This qualitative study of prisoner re-entry is unique in that its focus is not that of the problem of recidivism. Rather it employs object relations theory and grounded theory methodology to investigate the process eight male ex-convicts faced within a year of returning to society. Four were homeless, three resided in drug treatment programs, and one lived with his spouse.
Although prisoners are known to demonstrate poor coping skills, prisons' discharge planning is minimal, without linkages to the greater community. Dually-diagnosed releasees were bussed to drug-infested urban areas with under $200, adequate money for a relapse but not housing. Displaced and without work, most depended upon government-funded social services, residential treatment centers, or church soup-kitchens.
While all felt ebullient about their restored freedom, both incarceration and re-entry re-enacted early childhood events that were largely rejecting. Transcribed interviews revealed the organizing construct of the re-entry phenomenon to be non-negotiated time-out (i.e., a misused means of disciplining unruly children). Untransformed, early childhood traumatic events ensure that (ex)felons equate their identities with both victim and abuser introjects, whom they unconsciously strive to keep alive, and whose existence is mirrored in their external reality.
At present, over 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated. Ninety-five percent will eventually be released. Prisons' vindictive approach corrode felons' fragile self-structure, intensifying these men's mental illness and the likelihood they angrily commit further criminal or self-violating acts. Additionally, high anxiety and retributive anger stimulate the unloved self-parts of both those judging and those being judged, exacerbating society's charged feelings for offenders, who are largely non-violent, indigent people of color, and whose experience of incarceration and dislocation recapitulates that of their enslaved forebears.
Symbolizing that which is unworthy of being loved, the illegitimately employed, drug addicted, or criminalized mentally ill, moreover, serve a psychological function for the greater society: As transitional or me-not-me objects, offenders receive society's projections of discomfiting emotions. Although endlessly destroyed in the public's mind and throughout the media, ex-prisoners' repeated return not only proves their internal object constancy, but their divine resiliency, obliging society to internalize that which it psychically destroyed, and to mature into greater awareness.
|School:||California Institute of Integral Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 70/04, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Social work, Clinical psychology, Criminology|
|Keywords:||Community mental health, Criminal justice, Grounded theory, Meditation, Object relations, Prisoner reentry|
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