African-American Men Post Release: Identifying Issues That Influence Repeated Incarceration

Cheryl L. Cooke, Univ. of Washington School of Nursing

Avoiding re-incarceration can be challenging, but it may be even more difficult for African-American men who both experience disproportionate rates of incarceration and the effects of racism. A descriptive, exploratory study was conducted exploring subjectivity, agency and masculinity as described by 17 formerly incarcerated African-American men. Post structuralist theories of gendered subjectivity, anti-racism, and Bourdieu's theory of habitus were used to understand how African-American men understood their experiences during and following incarceration, and how incarceration influenced their functioning in families, kinship groups, and communities following incarceration. One area explored was what contributed to study participants' inability to remain out of prison. The inability to find a meaningful, living wage, and steady employment was cited as contributing to returning to a criminal lifestyle. The inability to secure adequate housing, the need for assistance in organizing one's daily life activities around community corrections and employment requirements, and a lack of sustained and ongoing counseling by men of color about drug use and lifestyle choices were other barriers that study participants thought contributed to recidivistic behaviors. Implications for policy development, and implications for individual, family and community health will be presented.

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Updated 05/20/2006