Living Reentry from inside the community


Research shows that the reentry process presents little room for second chances for those returning from prison. Individual-level challenges and system-wide barriers make it difficult for those transitioning into the community from incarceration to obtain basic needs, including employment, financial assistance, stable housing, and health care. For many, especially those reentering distressed communities, few supports, quality services or employment opportunities are available, while opportunities for criminal activity and access to alcohol and other substances are everywhere. Consequently, many of these individuals return to substance use and to criminal and health-risk behaviors such as trading sex for money or favors, in order to meet their basic needs.

Study Goals

The purpose of this ethnographic study was to understand the lived experience of individuals transitioning from incarceration into communities in Newark, New Jersey. Specifically, we wanted to answer the following research questions:

  1. How does the reentry experience impact the lived experiences of individuals transitioning from incarceration into Newark’s communities?
  2. What are the social and governmental expectations imposed on participants?
  3. What are the challenges faced by participants?
  4. What resources and supports are available to them?
  5. How do participants respond to the impact of these experiences in their lives?

Evaluation Methods

The ethnography included two separate samples and protocols: focal participants and secondary participants. The focal participants consisted of a sample of ten individuals that were transitioning from incarceration into the City of Newark, NJ and were recruited from the community and from community-based agencies serving such individuals. These individuals were asked to refer a family member or friend and one service provider (stakeholders) to participate in the study, resulting in a total sample of 15. To be eligible for the study, participants had to be transitioning into Newark, NJ within the past year, speak English, and be over 18 years of age.

Once the consent to participate was granted, focal participants were asked to participate in three separate activities: one baseline in-depth interview (approximately 90 minutes); a scheduled activity observation (up to one entire day depending on the activity) which would take place anytime within six months; and one in-depth follow-up interview (approximately 90 minutes) which would take place six months after the baseline interview and observation.

Evaluation Findings


Data collection in has been completed. We are currently conducting analyses and preparing dissemination reports. Please check back. We will update this section as soon as the results become available.