After Imprisonment: Volume 77

Cover of After Imprisonment

Special Issue


Table of contents

(8 chapters)

While the steep increases in rates of incarceration seen in the United States in the late twentieth century have begun to level out, one form of incarceration has seen more drastic reductions in rates of use in the 2010s: long-term solitary confinement. Across the United States, prisons that once isolated prisoners for decades at a time stand hauntingly empty. The solitary confinement reform movement provides an important lens for examining what happens when an entrenched punitive practice faces widespread and sustained criticism and reveals the multiple paradigms through which reform operates – through politics, litigation, or charismatic leadership.


Drawing on qualitative interviews with formerly imprisoned people in Canada, we show that most prisoners experience reentry into communities with little to no prerelease planning, and must rely upon their own resourcefulness to navigate fragmented social services and often informal supports. In this respect, our research findings contrast with much US punishment and society scholarship that highlights a complex shadow carceral state that extends the reach of incarceration into communities. Our participants expressed a critical analysis of the failure of the prison to address the needs of prisoners for release planning and supports in the community. Our findings concur with other empirical studies that demonstrate the enduring effects of the continuum of carceral violence witnessed and experienced by prisoners after release. Thus, reentry must be understood in relation to the conditions of confinement and the experience of incarceration itself. We conclude that punishment and society scholarship needs to attend to a nuanced understanding of prisoner reentry and connect reentry studies to a wider critique of the prison industrial complex, offering more empirical evidence of the failure of prisons.


In this study, I explore what happens “after incarceration” from the perspective of private prison vendors. Using the experience of women prisoners in California in the aftermath of Brown vs Plata (2011) and Realignment, I trace the rise and growing popularity of carceral rehabilitation programs. Although rehabilitation was once considered an antidote to mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, it now fuels the growth of private prison companies and provides a stable source of profitability. This analysis suggests the reconfiguration of mass incarceration in the US rather than its dissolution.


Collateral consequences (CCs) of criminal convictions such as disenfranchisement, occupational restrictions, exclusions from public housing, and loss of welfare benefits represent one of the salient yet hidden features of the contemporary American penal state. This chapter explores, from a comparative and historical perspective, the rise of the many indirect “regulatory” sanctions flowing from a conviction and discusses some of the unique challenges they pose for legal and policy reform. US jurisprudence and policies are contrasted with the more stringent approach adopted by European legal systems and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in safeguarding the often blurred line between criminal punishments and formally civil sanctions. The aim of this chapter is twofold: (1) to contribute to a better understanding of the overreliance of the US criminal justice systems on CCs as a device of social exclusion and control, and (2) to put forward constructive and viable reform proposals aimed at reinventing the role and operation of collateral restrictions flowing from criminal convictions.


Criminal background checks are used widely in the U.S. to screen applicants for employment, licenses, housing, and government benefits. State lawmakers instituted many of these requirements, ostensibly with the aim of managing criminal risk in various areas of social life. The present study examines the development of this legal form. Drawing from legislative discourse in the Illinois General Assembly, this study puts forward an endogenous account of constructing criminal risk, showing that lawmakers justified new background check laws largely as a means of filling security loopholes created by prior legislation. While the laws respond to identified criminal risks, the process of expanding background checks itself draws attention to other dimensions of vulnerability, necessitating the addition of new screening requirements. Incremental expansions are further justified on the basis of background screening’s low cost, which, lawmakers argue, creates an obligation to extend the requirements wherever vulnerabilities are identified, particularly when children are potential victims and sex offenders the possible villains. The study shows how security and vulnerability are mutually generative in the area of background screening and discusses implications for understanding this legal form in the context of contemporary American penality.


This chapter focuses on how people with a history of short-term incarceration engage with the criminal justice system. It is based on analysis of interview data with men and women who had been incarcerated in a county-level facility in Massachusetts; they were interviewed up to five times (once prerelease and four times postrelease). A primary goal of most was to be free of or minimize criminal justice system contact (not just incarceration), and this drove their approach to criminal justice system contact. In spite of this goal, they often remained ensnared for lengthy periods.


Criminal law has dramatically expanded since the 1970s. Despite popular and academic attention to overcriminalization in the United States, empirical research on how court actors and, in particular, prosecutors, use the legal tools associated with overcriminalization is scarce. In this chapter, we describe three forms of overcriminalization that, in theory, have created new tools for prosecutors: the criminalization of new behaviors, mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, and the internal expansion of criminal laws. We then use a unique dataset of felony filings and dispositions in Florida from 1995 to 2015 to test a series of hypotheses examining how overcriminalization influences prosecutorial practices given three changes to the political economy during this time: the decline in violent and property crime, the Great Recession, and a growing call for criminal justice reform. We find that prosecutors have been unconstrained by declining crime rates. Yet, rather than rely on new criminal statutes or mandatory minimum sentence laws, they maintained their caseloads by increasing their filing rates for traditional violent, property and drug offenses. At the same time, the data demonstrate nonviolent other offenses are the top charge in almost 20% of the felony caseload between 2005 and 2015. Our findings also suggest that, despite reform rhetoric, filing and conviction rates decreased due to the Recession, not changes in the law. We discuss the implications of these findings for criminal justice reform.

Cover of After Imprisonment
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Book series
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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