Going home: exploring the social networks of federal offenders in Kansas re-entering communities after prison
Mass incarceration in the United States takes a significant toll both socially and economically. It is estimated that approximately 450 in every 100,000 Americans were incarcerated by the end of 2016, and people of color are disproportionately represented in this population. One of the ways to reduce the prison population and mitigate the community effects of incarceration is to facilitate reentry to the community after serving a prison sentence. One component of reentry that results in lowered recidivism is positive social networks. The current study sought to explore the social networks of federal offenders reentering their communities in Kansas. The study measured aspects of the social networks by examining the number, type, and valence of connections, providing a snapshot of relational challenges and assets for those attempting reentry. Two hundred fifty-seven offenders completed the online self-report survey on their social networks and 120 of them had 6-month follow-up data available to compare outcomes to network variables. Overall results found that the number of people in an offender's network was not related to recidivist behaviors, and regression analysis found that how close an offender feels to the people in her network contributed significantly to predicting recidivism. Sub group analyses determined that geographic location (Topeka and Kansas City, KS n=38; Wichita n=47; Salina and Rural Communities n=35) did affect the degree of relationship between network variables and recidivism. Additionally, participation in an intervention called Moral Reconation Therapy impacted the size and distribution of the offender's social networks relative to non-participants. Future studies should investigate contextual differences in geographic location and the mechanisms that lead to the differences suggested in this exploratory study.