Date of Conferral





Human Services


Avon M. Hart-Johnson


Almost 2.3 million people are incarcerated in correctional facilities across the United States. More than 95% of this population will be released to return to society at some time. People returning from prison can be at a disadvantage as they compete for work. They might be challenged by known barriers to employment, like restrictions on work opportunities and powerful stigma, resulting in a social problem. While some correctional facilities provide vocational services, 75% or more of citizens returning to U.S. communities from prison cannot obtain sustainable wage employment. Yet, it appears there is little research illuminating the pathways used by people who have attained sustainable wages after incarceration. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to describe the diverse perceptions and experiences of formerly incarcerated citizens to learn if and how they used vocational services to obtain employment. Person-centered counseling philosophy and the theory of career choice framed this study. Telephone interviews with six case participants who obtained sustainable employment after at least one year in prison provided rich subjective data. Content and thematic analysis resulted in the emergence of six overarching themes. The themes indicated that, to supplement education, technical skills, and work experience, formerly incarcerated citizens developed virtuous qualities to acquire sustainable work. The case study results may contribute to social change by providing knowledge about supporting citizens returning from prison for individual, family, and community well-being.