Reentry Programs: Breaking the Cycle of Dependency


Despite offering valuable tools and services to clients who are trying to rebuild their lives after prison, reentry organizations can also create a sense of dependency, according to a paper forthcoming in the journal Sociological Forum.

“The organization's therapeutic logic and its physical manifestation in the common room provide clients with a clear structure to their lives. The building opens at 8:30 a.m. daily, and lunch is served at 11:30 a.m.,” writes Jonathan J.B. Mijs in an article entitled “The Missing Organizational Dimension of Prisoner Reentry: An Ethnography of the Road to Reentry at a Nonprofit Service Provider.” “The more comfortable clients get with the structure imposed on them, and dependent on the services and community that the organization provides, the more they risk becoming isolated from life outside.”

Mijs, a Harvard University PhD student in sociology, drew these conclusions after spending 12 months observing clients and staff at a Northeastern U.S. government-funded reentry contractor serving between 1,300 and 1,600 formerly incarcerated individuals per year.

To encourage clients to become independent, the author suggests reentry organizations focus on serving clients' immediate needs for housing and medical care—but not within the context of an “organizational community” that could foster dependency.

The study is available HERE.

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