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Less Than the Average Citizen: Stigma, Role Transition and the Civic Reintegration of Convicted Felons (From After Crime and Punishment: Pathways to Offender Reintegration, P 261-293, 2004, Shadd Maruna and Russ Immarigeon, eds. -- See NCJ-205080)

NCJ Number
Christopher Uggen; Jeff Manza; Angela Behrens
Date Published
33 pages
In addition to work and family, this chapter suggests that civic reintegration is a third significant reintegrative domain for offenders in contributing to crime desistance.
The desire to "be productive and give something back to society" is apparently critical to the crime-desistance process (Maruna, 2001:88). The diverse models of citizenship that have been developed in recent years have, broadly speaking, distinguished two central components: citizenship as a set of entitlements that citizens acquire by virtue of membership in the polity; and citizenship as practice, i.e., something achieved through virtuous action or participation in the community in some way. The obstacle to responsible citizenship by ex-offenders is the legal restriction on both the rights and capacities of ex-offenders to attain full citizenship. Ex-felons face additional barriers as collateral consequences of their felony conviction, including occupational restrictions, loss of parental rights or standing, political disenfranchisement, and other formal and informal social stigma. Moreover, post-release adjustment is made difficult by the abrupt discontinuity between pre-punishment and post-punishment roles and social positions. In an effort to examine these various impediments to civic reintegration, the current student conducted 33 semistructured interviews with convicted felons in Minnesota during the spring of 2001. The interviews were undertaken as part of a larger project that examined the consequences of felon disenfranchisement laws in the United States. Inmates, parolees, and felony probationers were asked about their voting behavior, their participation in political and civic life before and after conviction, and their attitudes about crime and community. The study found that there were experiences of barriers to establishing or re-establishing adult roles in society due to a felony conviction. Still, offenders were eager, if sometimes naively optimistic, about establishing or re-establishing their roles at work, home, and in the community so as to capitalize on "what's left" for them in each of these domains. Currently, communities are ill-prepared to accept felons as fellow citizens who have a significant positive contribution to make to a community's life. The felons interviewed needed assistance or anticipatory socialization to translate their idealized identities as law-abiding but imperfect citizens. Creating avenues of community participation that reinforce, rather than limit, citizenship appears likely to enhance the possibilities of successful reintegration. 49 references