Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Anne Hacker


In 2017, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate in the nation with 1,420 of every 100,000 adult males being placed in a state or local penitentiary. To address this issue, a series of criminal justice reforms were passed within the Louisiana legislature that released thousands of former offenders back into the community. The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand the attitudes, thoughts, and opinions of citizens in a single Louisiana city regarding ex-offender re-integration and disparities within the criminal justice system. March and Olsen's Rational Choice Institutionalism was used to explain how environment impacts individual perception and choices at the community and political level with policy implications. Data were obtained through interviews with 22 citizens from the selected city. Data were coded using a deductive iterative coding process, then subjected to thematic analysis. The findings indicated that the construction of perceptions on disparities within the criminal justice system and ex-offender reintegration was primarily formed through volunteerism, personal experiences, observations, conversations with others, exposure to different cultures, mass media, and family upbringing. Several factors were involved in residents formulating perceptions on the criminal justice system and ex-offender reintegration. These factors are embedded in the structures of mass media, community, political, educational, social, and economic systems. The results of this study may impact social change by informing policymakers about the necessity to construct policies focused on acknowledging and addressing current structural and systemic criminal justice policies that are respectful of the experiences and needs of restored citizens as well as citizens from all communities.