Individuals reentering the community after prison can face a host of complex challenges. Social support appears to be an important factor in helping recently released men and women by promoting adjustment and success in multiple areas of life. However, social support during the reentry is not well understood in terms of what types of support help individuals, who can best provide this support, how certain aspects of social support might be harmful, and pathways through which support helps individuals. This qualitative study explores four common types of social support that have been identified in the research literature: emotional, instrumental, informational, and companionship. In-depth interviews with 26 adults recently released from prison found variation in the type of support received, the source of the support (primary or secondary groups), and whether the support was primarily positive, negative or harmful, or absent. Exploratory findings surfaced around seven potential pathways through which social support might help individuals who are reentering the community. Suggestions are made for the future work of practitioners and researchers during the reentry period.
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Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant No. 2015-CY-BX-0019 and the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. We would like to express our appreciation to Sponsors, Inc., especially the administrators and staff of the Mentoring Program. We are thankful to the participants for their willingness to share their time and perspectives. Finally, we are grateful for the coding assistance and feedback from University of Oregon doctoral students, Arriell Jackson and Jordan Matulis.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix 1: Interview Questions
Appendix 1: Interview Questions
In this domain, the interviewer will ask participants questions about their experience reentering a community after incarceration and how they view success in reentry- what needs to be focused on and who to connect with to succeed.
1. When you think about yourself and the idea of you succeeding — of you doing well in the coming years — how do you define success?
2. What do incarcerated individuals need to know and be able to do to be successful once they reenter their communities?
3. What have been the 1 or 2 biggest challenges you have faced over the past six months? (find out what they have done to deal with/overcome each challenge)
4. When you returned to the community, who were the most important people to help you to succeed (not the names of specific people, but the roles that those people play, like “myself”, or “my case manager” or “the mother of my children”)?
5. What did these people do that was helpful? Can you give me an example of a challenge that this person helped you work through?
6. What other types of people could have been helpful for you? Why?
7. What else has been helpful as you’ve reentered? Why?
8. What else could have been helpful? Why?
9. *parents* Ask this last question to just those who are parents to children 18 years or younger. In your role as a parent, what was helpful to you as you reentered? What else could have been helpful?
10. *control* If you were to have a mentor, what type of person would be helpful?
Mentor Program Effects
In this domain of the conversation, the interviewer will those participants who had a mentor to describe their experience participating in the Mentorship Program.
9. Overall, what do you think of the Mentorship program?
10. How would you describe your relationship with your mentor?
11. In what ways was the program helpful? What is good about this program that should be continued in the future?
12. In what ways do you feel that the Mentorship program fell short? What needs to be improved about this program so that it is more helpful to participants? What pieces are missing from this program?
13. How many people do you plan to stay in touch and do things with after the Mentorship Program ends?
If they mention at least one person ask “Who are they and what do you hope to do with them?
If they mention no one, ask “Why is that?”
14. What do you think is the most important thing about the Mentorship Program?
Closing Summary Comments
Lastly, the interviewer will ask some closing questions to all participants.
14. Is there anything else we haven’t discussed that you think is important to know about reentry? Or the mentoring program? (only ask those who had a mentor the last sub-question)
Thank you so much for all your time today and for sharing your experience. I greatly appreciate it.
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Kjellstrand, J., Clark, M., Caffery, C. et al. Reentering the Community after Prison: Perspectives on the Role and Importance of Social Support. Am J Crim Just 47, 176–201 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-020-09596-4
- Incarcerated individuals
- Social support
- Qualitative methods