Publication date:02 June 2010
Length of book:166 pages
"If you do the crime you gotta do the time." This adage reflects the overall attitude most Americans have about crime and the criminal justice system. Implicit in this adage is the notion that once "the time" is done, the individual is free to re-enter society and resume a normal life. In Prisoner Re-entry and Social Capital, authors Earl Smith and Angela J. Hattery challenge this myth. Prisoner Re-entry and Social Capital takes as its starting point interviews with twenty-five men and women during the summer of 2008 about their experiences with re-entering the "free world" after a period of incarceration. By analyzing the experiences of these men and women, Smith and Hattery look in depth at the factors that inhibit successful re-entry and illustrate some successes and failures. The book examines individual characteristics that inhibit successful re-entry such as addiction and sex offender status as well as the unique challenges faced by women. Uniquely, Smith and Hattery focus on the role that social capital plays as one of the most important factors that shapes the re-entry experience. Today, one of the most pressing issues facing scholars, those who work in the criminal justice system, and the citizenry as a whole is the extraordinarily high rate of recidivism. These interviews and analyses provide a deeper and more precise understanding of the biases faced by re-entry felons in the labor market and work to address the key barriers to re-entry in hopes to aid in their elimination.
As an African American man who spent nearly 19 years in prison for a crime I did not commit, Hattery and Smith's book resonates powerfully with me. Their focus on the struggles that men and women coming home from prison face as they attempt to rebuild their lives is very important. Based on interviews with the men and women enrolled in the "Homecoming Program" of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice, Hattery and Smith's analysis goes beyond the usual discussion of securing a job and stable housing and focuses on the process of rebuilding relationships and reconnecting with family, both of which are critical to successful reentry. They highlight the struggles faced by women who give birth while incarcerated as well as the special case of wrongful conviction and incarceration. Their policy recommendations seek to strengthen the work of reentry programs and the lifting of social welfare bans that block reentry.