘turning point’ away from deviance for released inmates (Uggen 2000: 542). In an effort to maintain this idiom, 23 states and the District of Columbia currently have so- called ‘Ban the Box’ measures—laws that place an applicant’s qualifications under employer examination prior to introducing the “stigma of a criminal record” (Rodriguez & Avery: 2016: 1- 5). One such state is Massachusetts, which legislatively prohibited the inclusion of criminal history questions from initial job applications in 2010 (Mass. Gen Laws ch. 256 § 1-146 2010). Implicit in these legal changes is the principle that one’s criminal record is not absolved following an incarceration stint. In short, these laws anticipate that society does not follow the dictum that former-prisoners have ‘paid their debt to society’, but rather will continue to be stigmatized based on their past criminal history. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts codifies the maintenance of such discrimination, stating directly that “nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a person from making an adverse decision on the basis of an individual’s criminal history” (Mass. Gen Laws ch. 256 § 19 2010). Additionally, these laws look neither at former-prisoners’ self-assessment—socially or economically—nor the behavioral patterns former-prisoners exhibit during the reintegration process. In essence, former-prisoners have both social and economic behaviors that have adapted to the anticipation of stigmatization, irrespective of job application checkboxes. This study aims to trace the manner by which former- prisoners construct their post-incarceration identity, how this is maintained or dissolved, and, ultimately, how these identities affect former-prisoners’ behavioral patterns. Ultimately this study finds that former-prisoners anticipate social and economic discrimination due to their past criminality, and subsequently have constructed a system of reintegration that both minimizes contact with so-called ‘constantly-compliant’ members of society, and leverages contact opportunities with similar past deviants. This study begins by outlining and discussing the previous research undertaken regarding economic and social prison reintegration, from the perspectives of employers and former- prisoners. The proposed theoretical framework follows, during which time this study will develop, identify, and refine the hypotheses it will address. The methodological procedures used for this research will then be discussed, before turning to the study’s findings. The research is divided into a series of findings, then further broken down by patterns and phenomena within these findings, and punctuated by addressing the hypotheses outlined earlier. Each finding is aimed to build off its predecessors, allowing for a holistic understanding of both the social and economic behaviors of former-prisoners. Following these findings, this essay will begin its conclusion by looking over the general patterns in reference to the testimonies and hypotheses presented. Finally, the implications of this study on further research is discussed. Previous Research The Employer Dimension:
Economic reintegration of prisoners begins at two levels: the employer and the prisoner. Most research into the reintegration experiences of prisoners has addressed the former. Holzer et al finds that employers’ “stated willingness to hire ex-offenders is still very limited” and that employers’ expressed willingness to hire ex-prisoners correlates to their actual behavior, or, in short, employers are genuine about their leniency towards an applicant’s criminal history (2007: 144-5). This creates the baseline for the bulk of similar studies around employment dynamics. Boshier and Johnson present similar findings in that the admission of a crime erects a barrier between the applicant and the likelihood of positive job attainment (1974: 268; Pettit & Lyons 2009: 749; May 1995: 206-9). What is unknown is if the sectors into which researchers are submitting applications mirror the sectors to which ex-offenders apply. Additionally, the baseline companies set forth by the addressed studies are vague, with no indication if a pattern emerged between particular industries and their willingness to hire ex-offender. While giving a top line level of analysis on the attitudinal disposition of employers towards applicants, current research fails by: one, neglecting the potential for sector-diversity; and two, constructing a principal-agent problem in which prisoner orientations are neglected. Furthermore, even when getting a job, Petersilia finds employer resistance to advance former- prisoners’ careers within companies themselves (2003: 114). This can be corroborated in two ways. The first combines the findings of Holzer et al that employer willingness correlates to employer action, as well as the understanding that criminal records disproportionately affect applications to jobs requiring trust (2007: 114; Waldfogel 1994: 75). If a promotion into a new position requires greater trust, it is unlikely that former-prisoners will climb company ranks. The second means of corroboration is the salary patterns exhibited by former-prisoners in the overall workplace. Current research concludes that former-prisoners as a whole suffer “significant and more enduring losses in post-release wages” unrelated to “stalled experience growth or job displacement” (Pettit & Lyons 2009: 750; Waldfogel 1994: 75; Nagin & Waldfogel 1998: 37). Moreover, while work can be a turning point for ex-offenders, incarceration is itself a “turning point that reduces the earnings mobility of young men” (Western 2002: 541). Notably absent from this research is the type—or types—of jobs to which former-prisoners are applying. If upward mobility is being examined, it must be first identified that former-prisoners are largely applying for jobs with the possibility for promotion. What founds current research is a principal- agent problem, in that researchers as former-prisoners neglect the possibility that former- prisoners discriminate amongst job opportunities. However, this research does provide insight into the nature of the adjudication process. Given that employers are discriminating against former-prisoners due to their criminal history, it is apparent that employers trust the judicial systems under examination. In other words, society perceives state or federally recognized past criminal history is a reliable signal for future behavior. If this were not true, the research would suggest that criminal records would have moderate to little effect on the hiring decisions made by employers. Prisoner Dimension: When turning towards the nature of prisoners reentering society, the research is mixed. Pettit and Lyons find that criminal offenders prior to incarceration already make up a disadvantaged portion of the labor market (2007: 223). Acting on this, as well as numerous findings that demographic information may further imperil the nature by which former-prisoners reintegrate—specifically that black former-prisoners experience compounded economic discrimination—it is clear that
discriminatory labeling effects are unequally distributed amongst the former-prisoner populations, and this inequity is partially premised on a variety of demographic factors (Chiricos et al 2007: 571; Pager 2007: 168-9; Pager 2003: 959-60; Petersilia 2003: 107). Outside of speculation, however, there is no causal reason that is given by Chiricos et al—and only a moderated reason of a compounded discrimination based on race and incarceration by Pager—as to why these demographic differences appear. Additionally, as it has been found that white former-prisoners are more self-stigmatizing and secretive than their black counterparts, and women are not ‘universally’ stigmatized by criminal activity, the failure to provide a contextual understanding of how former-prisoners find work is a glaring oversight (Winnick & Bodkin 2009: 144-6; Galgano 2009: 33-5). It would solve this body of demographic-based research to delve deeper into how individuals search for positive employment. Research strongly suggests that the key to former-prisoner reintegration is the prisoner’s utilization of social networks. Hattery and Smith confirm Pager’s larger demographic findings, but note that along with race and felony status, social capital—defined as ‘social networks and the resources embedded [therein]’ —mitigate obstacles due to labeling effects (2010: 100-1). In applying the language of Thompson that “stigmas that attach to criminal convictions have impaired the ability of formerly incarcerated individuals to reintegrate”, it is clear the navigation of former-prisoners in the job market is layered within networks that alter the amount of stigmatization ex-prisoners encounter (2008: 10, 177-8). Strong social network ties have also been found to reduce a prisoner’s expectation of financial isolation upon release; however, the nature of these social networks remained speculative (Glaser 1964: 338). Little discussed, however, is how these social relationships are formed. This is of particular interest, given Price’s declaration that former-prisoners are ‘banned beings’ in modern society, causing distrust, and, at times, social death, and Asencio and Burke’s finding that both worker and criminal identities are internalized by actors (2015: 115-6; 2011: 177). By minimizing the concrete makeup of these social networks utilized by former-prisoners, the manner by which reintegration occurs or fails to occur is left unanswered. Presented with the notion that employment is essential to successful reintegration, this hole in current literature is even more puzzling. In one study, the researcher found, “an overwhelming proportion of participants ended up working for social service organization as case managers, counselors, social workers, or similar positions” (Owens 2009: 335). However, Owens fails to reconcile this phenomenon with the finding that despite anti-discrimination protections for criminal offenders, “these laws could not shield [former-prisoners] from the collateral effects of stigma” (Ibid: 336). From the broadest perspective, either: one, this job sector adheres to anti- discrimination policies and therefore former-prisoners have a high probability of retaining these jobs; two, there is a coordinated movement by former-prisoners to apply into this sector; or, three, the finding was a consequence of Owens’s sampling methodology. Inputting Glaser’s finding that ex-prisoners’ search procedure is “casually to ‘ask around’ about job possibilities” within their social networks, the phenomenon identified by Owens does not seem to be based around solely benevolent hiring agents (1964: 355). Paired with the understanding that prisoner unemployment can be attributed to inmate failure to “accumulate human capital while incarcerated” and general stigmatizing effects, the presence of a social network built under the condition of general stigmatization becomes a more salient focal point for reintegration study (Raphael 2011: 207). Yet as Owens does not research how participants found similarly-related
jobs, the clear line between Glaser’s and Owens’s observations cannot be drawn. It is from this disconnection that this study operationalizes. Theoretical Framework Labeling theory, at its most basic, holds that individuals are labeled by society based on a preexisting set of expectations or rules. This is most sharply apparent when individuals are labeled as ‘deviant’. For Becker, this becomes the root of the ‘outsider’ class in society, identified as those that “share the label and the experience” of this label (1963: 9-10). Yet key to even this rudimentary understanding by Becker on labeling theory is the element of exposure, in that “being caught and branded” are both necessary elements for individuals to fully identify under a label of deviance (Ibid: 32-3). This line of reasoning, of course, neglects any levels of discrete signaling exhibited by individuals. Regarding this study, even Becker’s earnest understanding of labeling theory is relevant, given that the individuals under study have been convicted, incarcerated, and released back into society, and therefore formally marked as social deviants by society. This fact of defining compliant versus deviant acts must be accepted as a key facet through which cooperative societies operate. Branching off the notion of cooperative societies is Braithwaite’s understanding that the condition of societal communitarianism requires the “special qualities of mutual help and trust” (1989: 100). Societies as a whole may not be completely communitarian, but must retain its two primary tenants if they act interdependently— such as under a capitalist economy under examination—and therefore requires a minimum criminal perspective of deviance. In short, the deviance studied here is the most essential type of deviance for a cohesive society, in contrast to superfluous preoccupations with cultural deviance as explored by Becker. Adapting Becker and labeling theory becomes a question of utility. For Raybeck this is addressed along levels of scale, with the “absence of good interpersonal information and bonds of interdependence” combined with “conflicting values and inequalities” in large-scale social units promoting “the abrupt labeling of an offender as a deviant” (1988: 939). This is supported by the evidence presented earlier on economically, as evidenced through the hesitancies to hire and promote ex-offenders. Still, this does little to understand how former-prisoners understand themselves in the context of a large-scale society. In an effort to tackle this, modified labeling theory arose, deriving stigma from two key components: “the degree to which a stigmatized individual perceives he will be devalued by society” and “the level to which he perceives he will be discriminated against” (Mingus & Burchfield 2012: 99). In essence, stigmatization is the desired consequence of a labeling society. This leads to the operationalization of labeling theory as a whole. Operationalizing Labeling Theory: Shame is the key feature through which labels placed upon individuals subsequently alters these individuals’ behaviors. It is notable that Karp states directly that “the terms stigma, primary and secondary deviance, and labeling have been replaced by new terms…especially, shame” (2000: 301). By placing shame as a cognate for ‘stigma’, Karp activates shaming as a tool to distil between two parties within a shared space. Hayes tends to agree, pointing to shame as the main mechanism which operationalizes negative labels—such as Becker’s ‘deviant’, but more generally a mark of societal noncompliance—through direct or indirect shaming; the latter of which requires repeated incidents to evoke shame (2000: 36-43). Hayes’s definition of ‘negative
labels’ under normal circumstances would be too broad and therefore subjective. For those exiting an incarceration stint, such vagueness does not apply. As individuals released from prison are physically reintegrated into society immediately, shame can theoretically begin to precipitate from that immediate moment of release. Additionally, any processes in lead-up to an inmate’s release may likewise begin constructing a perception of shame. From this perspective, social networks around the immediate release of a prisoner become essentially in the prisoner’s self-perception of shame. Therefore, this study anticipates: Hypothesis 1: The strength of post-release social networks will negatively impact the magnitude of labeling effects on prisoner reintegration. Secondary Deviance: Creating a foundation for this hypothesis is the assumption that labeling effects are not only observed but realized by those being labeled. In other words, individuals observe or anticipate how they are or will be labeled. This, according to some theorists leads to a fundamental shift in how labeled individuals act within society. This phenomenon—characterized by Lemert as ‘secondary deviance’—creates a cascading effect, including the increase in salience of “disapproving, degradation, and isolation reactions of society”, “alteration of personal identity”, “exclusion from conventional opportunities”, the pervasiveness of anxiety throughout an actor’s interaction with himself and society, and—most violently—a fear of rejection coupled with demoralization (1972: 45-63; Paternoster & Iovanni 1989: 375-6; Goffman 1959: 64-5; Link 1987: 109-10). In short, the experience or anticipation of being labeled fundamentally alters the vantage point of those being labeled. It is this anticipation that “influences the actor’s adoption of an appropriate strategy for managing or coping with the label” (Regoli et al 1985: 24). While inexact on how to precisely measure this anticipatory factor established by Regoli et al, the insight can be applied on two levels, socially and economically. From a social perspective, this observation informs the study to anticipate that individuals being released from prison will anticipate negative social reactions from those of different non-deviant backgrounds. Here, these individuals are referred to as ‘constantly-compliant’ members of society. As Bernburg et al illuminate, the exclusion brought on by deviant labeling may cause groupings by labeled-deviants isolated heavily from the rest of society; similar ‘insular’ grouping found to occur between mental patients (2006: 82; Link et al 1989: 419). While the researchers do not supply a manner by which to dissect this isolation, it can be assumed that individuals will reflect the ‘mutual help and trust’ communitarian societies identified by Braithwaite. Therefore, it is anticipated that isolated groups will display tendencies supporting group-members and largely rejecting of non-group members. In the context of this research, it can be assumed that: Hypothesis 2: Former-prisoners will create social networks largely populated with other prisoners, marked by high levels of internal trust and external skepticism. From an economic perspective, by injecting Paternoster and Iovanni’s belief that actors will conscribe some conventional options as unattainable into the general social network anticipation, it is anticipated that: Hypothesis 2a: Former-prisoners will gravitate towards professions with either: i. a concentrated workforce of former criminals; or, ii. Low forms of interconnectedness.
The scale of society in which former-prisoners operate also proves an important aspect of research. In small-scale societies, secondary deviance is less likely due to the “the individual’s acceptance of the label and social position it signifies” (Raybeck 1988: 393). While Raybeck’s findings on large-scale societies conform to the hiring-end of prisoner-employer relationships, this observation helps anticipate the internal dynamic of the hypothesized ‘former-prisoner’ cohort. Operating on as a small-scale social unit, the use of further labeling within the former- prisoner cohort is unlikely, or the drug-dealer is unlikely to be differentiated from the larcenist. This leads to the hypothesis that: Hypothesis 3: Members of the former-prisoner cohort will not differentiate between members based on conviction type. Caution is needed, however, in adapting Raybeck’s findings that insinuates small-scale units reduce labeling in order to maximize social participation. This creates a functional element to Raybeck’s small scale unit, and this study’s former-prisoner cohort. In effect, this study must find a functional reason that former-prisoners utilize the group for either group or individual gain. Looking back at labeling theory, individuals labeled ‘deviant’ in society must either cope, adapt, or both to the conditions created through this label. From this study’s perspective, this manifests itself in two distinct ways. The first is the general reintegration experience of former-prisoners based on an anticipation of being stigmatized. The second, is the economic reintegration experiences of former-prisoners will be based on the anticipation of being stigmatized. Thus arises two distinct hypotheses: Hypothesis 2b: Former-prisoners will establish a closed group in order to create the foundation for a social network following their release from prison. Hypothesis 2c: former-prisoners will utilize this group as a means of positive and legitimate economic reintegration. Labeling Theory Critiques: There is considerable controversy on the legitimate deployment of labeling theory for social research. Albrecht and Albrecht provide the most stinging attack, discrediting labeling theory as “not a formal, rigorous theory but a perspective” with an ideology antecedent to data (1978: 126). Rooted in this criticism is the subjective nature of the ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ dichotomous necessary for deploying labeling theory (Regoli et al 1985: 23). Indeed, even Goffman attempts to do so, finding those who impersonates a ‘concrete individual’ as ‘inexcusable’ but feels ‘less strongly about’ those who impersonate ‘category membership’ (1959: 60). Yet these concerns are mitigated in the current study. As this study concentrates on individuals who have not only been arrested but convicted and incarcerated, there is a clear single from society that their former actions were considered ‘unjust’. This is most clearly demonstrated in the adjudicated removal of the ex-offender from society. Thus, when looking at the context of the study, subjects have received an official sanction from the state or federal government recognizing deviance. Other criticism of labeling theory is rooted in the nature of group identity. Subcultures created to socialize, maintain, and sustain deviant identities may in actuality deny outside contact in order to protect deviant culture “from criticism and assuring the stability of the social system” (Davis 1972: 456). What Davis propels this research to grapple with is examining what exact label former-prisoners will perceive themselves to have attained. On one extreme, the label would be ‘deviant’ perpetuated despite reentering society. On the other extreme, the label will be
‘complier’, unrecognizing their past misdeeds. Both of these assertions, however, neglect secondary deviance of Lemert, Goffman, and Regoli et al, stripping labeled individuals of the ability to anticipate which labels society will force upon them. As anticipated by this study, however, the cohort of former-prisoners formed will express skepticism to external actors. The failure to understand social grouping dynamics is regularly the corner-stone of labeling theory criticism. Highlighting a potential circular fallacy is Tittle, arguing that “if labeling cannot be ascertained independent of its presumed effect” it is therefore ‘unscientific’ (1975: 402). Coupling this with Davis’s observation that labeling theory has a ‘methodological inhibition’ moving towards a ‘social psychological approach’ particularly favoring “collections of personal testimonies by stigmatized minorities…while intriguing, lack scientific or generalizing utility”, Tittle’s unscientific claim seems confirmed (1972: 459). In fact, the claim here by Tittle is fully accepted by what is presumed in this study. Tittle criticizes labeling theory on the basis that labeling theory presumes that individuals conform to the labels others have given them. However, this is an approach to labeling theory this essay rejects. By looking at the social structures, this study stresses the nature by which self-ascribed labels—created in anticipation to labels—affect reintegration patterns. Labeling theory can be upheld in the tradition of Lemert, Goffman, and Link et al by understanding that labels do not imperil individuals to take on the direct identities of their labels (i.e. a ‘criminal deviant’ subsequently commits more crimes) but rather that individuals with the shared labels exhibit shared social phenomena (i.e. those labeled ‘cultural deviant’ move to areas where they are culturally the norm). In establishing patterns of behavior, this study hopes to move beyond this methodological inhibition, and therefore tackle one of Davis’s other critique of labeling theory studies which neglect ‘organizational variables’ and ultimately holds a ‘seeming fixation on the actor as subject, to neglect of the social context’ (1972: 460). Finally, criticism has been lodged that labeling theorists do not recognize the greater contextual nature of labeling. Contextual labeling in short holds that “places, as well as people are, ascribed negative status, and individually must consistently account for their physical presence in morally questionable settings” (Glassner & Corzine 1978: 83). What Glassner and Corzine implicitly suggest in their critique of labeling theory, is that labels applied to certain social settings then may become labeled and this label reinforced by actors from within—rather than outside—the setting itself. Taking this into consideration, it is likely that specific economic pathways will be substantially saturated with individuals with a history of incarceration. To be clear, this does not mean that former-prisoners will necessarily make up the majority of individuals in particular trades, but rather that former-prisoners will coalesce around a relatively finite types of careers. This was briefly seen by the research undertaken by Owens, and of course anticipated similarly in this study. Methodology Twenty formerly-incarcerated men were interviewed in both group and individual sessions over the course of early 2016. While the sample size may be deemed as minimal, it fits into the qualitative sample sizes utilized by Hattery and Smith (2010), at twenty-five, and Owens (2009), at seventeen participants. This study follows the precedent set by the former in acknowledging that the sample presented makes deployment of statistics ‘inappropriate’ but not the identification of general patterns (Hattery & Smith 2010: 100). Utilizing formerly incarcerated men solely
capitalizes on the temporal restrictions around research premised off of previous work. If women are ostensibly immune to criminal labeling in the economic sphere as found by Galgano, while men are not, a tradeoff between representativeness in sample and accuracy in understanding the labeling process would occur. Under a more robust study, the difference of labeling effects between formerly-incarcerated men and women, particularly along economic lines, could be distilled and compared. Lacking this robustness, this study through its focus on solely formerly- incarcerated men, can examine the evidence of social patterns due to labeling effects within the population most likely to experience the labeling process. Participants were sourced through three primary entry points. The first, the former-prisoner advocacy organization, Ex-Prisons and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA), existed primarily as the focal point for snowball sampling. Using snowball sampling techniques in conjunction with the study’s examination of various social networks created a sample that was prone to confirmation bias. In short, snowball sampling relies on leveraging pre- existing social networks across the population being sampled, and therefore all subjects have ostensible social networks with one another. In an effort to avoid this confirmation bias but retain a robust sample size, this study utilized two transitional organizations—The Gavin Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts, and Dismas House in Worcester, Massachusetts. These organizations removed an overt confirmation bias, but did allow such bias to exist discretely. Namely, while snowball sampling utilizing a preexisting social network, transitional housing and group homes provide the opportunity but not the requirement for internal social networks to form. Additionally, as many of the subjects interviewed were recidivists, their habits between their most recent and previous releases can be examined in isolation and comparison. The overall use of a facilitator to cull subjects is consistent with previous research highlighting active-criminals, in order to promote efficiency, and mitigate researcher-subject power imbalances and sociocultural effects on setting (Biernacki & Waldorf 1981: 152-4; Wright et al 1992: 150-1; Oakley 1981: 41; McLeod & Thomson 2009: 43). The use of gatekeepers to access individuals then provided a means to access honest testimony from subjects, crucial to the personal histories being studied. Findings Finding 1: Upon release, former-prisoners adopt the group identity of “reformed deviants” through a shared anticipation of external isolation. There are three primary means by which former-prisoners identify themselves as members of the same group: one, a feeling of isolation from fully-legitimate individuals; two, a skepticism to those outside the group; and three, internal trust of other group members based on shared experiences. Isolation from the ‘Constantly Compliant’: Participant: You know friends here and there, you know, help me, this-and-that. So, you know, it was a blessing, and, that’s unique. A lot of people don’t have that. Anticipating isolation is a core reality of a former-prisoners’ reintegration experience. Throughout the course of interviews, participants regularly anticipated and separated
themselves from unmarked or ‘pure’ members of society. As emphasized in the quote above, this anticipation of isolation runs in contrary to their near-universal understanding of the beneficial nature of social networks. This contradictory position, however, places former-prisoners against an identity junction point that they must confront in order to reintegrate. The reactionary tendency from this study suggests that this confrontation manifests itself by prisoners creating a two-point dichotomy between returning- and constantly present citizens within society. The anticipation of isolation expressed by former-prisoners is rooted directly into the anticipation of stigmatization, due to their criminal records: Participant: I think these sets of programs are good, because they want people with records; they want people that made mistakes…because now nobody’s looking at someone like, ‘oh he’s better than me’, or ‘he’s got this better than me’. We’re all equal at what they’re doing. While this quote seems directly to enforce this notion of anticipated stigmatization, it must be given careful consideration. Within context, this quote may be far more extreme, as it anticipates isolation from the standpoint of complete knowledge; namely both individuals are aware of the other’s criminal history. While this creates a foundation for self-isolation, it only does so under very particular circumstances. These circumstances are rooted in anticipation, but arise if and only if a former-prisoner’s criminal history is openly exposed to those with whom he interacts, or, as Becker stated, if individuals are “caught and branded” (1963: 32-3). As said earlier, in general society, this scarlet-letter phenomenon is unlikely to occur. Therefore, while there are seedlings to the identity of former-prisoners as a solidified group removed from pure-society it does not express full support for the notion that former-prisoners view themselves as members of a shared group. What it does express, however, is the social hierarchy that former-prisoners anticipate confronting when reentering general society, and therefore a tendency to favor interacting primarily with fellow members of the former-prisoner group. More definitively is the finding that this sensitivity to potential stigmatization leads former- prisoners to neither confront nor deny society’s reaction to their criminal activity. Instead, they are left in a middling position, marked by the anticipation of rejection against a sense of self- concern. The former acts a means that brings these individuals together as a group under labeling. The latter, as seen below, provides some of the grouping’s utility. Without an immediate social network with which to leverage this function (i.e. when former-prisoners are alone within society), they continually perceive themselves as branded by their previous deviance, irrespective of their current deviant disposition: Interviewer: So you said that some people coming out have a fear of rejection, did you have a fear of rejection? Participant: Very much, very much. You know with the jobs, for example, also going into places, it’s like coming out of prison-, it’s like ‘do these people know I was in prison’. Going into stores, and going into certain places, offices-City Hall, for example…You know, are these people going to treat you different? Am I talking different? Am I acting different?
What is exposed above is the actual circumscription of behavior by former-prisoners due to their anticipation of stigmatization. Notably is that the activities that are curtailed by former-prisoners are those that occur in the public arena, where former-prisoners are unable to control their audience. Therefore, the reintegration experience itself is an act of self-stigmatization for former- prisoners, and, more importantly, an experience in which former-prisoners must forfeit large amounts of personal control over their situations. A former-prisoner in general society therefore is a solitary creature; one that continually anticipates and confronts stigma. Rather than being ‘caught and branded’ by society as Becker supposes, former-prisoners themselves do not need to be shamed through action, but begin the self-labeling process through the anticipation of societal shaming. This anticipatory nature of isolation places former-prisoners in a self-labeling quagmire. While acknowledging their previous behavior as deviant, they simultaneously express a personal commitment against further deviance. However, despite taking this view of their own life, they still anticipate they will be recognized—if not still a deviant—below the class of the ‘constantly-compliant’ member of society. Taking these components into account, it becomes evident that former-prisoners hoping to legitimately reintegrate into society, ascribe themselves a middling-label. Combining the norm-conforming activity towards legitimacy they hope to achieve with the understanding of their own previous deviance, and society’s stigmatization of deviant actors, this self-ascribed label is best stated as the ‘reformed-deviant’. Retaining an augmented label to signal past deviancy simultaneously dismantles the dichotomy that exists between deviance and compliance, and allows former-prisoners to anticipate stigma. Without this latter element, the labeling effects would be ‘returning-citizens’ rather than ‘reformed-deviants’. Both labels acknowledge a previous removal from society, only the latter presents a causal explanation for this time away. In effect, participants believe themselves to be fully returning citizens, but anticipate shaming if they are ever exposed as having not been ‘constant-citizens’ for reasons of deviancy. Participant: I’m not trying to do this negative lifestyle that I used to live over and over again. I’m try-, I’m learning by stepping up and being-, being in my community and trying to show-, and being a different person in the community…like going into these community meetings and stuff like that, it’s you know, sharing my lifestyle now. As shown through this quote, an enforced dichotomy does exist between former-prisoners and ‘constant-citizens’. Unlike Becker’s deviance-compliance dichotomy, former-prisoners express a temporal orientation to their self-labeling, which preserves a sense of external stigmatization. The participant highlighted above suggests very directly his desire to share his current relationship with society, rather than his deviant past. Implicitly this suggests that he wants to diminish the potential for societal shaming through the obfuscation of his personal history. Additionally, as this method deployed is made for the participant to ‘stay focused’, it suggests that shaming—instigated by the exposure of his criminal past—would harm his return to legitimate society. The circumscription in his past history to general society is premised in his anticipation of external shaming, coupled with a desire to be legitimized by society and ultimately a belief that accessing a social network will be overall beneficial to his reintegration
experience. On this final aspect, the participant’s finding of value in entering the community signals a perceived benefit to the expansion of his social network. Skepticism towards outsiders: Furthering former-prisoner isolation are low levels of trust towards outsiders, or the ‘constantly- compliant’. This is best expressed by a sense of skepticism, from both personal and economic standpoints. Both of these elements are rooted in a casual ignorance to the concerns that both others in society and hiring managers may hold due to their previous deviance: Participant: And a lot of people in the community, and in the society, they’ve done a crime and now they are like ‘bad’. They can see one thing bad or two things bad something that you did in your past, and they can cast a whole bunch of judgment. But there is a lot of stuff that they don’t see; like you are working towards your goals, and you mention all that stuff to them, but it won’t really matter. In essence, the tendency of former-prisoners is to observe Becker’s deviance-compliance as how society will react to them, but do not individually recognize why this dichotomy is salient within society. Looking at the quote above, the participant again anticipates being labeled ‘bad’—as opposed to ‘good’ or ‘compliant’—to the extent that this label held by society blinds individuals from taking a nuanced view of the individual. Ironically, this is the mentality that former- prisoners impose on the outside ‘constantly-compliant’. Given the social network built by former-prisoners is partially isolating, it appears that this social network additionally creates the climate for skepticism to those outside the group. In short, the combination of positive social networks and the fact that the members of these social networks anticipate outward stigma creates a mentality in each member that outsiders are to be viewed with suspicion. The skepticism that is present in former-prisoners labeled ‘reformed-deviants’ constructs itself around an irreconcilable difference in perception around criminality: Participant: Everybody like me, everything, like now I’m working on my recovery, and trying to change that ‘the past still haunts me’; it doesn’t, because that’s their opinion, and I’m not going to like-, I’m just trying to do better, just keeping it in the moment you know what it means. Those within the group do not find legitimacy in the belief that former activity is the best predictor of future activity. Rooted in shared experiences (see below) and emphasized through an insular grouping with similarly self-labeled ‘reformed-deviants’ the rejection of using the past as a predictor becomes even more salient to group members. In the rejection and de-legitimization of this idea, group members are placed at an intransigent position with those who do not share this label but also operate within society. This constitutes a psychic change in how former- prisoners approach interaction with general society-namely, limitedly. This irreconcilable divorce between present- and former-self that the ‘reformed-deviant’ maintains is here referred to as a ‘psychic break’. In short, former-prisoners recognize their past criminal histories as acts they committed, but do not recognize their criminal histories as acts they own. Therefore, when the participant above rejects the belief that ‘the past still haunts’ him, he displays the ‘psychic break’
he retains between his past-self—with which he no longer identifies—and his present-self— which he fully does accept. This psychic break subsequently constitutes a behavioral change in how former-prisoners approach interaction with general society, partially reaffirming their external skepticism. Along economic lines, the skepticism towards outsiders is similarly rooted in ideological differences: Participant: You have someone who works and then spaz out one day when they went to work for 10 years, and they was always building up in silence, and nobody knew so. It’s like, when do people say ‘okay, I’m not just going to judge it off of this’? As illustrated above, former-prisoners—particularly ‘reformed-deviants’—place themselves in the role of the legitimate worker. In this sense, those who self-label ‘reformed-deviant’ believe themselves to be as large of a liability to an employer as any other individual under consideration. In phrasing the anticipation of stigmatization as a question within the context that former-prisoners is as stable as a traditional applicant, the stigma is de-legitimized. The combination of former-prisoners’ group ideology, the de-legitimization of the anticipated counter-ideology, and the isolation already deployed by the group, creates an environment in which skepticism flourishes. This skepticism is then translated as a barrier between former- prisoners and the entire job-market. Instead what becomes present in the minds of former prisoners is a skepticism towards all employers, irrespective of job outcomes. The skepticism to employer practices was carried over by many of the participants interviewed. Overall, former-prisoners neither trusted the genuineness nor the accurate employment practices established by their employers. For the context of this study, genuine hiring practices are from a moral perspective, while accurate hiring practices is based on the presence of objective or procedural mistakes made by a company in the course of hiring. This former element more sharply showed the deep skepticism that former-prisoners held towards employers, believing them primarily to be false actors. This was distinctly seen in an exchange around state-led changes in the form of Massachusetts’s Ban the Box legislation: Interviewer: Do you feel that the law change is actually effective in your position? Do you think there are just so many workarounds that- Participant 1: Yeah- Participant 2: I think that was to make us feel like we got the opportunity-. Let’s make the people who made mistakes, and went to prison, let’s make them feel like we’re doing something geared towards them. Interviewer: And so it was more about what the people in charge of the prisons make them- Participant 3: They were just trying to make society-, make it look like they were doing something for us. Participant 4: Right, but there are so many ways to getting- Participant 3: There are just so many loopholes in it.
Participants were skeptical, and at times unwilling, to believe that the society which had labeled them ‘deviants’—and extracted them from society due to this label—would be willing itself to aid in the reintegration experience. This skepticism, however, does not come with a trade-off in former-prisoners’ perception of ability. Instead the skepticism is rooted in group distinction between members and nonmembers. Compounding this aversion is the arms-length distance from most former-prisoners with which these legal changes were made. In one instance, this skepticism fell in the participant who was particularly asked to contribute to the discourse surrounding the legal change. Rather, by having a social network that extended beyond the group and, more importantly, intersected individuals directly responsible for the legal change has a lower level of skepticism to outside actors. Therefore, the group mentality of the ‘reformed- deviant’ is retained and reaffirmed unless an effective member of the individual former- prisoner’s social network expands beyond group members. Given the presence of anticipated stigma, and the functional draw of the group (see below), this acts as a high hurdle for former- prisoners. This psychic skepticism to employers leads to further self-stigmatization of former-prisoners irrespective of hiring outcomes. One participant believed the primary purpose for job attainment was due to an error in the manner by which his criminal record was checked. In these incidents, former-prisoners perceive themselves as mistakenly accepted members of society. This is predicated on an externalization of fear, coupled with previous experiences approaching employers. Many other participants noted that it was counter-productive to reveal their former- criminal history to prospective employers. Another participant still found the revelation of their past criminal history an unprecedented request: Incident One: Participant: I got the job at Spectrum, I don’t know how I got it-, maybe they overlooked my CORI…I guess I can say they were working backwards… Incident Two: Participant: I thought that by being honest, you’ll get a position, but you know, being honest actually hurt [laughs] in that field, in that area. Interviewer: How long did it take you to realize being honest was not going to help you? Participant: Oh, after my second time, after my second time, going through applying for jobs…. Incident Three: Interviewer: Did you anticipate it was going to be difficult getting a job and then it wasn’t? Participant: At first I did, but then they didn’t say anything about it, so obviously it’s not. Interviewer: Would you ever bring it up? Participant: Bring up any of your- Participant: The s- Interviewer: Yeah, if it’s non-essential not bring it up? Participant: To the-, to the owner of a company? Interviewer: Yeah. Participant: No. Why does he even need that for?
These three types of experience-hiring practice error, obfuscation due to stigmatization, and perceived unnecessary information-typifies the three mentalities that operate within the ‘reformed-deviant’ cohort. The final is once again premised on the separation of ideologies between ‘reformed-deviants’ and those ‘constantly compliant’ within society; the group belief that their former criminal history is not a liability to the employer. Obfuscation due to stigmatization is predicated on the anticipation of shame, coupled with previous information. What should be noted is that the necessary information to confirm this anticipation is extremely low. By merging this with the skepticism that individuals were hired legitimately, as shown through Incident One, it is clear that former-prisoners do in fact feel displaced and outside of general society. Their pursuits, however, into the legitimate economy do not reflect a traditional secondary deviance, but rather again a middling self-prescription of the ‘reformed-deviant’. Trust Based on Shared Experiences: The most basic connection between former-prisoners is their respective stints in prison. For those who subsequently perceive themselves as ‘reformed-deviants’ their ultimate release from prison becomes a symbolic breaking-point for their self-understanding. Four participants independently echoed the notion that the loss of ‘freedom’ was both a new- as well as revelatory experience in terms of their hopes to end their deviant behavior. As a shared experience overall, it is important that of these four participants that directly utilized the word ‘freedom’, two emphasized that it was ‘taken away’ from them, while the other two expressed it as something actively lost. The activity of losing freedom, particularly at the hands of another, creates a shared experience in which all former-prisoners have lost self-autonomy due to the mandates of society. It is in this moment, of incarceration, that ‘reformed-deviants’ place their first recognition of an identity as a group. A temporal break is created around the ultimate release of an individual, with one participant calling his last incarceration as a ‘blessing in disguise’ due to his ability to reassess his reintegration pathways. By utilizing the ultimate incarceration stint as a vehicle for reintegration, this experience serves as the most severe sentiment expressed by participants; namely, that they were no longer self-determined deviants. Suspending this re-categorization of self in the anticipation of stigmatization by society, the full experience becomes particularly unique to those self-labeled as ‘reformed-deviants’. In reentering society, former-prisoners are first fully allowed to deploy this psychic break. Yet the skepticism expressed by the group for legitimate actors outside of the group (i.e. those never labeled as criminal deviants) forgoes the notion that former- prisoners do not self-stigmatize themselves as a whole. If self-stigmatization was not apparent in the former-prisoner cohort, skepticism would not arise. Rather, former-prisoners would decline to acknowledge their own previous criminality, both openly to the public as a whole and, more importantly, privately as a group. Constructing a group inherently constructs and reinforces a label. Therefore, the construction, and maintenance of the ‘reformed-deviant’ label by former- prisoners themselves speaks to level of secondary deviance as described by Lemert. The combination of a shared experience being removed from society and the psychic temporal break between former deviance and current compliance, creates a foundation in which former- prisoners trust others based on an experiential level rather than an intellectual level:
Participant 1: There are people still who have studied for stuff, and they can be good at their job, but it’s very hard for them to- Participants 1 & 2: Relate. Participant 1: to empathize with us, because they’ve never been there, and then that starts to-, you. Participant 3: It’s better when they can say that, ‘oh I know-, I know how you feel’. Participant 2: Yeah, ‘I’ve felt that before’ Participant 3: ‘I’ve felt that before’ Participant 2: Yeah, exactly. This quote arose when discussing the various mechanisms that former-prisoners were afforded to aid in reintegration. As these individuals have self-labeled themselves ‘reformed-deviants’, successful reintegration, and therefore optimization of this opportunity is potent. Because of this, the responses that are relayed by the participants reflect a prioritization of options. What is exposed then is a belief that experiential similarity has greater utility than impersonal knowledge to a variety of experiences. This reveals former-prisoners’ high internal trust, while confirming external skepticism. Those who have ‘studied for stuff’, are individuals whose backgrounds are intrinsically linked with a positive sanctioning from society: ostensibly an academic degree. Meanwhile, former-prisoners are intrinsically linked with a negative sanctioning from society: a criminal record. Notice that in the favoring of individuals who can ‘relate’ to the actual circumstances of post-prison life—irrespective of their education level—former-prisoners promote trust internally to a greater extent than they afford formal positive societal sanctioning. Additionally, by diminishing the status of positive societal sanctions in the form of ‘studying’, the group of participants expresses further skepticism that non-group members can be apart of their societal reintegration legitimately; particularly as these outsiders tasked with assisting have no previous relationship to the former-prisoners. This combination of internal trust and external scepticism that is found in the social groupings of ‘reformed-deviants’ gives support to Hypothesis 2. By conforming behaviour to that exhibits a high level of external skepticism, additionally supports the notion that these prisoners establish semi-closed groups during their reintegration, providing support for Hypothesis 2b. These behaviour tendencies further comply with Bernburg et al’s theoretical belief- and Link et al’s finding in psychiatric patients-, that stigmatized individuals construct insular social groupings (2006: 82; 1989: 419). Finding 2: Former-Prisoners utilize group identities in order to reaffirm and realize their status as a ‘reformed-deviant’ The movement away from isolation into a group, creates the platform on which former-prisoners navigate their reintegration landscape. This occurs on two very distinct levels: an emotional level and an economic level. Key then to the transition from mere shared experience to function is repeated interaction between members of the group. Repeated interaction, in fact, was shown to decrease external skepticism and therefore bring outsiders, as in this case describing a transition house program coordinator:
Participant: I think it’s good for someone in like his position, because not only does he work here, he lives here. So 10 at night, 12 in the morning, 2 in the morning, he’s in the kitchen, have a late night snack, just like us. So he gets to see, and he’s in our meetings. He’s more like hands on, and he’s like living with us, so it’s a big experience for him as well. Participants revealed two primary means for these repeated interactions to occur. The first was through immediate conditions of release, primarily through housing. Through various social settings, participants expressed at some level the formulation of a modest social network due to their living situation following release, irrespective of its utility to retain the identity of ‘reformed-deviant’. The networks which led individuals to most likely shed the ‘reformed’ augmentation to their default societal label of ‘deviant’ occurred when they were in environments surrounded by individuals who were living as ‘deviants’-particularly homeless shelters. Positive networks emerged in the form of stable housing, with many participants immediately going from jail to transitional housing. The second method was through deliberate outreach by individuals who also self-described as ‘reformed-deviant’; this part of the reciprocity phenomenon is explored below. Overall, the patterns that develop over the course of repeated interactions is a solidifying around the identity of the individual as a ‘reformed-deviant’. The perpetuation of this cohort is created through a reciprocal function that emerges between members at different stages of their reintegration. Interpersonal and Emotional Support: The primary function of the former-prisoner network is emotional and interpersonal support. Given the anticipations of both isolation and stigmatization upon leaving prison, these networks emerge first as a manner for individuals to avoid both situations. In doing so, the members of the group arise around the focal point of their respective criminal histories. This is key ingredient to the maintenance and utility of these groupings. As highlighted above, former-prisoners gravitate towards those who have approximately similar histories as their own. Relying on the trust element that arises from these shared experiences, the functional nature of the former-prisoner network as a support system arises organically. This functional nature complements the feeling of individual’s isolation to non-group members. Of course this then leaves open the question of why this particular group materializes. Participant: One thing that I was missing was like men in my life…I was able to build relationships with men again, and being in recovery, and stuff like that, you need men in your life. I learned how to be like a man, let’s put it like that. This quote derives itself from a situation of transition between the deviant and the compliant lifestyles of ‘reformed-deviant’. Participants generally responded that their individual social networks built upon compliant social actors was either absent or, if present, made of members previously complicit in their former deviance. As individuals anticipate stigmatization by ‘constantly-compliant’ social actors, absent some alternative, the ‘reformed-deviant’ must artificially construct a social group that neither has present deviant tendencies nor the absence of deviant tendencies in their past behavior. Ultimately from this, individuals create the group identified earlier, simultaneously
diminishing the potential for isolation and promoting their legitimate reentrance into society: Interviewer: Are you lonely at all? Participant: No. Interviewer: Do you feel isolated? Participant: Not really. Interviewer: Why? Participant: All these guys, all these meetings. I talk to people. I have a sponsor. This phenomenon, of course, implicates another functionality to one’s identification as a member of the social group. Within this quote, the participant deliberately states that he did not feel isolated because ‘all these guys’, referring to his fellow ‘reformed-deviants’. Isolation, as revealed by labeling theory and through the former-prisoner experience, arises from the anticipation of stigmatization. If an individual then does not feel isolated despite the social network in which he is planted, that individual does not feel his past history can be the source of social shaming. In short, groups constructed with membership precluded to former-prisoners acts as a vehicle for this cohort to act genuinely without the fear of sanction. Given that the actor is the ‘reformed-deviant’, these genuine acts are compliant with broader social norms, but without the anticipation that being ‘found out’ would lead to stigmatization. Diminished of isolation from individuals and within an environment of individuals with similar past histories, but also similar aspirations, the cohort that materializes as the ‘reformed-deviant’ creates an environment in which individuals can find support throughout the reintegration process, without fear of stigmatization, and therefore isolation: Interviewer: How was it and why was it helpful? Participant: Well, I got a chance to talk about the struggles I was having living on the outside, alone, living in the world-, like living in the world, I guess you could say…coping with life on the outside-like not having the safety net of the [transition] program. This sense of adjustment is intrinsic to the former-prisoner experience. The closed audience in which this adjustment is expressed is bundled in the stigma former-prisoners anticipate. As noted earlier, a defining feature in the communal former-prisoner experience is their individual incarceration stints. Additionally, as these individuals are self-perceived ‘reformed-deviants’, this reintegration experience is holistically distinct irrespective of past- or future recidivism. To the former, past recidivism indicates a failure in the manner by which the former-prisoner went about reintegrating. This recidivism can take place even under the condition that an individual believed himself at the time to recidivism as a ‘former-deviant’. Many recidivists interviewed alluded to the notion- or deliberately stated that they were changing the manner by which they approached their ultimate release from prison: Participant: People here are all friendly, they’re all doing the right thing, so they help you a lot-you know.
Interviewer: What are you doing to do the right thing? Participant: Staying sober, going to meetings…trying to build a foundation. I got a sponsor, you know, all that stuff. You know, instead of doing it my way, I’m doing it their way-you know. Interviewer: What was your own way? Participant: Just trying not to do it… In this it does not say that recidivist never previously adjusted their methods to become fully complaint with general society, but does indicate a previous failure on their part to do so successfully. By providing support throughout reintegration, prospective members do not discriminate against themselves beyond the initial condition of former- incarceration. This is again sunk in the group’s collective anticipation of broader societal stigma, that is only generally experienced by the individual member himself. In creating a community that is premised on reformed deviancy, its function then becomes one of maintaining the psychic break that group members have between pre- and post- incarceration. Implicit and Explicit Reinforcement of Self-Labeling: The general support that former-prisoners find in constructing isolated social groupings transitions into a network to reinforce their self-label as the reformed-, not continual- deviant. This stems from the outward stigma that former-prisoners see attached to themselves from society, promulgated from their past deviance. As seen earlier, former- prisoners appear to feel isolated from society due to the anticipation of stigma therein. Provided this, it is then reminded that these former prisoners do not see themselves as concurrent deviants following prison, but rather ‘reformed-deviant’. Taking these two elements into consideration, the modified self-labeling phenomenon is maintained through the construction and exposure to a closed group social network: Participant: Every morning when I get up, I say to myself, ‘I ain’t not going to let nobody get in front of my recovery’-you know what I mean? So, it’s like, every time I see other guys leave the house in the morning, all I can see is that they’re going to get it and go and get it for their recovery, you know what I mean? As identified in secondary deviance, individuals act to self-label. This self-labeling occurs as a reaction to the labeling they anticipate from society. If the primary society— or primary social network—for an actor transmits different labels than an arms-length society, the former will outweigh the latter. This is found in the case of former-prisoner reintegration. While former-prisoners view themselves as ‘reformed-deviants’, this view is only adhered to through the presence of reinforcement. By creating a social grouping nearly exclusively containing individuals retaining the same label, former-prisoners orchestrate a homogenous community in which they exist. This particular insular social network, marked by outward skepticism, cultivates a reinforcement mechanism for the positive self-label of ‘reformed-deviant’ to stick. Lacking this form of injunction, and absent of a comparable social network, former-prisoners expressed the greater likelihood of returning to deviancy.
While members of the group utilized casual observations of other members to advance their own goals, participants also expressed the use of social networks as a means to retain the ‘reformed’ condition of their previous deviant self. This was best highlighted in an exchange when one participant spoke of the requirements he needed to meet before being permitted to work for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority: Participant 1: 4 years from Monday, then I can get in there. Participant 2: If nothing happens in the meantime. Participant 3: Don’t do that, don’t do that. Don’t talk about- Participant 4: There are a lot of people in recovery working in detox…. In this exchange, Participant 2 ostensibly becomes a compliant member of society, in that he puts doubt that Participant 1 has a greater propensity to crime than other individuals. More exactingly, Participant 2 perpetuates the idea that Participant 1 is a liability to general society, a mode of stigma earlier explored. What Participant 3 then acts as a full member of the ‘reformed-deviant’ group, dismissing Participant 2’s insinuation and simultaneously absolving Participant 1 of the stigmatization that would be anticipated in general society. Coupling this admonishment and absolution with the transition of discussion by Participant 4, it is clear that members of former-prisoner groupings are supportive of one another, and view themselves not as fully compliant members of society. Rather the sharp rebuke of compliant society’s stigma, directly shows that former-prisoners have labeled themselves once again neither “deviant” nor “continuously compliant” but rather “reformed deviants”. In the rejection of the anticipated reactions of society, this group is then better to maximize support, and consolidate their group and individual labels as ‘reformed deviants’. Leveraging Economic Availability: Interviewer: How does everyone find work after- So what’s the process like for you guys when- Participant: Take what you can get. And hope that you know somebody that knows somebody. This quote creates the basis from which most former-prisoners approached their post- release job search. Participants regularly expressed a proactive approach for looking for work. However, given the external skepticism expressed by the group, former-prisoners leverage the social support system that arose around the reintegration experience into an economic support system: Interviewer: So how does that network kind of arise? So how do you know someone who can get you a job. Participant 1: Well you never know who’s going to know somebody. Just keep pushing it out there that you are looking for work….
Participant 2: A lot of guys who are here go to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, they build a network of friends in the fellowship and sometimes, you know, that’s how they find work. Participant 1: That’s how I got my work. Former-prisoners deliberately translate channels of emotional and interpersonal support into channels for economic support, and therefore utilize the social networks that are established between former-prisoners as a mechanism for holistic reintegration. This manner of economic leveraging mirrors Glaser’s earlier findings that former-prisoners ‘casually’ asked “about job possibilities among their friends and relatives who were working” but additionally identifies the nature of the non-familial social networks utilized by former-prisoners (1964: 355). Furthermore, the interpersonal support is antecedent to the economic purposes of these social networks. In this, former-deviants within society subsequently act as a bridge between individuals newly self-labeled as ‘former-deviants’ and those ‘constantly-complaint’. This gatekeeper status role begins a theme of reciprocity that permeates through the social networks developed by former- deviants, (see below). However, once again, the gatekeepers identified by participants were revealed to be typically another ‘reformed-deviant’, and therefore an individual with whom there is a high level of internal trust. The willingness to assist individuals arises directly from the members’ self-labeling as a ‘reformed-deviant’, combined with the overarching group characteristics of support and mutual dependence. Looking first at the label, former-prisoners utilizing the ‘reformed- deviant’ label are cognizant of their past deviance, desiring to enter compliant society, and anticipate their past deviance will serve as a roadblock to connect their desire to enter compliant society and complaint society’s allowance for their entrance. By utilizing the group as the immediate source of economic reentrance into compliant society, former- prisoners are able to diminish the likelihood of independently interacting with compliant society. As explored earlier, independent interaction with compliant society is tinged with skepticism, leading to greater self-labeling, and isolation. By utilizing a network of similarly experienced backgrounds, former-prisons who identify as ‘reformed-deviants’: one, bring a social network into their job search; and two, create a search field which has already proved beneficial to other group members. By creating a membership that is both inclusive and mutually reliant, the groups formed by former-prisoners cultivate a group culture that easily transitions from interpersonal and emotional to economic support. As shown above, former prisoners use both implicit and explicit reinforcement tactics to aid their individual reintegration pathways. This is then coupled with the knowledge of defense and mutual support between members, and the presence of member’s shared experiences both in jail, and through external- and self- labeling processes, making the movement from tacit reinforcement to actionable reinforcement is swift. If tacit reinforcement is convincing oneself that they ought to move forward in their reintegration, actionable reinforcement are the actual steps deployed to realize this reintegration. By combining relatable experiences with inter- group solidarity, members use one another to broaden their economic horizons. In this,
former-prisoners utilize their group network as a means to broaden their overall social network. Proximate Assistance: Key to the functional nature of former-prisoner social networks is the presence of reciprocity amongst individuals. While seen in medias res through deliberate reinforcement earlier, the reciprocity extends beyond group members who are accessing the social network for immediate support. Given that members utilize this social network for both interpersonal and economic support, the conditions of reciprocity fall along these two lines: Incident One: Participant: To connect with someone who just came home and don’t have a support system that some of us do have, one of the things that we do do-the good thing-is that we stay connected with that individual…..yes we all have kids, yes we all want money in our pockets, but because of our criminal backgrounds we have to work that, we have to take those extra steps and work a little harder,… Incident Two: Participant: So today I called a friend of mine who works at the AISS, After Incarceration Support Services for the Worcester County Sheriff department. So I called them and said ‘look I need people to work’ and they said ‘yeah’. These incidents expose three prominent features of the former-prisoners’ social grouping: one, a common recognition across membership; two, empathy across membership irrespective of level of success in reintegration; and three, a constant membership to the former-prisoner social grouping. The first two elements are largely grouped together. The common recognition expressed across membership is rooted not only in past-deviancy, but also the experience of self-labeling in anticipation of broader societal stigma. The third is a moral function of these two elements. Namely, former-prisoners maintain the identity of group membership following successful- or near-successful reintegration into society. Incident One looks at this wholly, as the participant making the expression had established social and financial networks that lay both separate- and beyond ties to the former-prisoner social group. Essentially ‘reformed-deviants’ further along into reintegration stagger the level of support that they can provide. Notably in this case, the participant is maximizing the relational experience between himself and other members of the group. More precisely, while earlier individuals defended other group members as a means of support this occurred when the participants were at relatively the same point in their reintegration experiences. In instances in which members are at separate points of reintegration, the individual with more authority maximizes his level of support. This in turn allows him to retain his membership with the group and maintain his label as a ‘reformed-deviant’. Incident Two the group’s reciprocity primarily from a position of economics. Having been moved from a position of financial subservience-in looking for a job-into one of authority-in looking for employees-the former-prisoner maintains the label of ‘reformed- deviant’. Were this not the case, this latter participant would have simultaneously
achieved financial independence, disposed of recognizing his former history as a deviant, and acted in similar fashion to employers in previous research-discriminatorily against former-prisoners. Recalling from earlier, the recognition of previous deviance is necessary and distinct in the self-labeling ‘reformed-deviant’ phenomenon. By seeking out those workers who are inarguably members of the ‘reformed-deviant’ group— meaning their social networks are nonexistent or prominently interconnected with other ‘reformed-deviants’—this participant maintains an identity, and sense of relation to those sharing his label. This recognizes the notion that members maximize their reciprocation to other members, contingent on their current economic and social standing. In Incident One, this is primarily relational, while Incident Two is economic. Wrapped up in this is the prevailing function of former-prisoner social networking: support towards successful reintegration. Commenting on this briefly, it is clear that this cohort does not believe that ‘successful reintegration’ means, however, abandoning the ‘reformed-deviant’ label. These behavioural patterns provide support for Hypothesis 1, conditioned with the members within the social group as derived by Hypothesis 2. From both social and economic levels, former-prisoners in concert with other former-prisoners identify and maintain a label—‘reformed deviant’—that is both partially removed from- and more positive than a deviant-compliant behaviour model. The necessary conditions of Hypothesis 2 on Hypothesis 1, therefore acts as a measure of support for Hypothesis 2c, shown through the social and economic support derived from former-prisoner groupings. Finding 3: Former-prisoners discriminate against other group members for economic gain but not social support. Former-prisoners showed a discrete sense of discrimination across types of conviction. This was at one moment articulated as being a ‘liability’: Participant 1: People want to know that you’re not a liability, and they see that you have a record and it’s most likely that this guy with the record is going to make me lose out than this guy who doesn’t have a record…. Participant 2: Yeah, they don’t want us to be a liability; that if we do something crazy- Participant 3: Or hurt somebody. People in jail, people in jail hurt people. No, some people just make mistakes. At the same time, individuals rejected the notion that there is not a separation in the magnitude of deviance exhibited by the drug seller and the drug user. This phenomenon was seen earlier, in the exchange revealing that despite working with ‘con artists and shit’ the participant still liked his co-workers because of their approximate history. Parsing this out further, it becomes clear that this language reflects a desire to create a social network premised on relational experience, but along economic lines, they are somehow less qualified; this latter element revealed through the violent means dividing those ‘drug addicts and ex-felons’ coworkers and ‘con artists and shit’. By recognizing what constitutes a ‘liability’ former-prisoners are in effect able to recognize past deviance does, and more importantly should, be a disqualifier in some instances. However, what is further apparent, is that they distil social and economic liabilities differently. Experiential
similarities in the form of incarceration trump any morality extended to the reason for incarceration. In a competitive situation, such as for jobs, the cause of incarceration becomes more salient. In short, former-prisoners believe one another to be separately qualified for positions of employment, but not positions of support. Contrasting this behavior of disqualification, is the former-prisoner’s ability to rationalize and elevate his status: Incident One: Interviewer: Did your record come up at all or is that not an issue? Participant: I don’t really have a record; there’s nothing crazy on it. Incident Two: Participant 1: They should just do it-, because they are more concerned with ‘okay, do we have a killer working for us? Do we have a sex offender for us? Do we have an arsonist working for us?’. Ask those type of questions-exact charges in nature. Don’t put nothing against the drug dealer. In the first incident, the former-prisoner acts as a ‘reformed-deviant’ fully, by acknowledging his criminal record, but displacing it as an irrelevant part of his history; essentially emphasizing that he has experienced a cognitive shift between his past and his present states. As seen earlier, this temporal understanding runs counter to the procedures that are otherwise used by hiring managers. Reconciling with this cognitive outlook with the actual behavioral patterns of post- incarceration employment rely on the social networks established by ‘reformed-deviants’. Essentially, as seen in earlier research, the temporal understanding exemplified by former- prisoners is contradictory to the manner by which employers evaluate applicants. Namely, beyond articulation of past deviance, the ‘reformed-deviant’ does not fundamentally believe that his past behavior is representative—or can be held as such—for future behavior. A seen in the second incident, the participant does not attempt to reconcile that outsiders may mark the ‘drug dealer’ similarly as the ‘sex offender’, or, more broadly, that what constitutes a liability extends to all criminals. Coupling this with the similar behavior found in Incident One, and the skepticism towards outsiders explored above, the ‘reformed-deviant’ retains a particular mindset that is divorced from outsiders, in this case, employers. This is then applied to the found inter- group economic- but not social discrimination. If individual group members have not committed a criminal act the group has deemed economically disqualifying, that individual then rationalizes that he is no longer a liability within the general economy. Placing this within their broader fear of social stigmatization, ‘reformed-deviants’ equalize themselves to other ‘reformed-deviants’ and therefore openly gravitate towards professions and careers that have proven economically open to other ‘reformed-deviants’. This economic grouping is promulgated partially by the earlier identified anticipation of general social stigmatization. Avoiding the label ‘economic liability’ further lowers the barriers for individuals to accept their own ‘reformed’ status and reenter the legitimate economy. Taking these elements in full consideration, this study does not find complete support for Hypothesis 3. Instead, the research suggests that members of the former-prisoner cohort will not differentiate between members based on conviction type for non-rivalrous support, but will differentiate in competitive or rivalrous situations. This conforms with Raybeck’s understanding of label-based discrimination being most prominent in large-scale societies, but not small-scale
societies (1988: 391). Intergroup support operates along a small-scale—i.e. the group itself— while economic competition operates along a large-scale—all possible applicants to a particular job. Moreover, while the job-market is rivalrous in nature, intergroup support is non-rivalrous as it aids in the confirmation of both actors’ ‘reformed-deviant’ label. Therefore, in the former criminality-based discrimination would be universally negative, while in the latter, individually beneficial to the discriminator. Finding 4: The influence of social networks for ‘reformed-deviants’ to maintain this self-label is based on a confluence of audience and social stability: Interviewer: You would just go back down the Cape [after release]? Participant: I was living down the Cape, so yeah. So I would stay there. Interviewer: Are you staying out here then when you’re done? Participant: I’m not sure yet. Interviewer: Okay. Would you move back down to the Cape? Participant: Yeah. Interviewer: Okay, why? Participant: It’s just, I-, I know a lot of people. I mean I can get a lot of work out there. I do like it out here, there’s a lot going on, going out. Interviewer: Going out, as like there are things to do or-? Participant: Kind of, like all there is to do on the Cape is like going out to bars, play, you know, drink, get high. … Interviewer: So if you went back down the Cape, do you think you would just-? Participant: No Interviewer: No, okay. Participant: No, I’m good, I’m not going to get high. Interviewer: Why? Participant: Cause I don’t want to, there’s too much to lose. Interviewer: What, have you lost things in the past then? Participant: Yeah. Interviewer: What did you lose? Participant: Umm, friends and money. Freedom Over the course of interviews, the actions that proved most prone to continued deviance were a return to pre-incarceration social groupings, and utilization of homeless shelters as a primary residence. The latter, while constituting a new social environment for former- prisoners, contained a population that mixed ‘constantly-compliant’ and ‘regularly- deviant’ members of society. This latter situation was also reported to be replete of support for former-prisoners, thereby confirming their anticipation of social isolation. In combination with the prevalence of deviant activity, this isolation and lack of support created an environment in which former-prisoners expressed ease into falling back into deviant behavior, and re-arrest. The former constituted the same social realities that existed around the participant during his deviant psyche and behavior. Therefore, when reentering, the self-labeled ‘reformed-deviant’ had social actors that neither supported participants through the reintegration procedure nor actively discouraged a return to
deviant behavior. These social environments, however, presented a population that the former-prisoner did not anticipate stigmatizing. Therefore, former-prisoners were able to anticipate a lower immediate sense of personal isolation. These two elements, low support and stigmatization, created an environment that is both attractive to the ‘reformed-deviant’ and undermining to his rejection of his past deviant behavior. Because of this reality, participants regularly expressed a need to ‘change a lot of people’ they during their deviance, as well as move to a post-incarceration location separate from their pre-incarceration area. This latter element was either in pursuant of the former, a belief in better economic and social mobility, or both. Neither the return nor the homeless shelter presented the condition of support that is central to the ‘reformed-deviant’ social network. As seen earlier, these positive support networks constitute a primary means of economic leverage for the ‘reformed-deviants’ reaffirmation of his legitimized self, and therefore acts as a crucial reintegration element. The most positive environments for reintegration occur where former-prisoners are provided stable housing in a population with individuals expressing support for their ‘reformed’ self-labeling. This first element is not inherently linked with the second-as seen in the negative condition of returning to one’s pre-incarceration social network-but rather abates the potential for negative populations-as seen in the homeless shelter experiences. This housing situation was best exemplified by participants who were or had been in ‘transitional’ housing following release. This second element can take on two identities. One, these populations can be primarily made up of former-prisoners. Aligning the relational elements and support structure as identified earlier, this population provides a constant reformation of an individual’s ‘reformed-deviant’ label, while mitigating the negative potential for social isolation due to low levels of intra-member antagonism. As shown earlier, these relational elements provide a system by which member can quickly access economic as well as emotional support. The second is a population that is leverage to reaffirm one’s ‘reformed’ nature beyond the immediate reintegration process. For instance, one participant highlighted his ability to legitimately buy Christmas presents for his family as a signal that remaining compliant provided more social and economic advantages than the familial isolation that accompanied his past-deviant behavior. Another relayed that by maintaining his ‘reformed’ nature “my family was back in my life, and I didn’t want to lose that”. In both instances, individuals signaled that selectively introducing positive social actors into their non-immediate reintegration network enforced the ‘reformed-deviant’ self-labeling. However, there was little evidence that these selectively chosen individuals have an immediate positive effect on the reintegration experience of former-prisoners. Rather former-prisoners needed an immediate population of directly related individuals—either former-prisoners, or the same type of former-deviants—to gain and cultivate support. Finding 5: The social behavioral patterns expressed by former-prisoners are replicated in their economic patterns. Interviewer: …what do you think the impact of just getting into a fight after 10 years of being fine will be when you want to get a job? Participant: Well the past is forward, that’s why I got time….
Interviewer: So what do you think the impact is going to be? I mean, what- Participant: I’ve got to start all over again, just like I started at 39. Now at 48 I have to start all over again. The level of apathy towards economic advancement is high in responses from ex-offenders. This may, in turn, establish a reason for Western’s finding that incarceration acts as a negative turning point in an individual’s wage mobility, in that former prisoners are: one, cognizant of their future employment prospects; and two, establish much of their future income on their most recent pre- arrest job. Therefore, former-prisoners overall financial aspirations ostensibly refresh with every subsequent arrest and release. What should be noted that while a lack of enthusiasm arose when discussing further employment, resentment towards those performing the hiring is not apparent. This is consistent with the expectations of the self-labeling phenomenon explored earlier. Individuals, being ‘reformed-deviants’, have constructed a psychic break in their pre- and post- incarceration selves, while still acknowledging and anticipating stigmatization from society. As shown earlier, this anticipation leads to external skepticism when outsiders do not overtly shame a ‘reformed-deviant’. Understanding this in combination with job-related apathy shows that former-prisoners self-punish themselves in terms of economic reintegration. This manifests itself by implanting a perception of self-worth tethered to the opinion of non-group members. In effect, in a competitive workforce environment, former-prisoners’ individual self-worth is subsumed by the opinion of the employer: Interviewer: What do you think your job prospects will be like? Participant: Go back to what I’m worth, based on experience. Interviewer: …part of your experience is having been incarcerated, do you feel like that is going to effect what you’re worth? Participant: No. …. Interviewer: Okay, there’s nothing getting jobs, that’s not going to be more difficult or the frequency of getting work? Participant: Umm, I mean, it depends on the manager really. As former-prisoners anticipate the outsider to stigmatize them, they preemptively lower their self-assessment, and therefore deflate their personal self-worth. This is the phenomenon encapsulated in the quote above, and the pattern generally felt by former-prisoners. By pinpointing subsequent reintegration stints as repetitive ‘starting points’, former-prisoners disregard any levels of skill they may have acquired. By restarting themselves with each subsequent release, the former-prisoner negates his own autonomy, rather deferring to a standard perception of the worth of a released prisoner. Interesting, this starting point is held as a constant, rather than sliding backwards; the latter would indicate a belief that further criminality compounds upon previous criminality. Uncovering this once again reaffirms the notion of the ‘reformed-deviant’s’ psychic break. While the participant who believed “I’ve got to start all over again”, was able to reason that his most recent conviction was due to this previous criminal record, he did not show a recognition that his most recent conviction would impact his future economic prospects. The subsequent self-discrediting arises then not from the particulars of a history of criminal behavior, but rather the mere existence of this criminal history. This creates an internal tension in how members view their criminal history as a temporal consideration
compared to how they perceive the magnitude of criminal acts. The latter, as seen earlier, may contain information that denotes them as an economic liability. The former, however, contains information to which may be added to without becoming problematic until a ‘severe’ act is added. Therefore, while prisoners tether their personal worth to the perception of the employer, they do not anticipate that this employer may assess their worth not only on the type of criminal activity but its frequency. Elimination and Consolidation Techniques: Former-prisoners actively dissociate themselves from particular job sectors and associate themselves to others: Interviewer: How much is that-, is everybody away of which jobs they shouldn’t apply for, and which jobs they should while they’re about to- Participant 1: Well I do Participant 2: Yeah [Participants 3, 4, and 5 signal agreement] The former—by design and application—is an elimination technique, in that former- prisoners operationalize their past criminality as automatic disqualification from particular jobs: Interviewer: How much is that label of just like having a record just the employer knowing that disqualifier for positions, outside of? Participant 1: Pretty much 100 percent Participant 2: I don’t believe it’s 100 percent. Participant 1: Well, it, it all depends- Participant 3: It’s well over 50. As long as you know someone Participant 1: Yeah it depends all where you are working, because I’ve applied for countless amount of jobs Participant 2: Not going to go to hotels, Participant 1: Nothing like- Participant 2: Never going to no government jobs Participant 1: Wherever there’s kids, wherever there’s- Participant 2: That’s not true with-. Participant 3: Not 100 % Participant 2: That’s not true with the kids. The YMCA, Boys Clubs, Youth Centers Participant 1: Community Places- Participant 2: They’re looking for people that made mistakes. As shown above, the elimination technique is neither clearly defined, nor is there a consistent dissemination of information amongst group members. Rather this elimination technique is premised directly on the stigmatization that former-prisoners anticipate to arise from employers. Given this information, it becomes evident that employers become quasi-representatives of the overall constantly-compliant society, which ‘reformed- deviants’ avoid. Constructing the baseline for employers’ as a constantly-compliant figure
of society and therefore prone to shaming the former-prisoner (which as shown earlier is not the case), highlights the magnitude to which former-prisoners anticipate the frequency of their stigmatization. Therefore, the technique of job sector elimination is premised by the former-prisoner in the same manner of his social isolation; it is a self- protection mechanism. By eliminating job sectors, former-prisoners preclude the possibility of employment, but also preclude the possibility of being stigmatized by general society. As these former-prisoners perceive themselves as ‘reformed-deviants’ and thus operate with a psychic break between their pre- and post-incarceration behavior, the act of stigmatization eliminates their ability to maintain this wall between pre- and post-incarceration self. Figuring in the difference of opinion, the means by which individuals automatically disqualify themselves remains a condition of the social network in which former- prisoners operate. As shown above, the consensus of disqualification outweighs the dissention around which jobs would be accepting of former-prisoner employees. It should be additionally noted that Participant 2 in the immediate quote had recently been employed at the YMCA, and therefore may have been predisposed to defending the type of organization as a manner of defense. Additionally, the phrase “as long as you know someone” as a coda on the elimination technique, again shows the prominence that the former-prisoner’s social network affects his psyche around reintegration. Therefore, the elimination technique arises and is refined by repeated interactions by group members. Underlying this is the notion that these guides are inherently subjective to the experiences of the group members, and that sectors are not eliminated consistently across groups. Due to this, the presence of an elimination technique, not what specific sectors are eliminated, must be recognized as the primary phenomenon of prisoner reintegration. Complementing their use of the elimination technique, former-prisoners similarly highlight key job sectors into which they should or do apply. While perpetuating the population density of former-prisoners in these job sectors, the creation of sector-specific groupings actively inculcates former-prisoners from stigmatization, while simultaneously concentrating the availability of approval and support from fellow members in their cohort. Participants collectively identified construction, painting, restaurant work, car auctions, temp agency work, and manual labor jobs as immediate sources for employment, and advocacy work highlighted as something particularly suited for the ‘reformed-deviant’. Of the twenty participants, all had at one time worked in these sectors, both between and after incarceration stints. Former-prisoners’ premised their assertions on two factors: personal experience and the salient belief that former-prisoners already made up a substantial percentage of the workforce: Incident One: Participant: Restaurants. That’s stuff you can always fall back on because, that’s a job you can always get. Incident Two: Participant: I am a car salesman. Interviewer: Okay, was there any problem at getting the job back? Participant: Well like 90% of the people are felons, so it’s a little different. Incident Three:
Interviewer: And, have you been lucky in your job situation? Participant : Yeah, no, I’ve lost a lot of great jobs. The restaurant industry, that’s meant for criminals. Anywhere. Interviewer: But you don’t want to stay in the restaurant industry. Participant: No, it’s dead end, it beats on you. Incidents One and Two are endemic of the overall approach that former-prisoners held regarding sector-specific employment. Former-prisoners segregate themselves into professions that they have previously identified, or have recognized as perpetually open to former-prisoner applicants. Given that employment is regularly attained through the use of social networks (see above), these economic segregation points become calcified as truths by the group as a whole. While perpetuating the population density of former-prisoners in these job sectors, the creation of sector-specific groupings serves two primary purposes: one, they inculcate former-prisoners from stigmatization, and two, they simultaneously concentrate the availability of promotion from fellow members in their cohort. On the former, by recognizing professions that have low barriers to entry for former-prisoners, former-prisoners in turn identify employers who themselves have a low stigmatization rate of applicants. In this sense, by disseminating information regarding which job sectors are best for former-prisoners, applicants with a criminal history are given a space in which they can operate with low fear of stigmatization. This then reinforces the information that is disseminated to new members of the ‘reformed-deviant’ cohort in perpetuity. As seen earlier, the elimination technique deployed by former-prisoners is a mechanism to preclude potential negative interaction with employers, acting as a ‘constantly-compliant’ stand- in. The technique of consolidation by the group acts as a similar mechanism. With higher dense former-prisoner populations, these businesses signal a ‘reformed-deviant’ friendly bent, which, in turn, decreases the likelihood that former-prisoners as applicants will face a negative interaction with the employer. In essence, the knowledge that is disseminated communally signals to the reformed-deviant an option for legitimate economic employment. However, as highlighted above, this phenomenon of consolidation often intersects what are arduous and low capacity jobs. Because of this, economic perseverance is a defining feature of the former-prisoner being self-labeled as the ‘reformed-deviant’. Incident One: Interviewer: How do you rationalize that, like being willing to knowing that you have the capacity? Participant: It’s a job, I guess that’s how you look at it: it’s a job, and you’ve got to survive somehow. You don’t, to me, it was I didn’t want to hit the streets again, so I was taking whatever could, to make that happen. I think that was the only rationality, rationale behind it, was that ‘I have to contribute and provide’ whichever way shape or form that came about. Incident Two: Participant: If I could do what I did before, I’d love to do that. I like to rob banks, like [Laughs from Group] …. I don’t really want to get up and go to construction every day, absolutely not. It’s back-breaking work, and-, but I also know the consequences if I don’t, so, so it’s just. It’s just I’m at the point in my life where I-.I mean, taking-, there’s nothing behind me
Incidents One and Two highlight the psychic break that is involved in constructing the identity of the ‘reformed-deviant’, in that they highlight the needs to: one, accept their current economic position; and two, reject illegitimate alternatives to promote their economic position. In doing this, the former-prisoner has both acknowledged- and shed his former-deviance, while commitment to legitimate economic activity displays a reformation of self-identity; this then solidifies the notion of their ‘reformed-deviance’ along an economic scale. By either ‘recognizing the consequences’ of not working, or holding an aversion to ‘hitting the streets’, former-prisoners internalize a psychic desire to remain legitimate, and therefore have ‘reformed’ their ideology regarding economic activity. However, as many of these ‘reformed-deviants’ are themselves recidivists, and even between stints in prison may have retained the identity ‘reformed-deviant’ as well, the mechanism promoting this rationality is necessary. This mechanism is found in the translation of social networks into economic networks, or, the dense ‘reformed-deviant’ populations at these employment sites. Aiding former-prisoners in the task of rationalizing their economic position is promoted through the relational aspects that arise in their workplace. If the elimination technique expressed by former-prisoners is a means of self-defense by precluding interaction with outsiders, the consolidation technique is equally a means of self-defense by encouraging interaction with group members. Like the social interfaces that former-prisoners respond to, this is economic phenomenon is rooted in a sense of shared identity: Participant: I’ve worked in construction my whole life, that’s all, all-, construction. In construction, you have drug addicts and ex-felons, and fucking, you know, con artists and shit. Interviewer: Do you like the people that you work with? Participant: Yeah, yeah. I relate to them. I get along with them. By combining the relational experience overall with the specificity of being humbled, the observed professional grouping serves again to inculcate former-prisoners from interacting with non-members. As we have seen these interactions are anticipated by former-prisoners to be negative, and therefore counterproductive to their overall reintegration patterns. These groupings then reflect a commitment to the overall ‘reformed-deviant’ label former-prisoners hoist upon themselves. As seen earlier, interactions with non-group members are anticipated by group members (i.e. former-prisoners) to be negative. By acknowledging the implicit reinforcement mechanisms that are present in former-prisoner social groupings, these job sector groupings replicate populations that are most likely to relate affirmatively with the former-prisoner. Economic conditions then replicate the social conditions that implicitly and explicitly emphasize the ‘complaint’ nature that is needed for ‘reformed-deviants’ to maintain their label. Ultimately, the consequences of these economic social groupings on former-prisoners self-labeling are three fold. First, individuals artificially create a work environment which disproportionately is populated by former-prisoners; two, former-prisoners reduce the likelihood of negative interactions with outsiders; three, former-prisoners increase the likelihood of positive interactions while participating in productive economic opportunity.
The combined effect of the elimination and consolidation techniques create a phenomenon that reflects former-prisoner social patterns and therefore supports Hypothesis 2ai. However there is little support found in this study to support Hypothesis 2aii. Hypothesis 2aii is additionally undermined by the consolidation technique deployed by former-prisoners, as well as the relational inter-workforce component that is prevalent in former-prisoner job sectors. Gravitation to the Union: Incident One: Participant: …. I don’t think anyone wants to come out to a dirty job, let’s put it that way-unless it’s a good union job… Incident Two: Interviewer: What’s your career? Participant: Being in the laborers’ union. Interviewer: How long, how does that then take to get to? Participant: I’m waiting for the manager company to hire me. If I’m going to work there, it’s a reality break. If they haven’t hired me, it’s something that I have to work on. Incident Three: Participant: Yeah, I couldn’t even get civil service job. But I can get a construction, the union. I’m lucky; I knew some people who helped me out. Union membership figures into former-prisoners’ discourse as a point of economic aspiration, both against and for themselves. On the former, as Incident One shows, a need to rationalize one’s ‘dirty’ job is only to those individuals who are resigned to work these jobs without any peripheral advantages-such that a union would provide. Former-prisoners perform the jobs of union members purely as a means to reaffirm their ‘reformed’ status via the legitimate economy. They are forced do due so due to the lower barriers of entry—namely, lower likelihood of stigmatization—by employers than in jobs less physically and or mentally arduous. However union members, in theory, perform this work for additional benefits, including job security. More succinctly, when union members perform the same work as former-prisoners, they do so for extrinsic purposes, while the latter do so only for intrinsic purposes. As Incidents Two and Three suggest, union membership signifies a new label that can be exchanged with- and carries more social currency than the label ‘reformed-deviant’. As former-prisoners anticipate stigmatization from broader society, the entrance into a union abates three specific stressors on the self- perceived ‘reformed-deviant’: one, job security reduces the frequency with which reformed- deviants will have to confront and rationalize their previous criminality as a ‘reformed-deviant’; two, regular employment actively enforces the self-held ‘reformed’ nature to their character; and three, it provides a new group into which the former-prisoner can claim membership. On this final note, the ‘union member’ is a label that removes all necessary acknowledgement of deviance, given the first two points that provide economic and social security to union worker. In providing long-term economic stability, the salience of one’s criminal record diminishes over time by reducing the frequency in which individuals confront their past deviance, while also perpetuating their regularly complaint activity. By placing union membership as a goal, upon its attainment, former-prisoners can flip their main identity. The equitable work required of former- prisoners and union members then leaves the sole difference of union membership the
acceptance into the group. Upon doing so, former-prisoners may absolve themselves of all other socio-economic labelling.
Conclusion The identity of former-prisoners is developed through the simultaneous anticipation and rejection of the deviant-compliant dichotomy. This latter element arose in former-prisoners’ individual psychic breaks, creating a chasm between their former deviant-selves, and their present compliant-selves. Former-prisoners then reconciled the anticipation for social stigmatization with their personal views of self in three distinct ways: one, individuals regularly perceived themselves as isolated when situated within general society; two, former-prisoners developed the self-identity of a ‘reformed-deviant’ based on the shared experiences of incarceration; and three, former-prisoners were skeptical of all actions that society presented that did not conform with their anticipation of stigmatization. In constructing a positive group label beyond the deviant- compliant dichotomy, Hypothesis 1 cannot be rejected. By constructing a single label of group membership, combined with nonmember skepticism, former-prisoners subsequently translated this group membership as the primary social network around which they oriented their economic and social wellbeing, supporting Hypothesis 2. The latter element then provides transitional support for former-prisoners, and therefore permits a maintenance of their ‘reformed-deviant’ status, supporting Hypotheses 2c. Former-prisoners’ social behaviors are replicated in their economic behaviors, with former- prisoners both constructing unique information networks and leveraging social networks to find employment in environments with mitigated social stigma present. This then supports Hypothesis 2ai, while the emphasis on relatability amongst the workforce does not support Hypothesis 2aii. In short, former-prisoners utilize members’ shared past deviance and incarceration as a signal of mutual trustworthiness and reduced anticipation of stigmatization, while utilizing members’ individual post-incarceration experiences as signals for their own post- incarceration experience, creating a foundation hypothesized in Hypothesis 2b. As reintegration experiences improved based on the density of “reformed deviants” in former-prisoners’ social networks, there is additional support for Hypothesis 2c. Additionally, the psychic break that is essential to the ‘reformed-deviant’ mindset—which rejects past behvior as an indicator of future beahvio—was found to ostensibly undermine the reintegration experiences of former-prisoners. However, along economic lines, former-prisoners would suspend this psychic break in order to promote their own economic trustworthiness at the expense of other members. This then creates the need to augment Hypothesis 3, finding discrimination in existence around economic lines but not social lines. Overall, former-prisoners self-labeling procedure is consistent with secondary deviance research into labeling theory, but does not conform with a dichotomous form of labeling theory. Maintenance of this self-labeling, however, is attenuated to the social groupings that are constructed by the ‘reformed-deviant’ following their release from prison. While at times artificially imposed on former-prisoners, the social and economic phenomena that are operationalized by self-labeling provides the basis for an organic transition into productive and societally compliant behavior. Implications There is the assumption in this study that the public generally trusts the adjudication system and agrees with society’s legal norms (i.e. what is and is not illegal conforms with the public’s belief
of what should and what should not be illegal). This was primarily by examining previous research into the negative relationship between employment and past criminality, and substantiated through the anticipation effects experienced by the former-prisoners upon release. However, further research would do well to look at the reintegration patterns of those released into societies in which there are low levels of support for the political regimes charged with creating laws (and therefore establishing what is and is not considered deviant). Additionally, because of the nature of this study being concentrated around two metropolitan areas, it would be a worthy pursuit to identify the effects of labeling in lower-concentrated, as well as unindustrialized areas. As shown through some testimonials regarding rural-suburban Cape Cod by respondents in metropolitan Boston, there does appear to be a greater likelihood that social networks with other former-prisoners is either mutually destructive or nonexistent. Regarding further research into recidivism, there should be a deliberate cross-examination of individuals who find private housing immediately following incarceration, and those who enter a transitional housing units; the latter of which is more artificially inflated to produce an environment conducive to former-prisoner group structures. This same theme lends itself to the need for a cross-examination of recidivism rates around areas with varying degrees of social support groups, and social welfare offices. As seen in the testimonial presented, participants frequently cultivate ‘reformed-deviant’ dense social networks and find employment within and through these points of social assistance. Ultimately, further research would prove well in replicating the above study with female former-prisoners, as a means to assess the findings here, as well as Galgano’s research into gender-based reintegration. Policy implications remain muddled. In terms of utility, ‘Ban the Box’ legislation appears to have immediately positive effects only on those who identify directly with the legislation’s crafting. Marring universal effectiveness is the external skepticism former-prisoners retain towards ‘constantly-compliant’ members of society. Therefore, policies that aim to reduce this skepticism —either by implementing a social infrastructure that facilitates cross-communication or more generally exposing ‘reformed-deviants’ to the wider community—would ultimate facilitate positive reintegration experiences. Given this study’s evidence that positive social networks for ‘reformed-deviants’ can be partially populated by selectively chosen individuals, such cross- group interaction would appear to produce few negative externalities but numerous positive externalities.
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