Abstract: Validation for a Multidimensional Measure of Reentry Well-Being Among Individuals Who Are Incarcerated and Will Soon be Released (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Validation for a Multidimensional Measure of Reentry Well-Being Among Individuals Who Are Incarcerated and Will Soon be Released

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Encanto B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Chris Veeh, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Tanya Renn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida State Univeristy, Tallahassee, FL
Carrie Pettus, PhD, Associate Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Yaacov Petscher, PhD, Associate Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background and Purpose: Approximately 550,000 individuals release from imprisonment each year but there are no specialized measures of stabilization and progress during reentry beyond assessments of risk to return to prison. The current study tests the structural validity of a new measure designed to assess an individual’s well-being within the context of transitioning from imprisonment back to the community called the Reentry Well-Being Assessment Tool (RWAT). The RWAT was collaboratively designed by a team of researchers, corrections professionals, reentry practitioners, and individuals with incarceration histories. The RWAT aims to provide an alternative to outcome measures of risk while responding to the dual challenges of planning reentry program services and evaluating their effectiveness. The current study is the first investigation into the validity of RWAT as a multidimensional measure of reentry well-being.
Methods: Participants were 1539 individuals recruited in 50 prisons across four states to participate in the pilot trial of a prison reentry program. The RWAT originally consisted of nine measures with 134 items that had undergone psychometric analysis with populations similar to incarcerated individuals, such as, adults experiencing homelessness. The measures in the RWAT include the Cognitive Flexibility Inventory, Herth Hope Index, Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, Brief COPE, Social Provisions Scale, Quality of Relationships Inventory, Education/Employment Aspiration and Satisfaction, Community Participation and Leisure Assessment, and Life Balance Assessment. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) informed by item response theory was undertaken to identify the most parsimonious set of items for each RWAT measure. First, a thorough item review was undertaken to see if any consolidation of response options could be done prior to CFA. Second, each measure was tested for unidimensionality. Thirdly, measures found to be unidimensional were combined into a multidimensional model. Mplus 8 was used for CFA modeling with the WLSMV estimator. Model fit was defined as RMSEA below .10 and CFI as well as TLI above .90.
Results: Initial CFA results identified 13 unidimensional factors across the nine RWAT measures. Results were unable to validate the Life Balance Assessment, so it was dropped from the RWAT. The measures of Social Provisions Scale and Quality of Relationships Inventory had to be combined to create a new unidimensional factor. Multidimensional modeling found support for a second-order factor to assess the construct we called reentry well-being with minor modifications ((χ2(3724)) = 12564.27, p < .001; RMSEA = .039 [.039 -.040]; CFI = .913; TLI = .910). The final RWAT is composed of seven measures with 89 items.
Conclusions and Implications: Results suggest that the RWAT is a promising approach for assessing reentry well-being. This is the first study of its kind to structurally validate a set of measures to assess well-being on a large sample of individuals preparing for release from incarceration. Interventions designed to meet the grand challenge to promote smart decarceration could benefit from shifting their focus from risk for recidivism to well-being of individuals leaving incarceration. Further research is needed to investigate the RWAT in populations disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration, particularly persons of color from disadvantaged communities.