Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Olivia Yu


Virginia’s incarceration statistics revealed a significant increase in recidivism 6-36 months post-release, the highest jail occupancy rate in the United States in 2014, and the seventh highest prison occupancy rate in 2016. African American males are the highest incarcerated population every year statewide. Virginia’s diversion initiative, implemented to address recidivism and overcrowding, had a high failure rate among enrollees in reported outcomes from 2010 to 2015, a lower number of African American enrollees compared to White enrollees, and inconsistent funding from 2007 to 2015. This phenomenological case study focused on the reintegration experiences of African American ex-offenders in Virginia through the lens of the theory of cognitive transformation. This study addressed (a) the catalysts of the psycho-social processes that move African American ex-offenders toward desistance from criminal behavior and (b) the internal (psychological) and external (social) forces that keep African American ex-offenders from reoffending or push them back to crime. Data were collected from semi structured interviews with 15 African American participants from Virginia’s minority ex-offender population. Findings from coding and thematic analysis revealed that the shifts in the theory of cognitive transformation were predictors of desistance rather than catalysts of a cognitive transformation or psycho-social process. The catalysts of the psycho-social processes that led to desistance were three types of awareness: self-awareness, situational awareness, and social awareness. Findings of this study can be used to improve programs, resources, and services throughout the state of Virginia, as well as develop holistic evidence-based cognitive programs.