, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 95-114
Date: 15 Dec 2009

“So My Family Can Survive:” Prisoner Re-Entry and the Risk and Resilience of Black Families

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Abstract

Given the thousands of African American men that are released from prison each year, a growing number of national, state and local programs have been established to facilitate easier transitions for these men into the workforce. However, very little is known about the relational risk and resilience factors of married and cohabiting African American men and their partners after their release from prison. More specifically, there is a lack of data that addresses the qualitative responses of married and cohabiting African Americans regarding the following seven dimensions: (a) factors associated with initial attraction; (b) feelings when they realized they were in a “coupled” relationship; (c) post-cohabitation adjustments; (d) the meaning of commitment; (e) perceptions regarding how being in a relationship changed their lives; (f) perceptions regarding how the relationship expanded the couple’s view of commitment; as well as (g) couple perceptions regarding the future of their relationship. To address this paucity, this paper will feature narratives provided by two previously incarcerated African American men (one married; one cohabiting) and their partners. Qualitative analyses of the data resulted in risk and resilience themes related to each of the aforementioned dimensions. Themes were related to the start of the relationship, perceptions regarding in a “coupled” relationship, psychological and behavioral changes after cohabitation, the definition and demonstration of commitment, how being in a relationship positively changed the lives of these couples, broadened how they think about commitment, as well as confidence regarding the future of their relationship. Supporting qualitative data are presented in connection with each theme. Using qualitative coding and analysis, implications and recommendations regarding how national, state, and local programs can identify the risks and further develop the strengths of these men are also provided.