Social Capital and the Re-Entry Process: The Paradox of the U.S. Penal System and the Future of the Condemned




Garza, Thomas James

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One criminological construct that has received considerable empirical attention in recent years is social capital. Social capital is defined as a stock of essential resources and prosocial ties that consist of active connections in a community (Wolff and Draine, 2004). Social capital is imperative in the re-entry process, as ex-offenders may rely on assistance from friends, family, and community institutions to ease the process of reintegration. Using data from a sample of recently released incarcerated offenders from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), this study investigates the predictors of social capital and the effects of social capital on recidivism. Specifically, social capital is measured as peer instrumental support, family instrumental support, and family emotional support (Mowen and Visher, 2016). First, the results of this study indicate that daily or weekly visitation and self-efficacy were both significant predictors of each measure of social capital net of controls. Furthermore, motivation to change and neighborhood quality were significant predictors for both forms of family support. Second, with respect to recidivism, only family emotional support predicts recidivism between 3-and-15 months post-release controlling for prior recidivism and other theoretically relevant predictors. The sum of the results speaks to the importance of social capital and provide implications for re-entry assistance.


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family, incarceration, peers, reentry, reintegration, social capital



Criminal Justice