Methods: A cross-section of participants, represented by the State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) in Michigan, was recruited through SADO’s Project Re-Entry during a 3-month data collection period. Focal participants (n=7) were not incarcerated; each served a range of 26 to 41 years (M=32). Participants were asked questions about experiences prior to incarceration, during incarceration, and upon release. Additionally, to elicit participant-centered perspectives on their needs at re-entry, participants were asked, “If you had unlimited resources to create a program that addresses your top three re-entry concerns, what would you do?”
Data were collected utilizing a narrative case study framework. In-person interviews were conducted and audio-recorded with all participants. Interviews ranged from 75 to 115 minutes. Each interview was transcribed and emerging themes were identified through analytic memoing. Transcriptions were analyzed in Atlas.ti. Open and holistic coding were used during initial analysis. Pattern coding was used as a second-cycle strategy. Participants consented to the review of their case files and were asked for contact information of a support person who could help tell their story.
Results: Individuals released from JLWOP sentences were overwhelmed by new stimuli at re-entry. Participants endorsed barriers to relationships, housing, and employment. They described avoidance and isolation as strategies for coping. Participants identified support related to the development of communication and interpersonal skills, employment support, and returning to a “positive environment,” as priorities for successful re-entry, in addition to tangible supports (e.g. food and shelter). Participants also noted the importance of support from others who have served similar sentences.
Conclusions: Results suggest individuals incarcerated as juveniles and released from long-term sentences have considerable needs, with intervention opportunities during pre-release and re-entry. With decarceration efforts on the rise, the findings from this study highlight the timeliness of advocacy related to policies, resource allocation, and specialized programming for these individuals. Vocational training and employment support remain priorities for this group but an emphasis on relationship-building skills and development of communities of support are of particular significance.