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Public Policy and Administration


Dana-Marie Thomas


Prisoners sentenced to a life term in California’s state prisons are being found suitable for parole at record-high rates. Although macro-level policy guides California’s prisoner rehabilitation process, a specific policy does not exist to guide the rehabilitation of the lifer population. Research shows a compelling relationship between public safety resulting from reduced recidivism and an inmate’s participation in rehabilitative programming during incarceration. There is a gap in the literature about ex-lifers and their ability to achieve sustainable social reintegration upon release from incarceration. Ostrom’s institutional analysis and development framework guided this study’s examination of the gap in literature and the analysis of how institutional factors demonstrate adherence to existing policy. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 15 ex-lifers who served their life term in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The data support findings that suggest California’s prisoner rehabilitation effort is viable. The findings generated and analyzed within the context of this study delivered an enlightened message about the implication for social change. Holistic rehabilitative programming positively influenced ex-lifers’ ability to achieve sustainable social reintegration upon release from incarceration, thereby affecting public safety through the reduced threat of recidivism. Potential implications for positive social change arising out of this study’s results include possible development of rehabilitation policies and procedures specific to this population and adaptation of current regulations guiding access to rehabilitation.

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