Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Karel k. Swanger


Prisons in the United States are full to capacity because of the revolving doors created by recidivism. African American women comprise a significant proportion of those who return to prison, yet most studies about women and recidivism focus on the experiences of white women. The communities into which formerly incarcerated African American women are released do not make things easier in terms of the potential for reoffending because of the difficult access to good jobs, safe housing, good health care services, and assistance with child cares services. Using Cullen's social support theory as the foundation, the purpose of this general qualitative study was to explore the perspectives and post-release experiences of participants while living in their community. Fourteen African American ex-convicted women, ages 18 to 55 who reside in a large mid-Atlantic city participated in open-ended interviews to further explore the social factors related to recidivism. These data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Key findings include that success is tied to a sense of self, most participants expressed a sense of gratitude for their success, and that family, friends, government support, and the effects of rehabilitation programs contribute to success in living in communities after release from prison. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to correctional officials to focus on strengthening opportunities for pro-social interactions with appropriate support systems including working with other government agencies to reach out to formerly incarcerated African American women for services that are unique to their needs and circumstances. These efforts may improve public safety through reductions in future crimes.