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Incarceration, Reentry and Social Capital: Social Networks in the Balance

NCJ Number
Dina Rose; Todd Clear
Date Published
January 2002
19 pages
This article explores the aggregate impact of offender reentry on community levels of social capital and the effect this has on the children living in these areas.
This article examines the definition of social capital and notes that it is the resource potential or capacity for action produced by personal and organizational networks. Collective efficacy on the other hand, is the process of activating or converting social ties to achieve desired outcomes. In other words, social capital is the potential for action, whereas collective efficacy is the realization of action. The authors draw on the results of their study in two high incarceration neighborhoods in Florida to consider the relationship between reentry and social capital and the relationship between reentry and collective efficacy. They found through thematic content analysis that families and their communities were affected by incarceration and reentry in four main areas: financial, stigma, identity, and relationships, leading to the conclusion that reentry in high incarceration neighborhoods is an important factor in social capital. The research also shows that the way reentry affects the components of social capital translates into effects upon children. For children, the process of adult reentry from prison is an opportunity for reinvigoration of the family unit. Since current research has yet to determine the impact of reentry on collective efficacy, the authors speculate its effect by contemplating how reentry would impact its component parts: shared expectations for informal social control and social cohesion and trust. They review several studies which address these issues. The discussion indicates that reentry has a predominantly negative impact on the quality of life in communities hardest hit by incarceration, especially for children. References and 4 figures