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Incarceration and Prisoner Reentry in the United States

  • Steven Raphael
  • June 2010
  • DP1375-10

This article will appear in Smeeding, Timothy, Irwin Garfinkel, and Ronald Mincy, eds. “Young Disadvantaged Men: Fathers, Families, Poverty, and Policy,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 635 (May 2011).

This chapter addresses the reentry challenges faced by low-skilled men released from U.S. prisons. I empirically characterize the increases in incarceration occurring since 1970 and assess the degree to which these changes result from changes in policy as opposed to changes in criminal behavior. I discuss what is known about the children of inmates and the likelihood that a child in the United States has an incarcerated parent. The chapter then addresses the employment barriers faced by former prison inmates with a particular emphasis on how employers view criminal history records in screening job applicants. Finally, I discuss a number of alternative models for aiding the reentry of former inmates. Transitional cash assistance, the use of reentry plans, traditional workforce development efforts, and transitional jobs for former inmates are all among the tools used across the United States. I review the existing evaluation literature on the effectiveness of these programmatic interventions.


Child Development & Well-Being, Children, Employment, Incarceration, Inequality & Mobility, Justice System, Prisoner Reentry, Racial/Ethnic Inequality, Unemployment/Nonemployment