Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Kirk Williams


Nearly 700,000 prisoners return to communities annually, and approximately two-thirds are rearrested within 3 years of release. The cyclic pattern of recidivism presents risks to both returning offenders and the communities that accept them. Reentry research tends to include the voice and experiences of juveniles, community members, and service providers, and narrowly focuses on the socioeconomic conditions of adult ex-offender populations pre- and post-release. Few researchers have explored the attitudes of those returning citizens or the perceived impact on treatment success, as related to employment-based, post-release reintegration programs. This study investigated the attitudes of 32 participants of Project Empowerment, the District of Columbia's post-release program. The ecology of public administration theory and empowerment theory provided the theoretical frameworks for understanding offender reentry within employment-based programming. Interview data were coded and analyzed consistent with a modified van Kaam method. A key finding indicates job-readiness training completion is largely contingent upon development of positive attitudes from both public administrators and participants. Additionally, participants were cognizant of the attitudes of community members regarding reentry and employment, and were more likely to see program participation as beneficial if perceived community support was high. The implications for positive social change include recommendations for reentry programs, such as Project Empowerment, to create an empowerment environment conducive to attitude development concerning self and society. Such an environment creates trust and opportunities for successful engagement in employment programs and decreases the risk of recidivism among communities that support individuals returning from incarceration.