Social Work Practice with Reentry from Incarceration

  • Thomas K. Kenemore
Part of the Essential Clinical Social Work Series book series (ECSWS)


This chapter describes and illustrates an application of relational social work practice with individuals in transition from prison or jail to their communities and to free society.

Integrated individual, ecological, cultural, and political perspectives are essential to understanding and working with the issues unique to this population. The vast reentry population is described, as are characteristics and issues specific to their experience. Recognition that mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, educational limitations, employment challenges, and the burden of a criminal background are all dominant for the individual reentering from jail or prison enhances their potential for recidivism and failure. Taken as a whole, these factors indicate the critical role for social work practice, and particularly relational practice, of engaging individuals in a respectful, adequately complex, and cohesion-building experience, against great odds. Clinical assessment and treatment planning need to evolve to capture client individualization and strength and to resist the pull toward social and psychological pathological categorization of reentry clients. The chapter discusses the importance of engaging with the individual’s subjective experience, utilizing both intersubjective and anti-oppressive perspectives. A framework incorporating five steps is described and illustrated with a constructed case. Essential relational skills are identified, described, and illustrated. A case is made for actively developing a progressive clinical social work practice with this challenged and challenging population.


Social Work Service User Cultural Competence Gang Member Justice Statistics 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  2. Altman, N. (2010). The analyst in the inner city (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Aron, L. (1996). A meeting of minds. Hillsdale: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, A. (2006). The importance of successful reentry to jail population growth. Presented at the Urban Institute’s Jail Reentry Roundtable, June 27, 2006. Retrieved from
  5. Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L., & Hertz, P. (2011). Inside out and outside in: Psychodynamic clinical theory and psychopathology in contemporary multicultural context (3rd ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  6. Bollas, C. (2008). The evocative object world. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bollas, C. (2009). The infinite question. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Bollas, C. (2011). The Christopher Bollas reader. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bordieu, P. (1979). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Bordieu, P. (1988). Homo academicus. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bordieu, P. (1989). Social space and symbolic power. Sociological Theory, 17, 14–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bordieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Brandell, J. (Ed.). (2011). Theory and practice in clinical social work (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Total correctional population, correctional populations in the United States, 2009. Retrieved from = 2316.
  15. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Reentry trends in the U.S.: Recidivism. Retrieved from
  16. Casement, P. (1991). Learning from the patient. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Coady, N., & Lehmann, P. (Eds.). (2008). Theoretical perspectives for direct social work practice: A generalist-eclectic approach (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  18. Culhane, D., Metraux, S., & Hadley, T. (2002). The impact of supportive housing for homeless people with severe mental illness on the utilization of public health, corrections, and emergency shelter systems: The New York initiative. Housing Policy Debate, 13(1), 107–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Curtis, R., & Hirsch, I. (2003). Relational approaches to psychoanalytic psychotherapy. In A. Gurman & S. Messer (Eds.), Essential psychotherapies. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  20. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  21. Freire, P. (1992). Pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  22. Glaze, L. (2010). Correctional populations in the United States, 2009. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, NCJ 231681. Retrieved from
  23. Goldstein, E., Miehls, D., & Ringel, S. (2009). Advanced clinical social work practice: Relational principles and techniques. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, M., & Webb, S. (Eds.). (2009). Social work theories and methods. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Hammett, T., Roberts, C., & Kennedy, S. (2001). Health related issues in prisoner reentry. Crime and Delinquency, 47(3), 390–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harlow, C. (2003). Bureau of justice statistics special report: Education and correctional populations, NCJ 195670. Washington, DC: US. Retrieved from
  27. Hicks, S., Fook, J., & Pozzuto, R. (Eds.). (2005). Social work: A critical turn. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Hinshelwood, R. (1993). Locked in the role: A psychotherapist within the social defense system of a prison. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 4(3), 427–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holzer, H., Raphael, S., & Stoll, M. (2003). Urban institute roundtable: Employment dimensions of reentry: Understanding the nexus between prisoner reentry and work. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  30. Houston, S. (2002). Reflecting on habitus, field and capital: Towards a culturally sensitive social work. Journal of Social Work, 2(2), 149–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hughes, T., & Wilson, D. (2002). Reentry trends in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice/Bureau of Justice Assistance.Google Scholar
  32. Human Rights Watch. (2003). Incarcerated America. Retrieved from
  33. Irwin, J. (1970). The felon. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  34. Jacobson, M. (2005). Downsizing prisons: How to reduce crime and end mass incarceration. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kenemore, T., & Roldan, I. (2006). Staying straight: Lessons from ex-offenders. Clinical Social Work Journal, 34(1), 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kita, E. (2012). Making it thinkable: A psychodynamic approach to the psychosocial problems of prisons and prisoners. In J. Berzoff (Ed.), Falling through the cracks: Psychodynamic practice with vulnerable and oppressed populations. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kohut, H. (2000). Analysis of the self: Systematic approach to treatment of narcissistic personality disorders. International Universities Press, New York.Google Scholar
  38. Kupers, T. (1999). Prison madness: The mental health crisis behind bars and what we must do about it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  39. Kupers, T. (2005). Posttraumatic stress disorders in prisoners. In S. Stojkovic (Ed.), Managing special populations in jails and prisons (pp. 10–21). Kingston: Civic Research Institute.Google Scholar
  40. Lawrence, A. (2008). Probation and parole violations: State responses. National conference of State Legislatures, Denver CO.Google Scholar
  41. Maruna, S. (2001). Making good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maur, M., & Chesney-Lind, M. (Eds.). (2002). Invisible punishment: The collateral consequences of mass imprisonment. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  43. McWilliams, N. (1999). Psychoanalytic case formulation. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  44. Metraux, S., & Culhane, D. (2004). Homeless shelter use and reincarceration following prison release: Assessing the risk. Criminology and Public Safety, 3(2), 201–222.Google Scholar
  45. Mitchell, S. (1997). Influence and autonomy in psychoanalysis. Hillsdale: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  46. Mitchell, S., & Aron, L. (1999). Relational psychoanalysis: The emergence of a tradition. Hillsdale: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  47. Morris, M. (2001). Grendon Underwood: A psychotherapeutic prison. In J. Saunders (Ed.), Life within hidden worlds: Psychotherapy in prisons (pp. 89–112). London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  48. Mullaly, B. (2010). Challenging oppression and confronting privilege (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. O’Brien, P. (2001). Making it in the free world. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  50. Pease, B., & Fook, J. (Eds.). (1999). Transforming social work practice: Postmodern critical perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Perleman, H. (1983). Relationship: The heart of helping. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  52. Petersilia, J. (2000). When prisoners return to the community: Political, economic, and social consequences. University of California, Irvine School of Social Ecology, prepared for Sentencing and Corrections: Issues for the 21st century (9): 1–8.Google Scholar
  53. Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  54. Rome, D. (2004). Black demons: The media’s depiction of the African American male criminal stereotype. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  55. Saunders, J. (Ed.). (2001). Life within hidden worlds: Psychotherapy in prisons. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  56. Schafer, R. (1980a). Action and narration in psychoanalysis. New Literary History, 12, 61–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schafer, R. (1980b). Narration in the psychoanalytic dialogue. Critical Inquiry, 7, 29–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schafer, R. (1982). The relevance of the ‘here and now’ transference interpretation to the reconstruction of early development. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 63, 77–82.Google Scholar
  59. Simon, B. (1994). The empowerment tradition in American social work: A history. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Smith, L. (1999). Individual and institutional defences against primitive anxieties: Counseling in prison. Psychodynamic Counseling, 5(4), 429–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Specht, H., & Courteny, M. (1994). Unfaithful angels: How social work has abandoned its mission. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  62. Stern, D. (1985). The interpersonal world of the infant. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  63. Tosone, C. (2004). Relational social work: Honoring the tradition. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 74(3), 475–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. West, H., Sabol, W., Greenman, S. (2010, December). Prisoners in 2009. Bureau of justice statistics bulletin. Retrieved from
  65. Winnicott, D. (1965). Maturational processes and the facilitating environment: Studies in the theory of the emotional development. London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  66. Winnicott, D. W. (1969). The use of an object. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 50, 711–716.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Master of Social Work ProgramChicago State UniversityChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations