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Prepared by Lloyd Sealy Librarians Catherine Stern and Barbara Carrel


Changes in sentencing laws over the last 25 years have led to an era of mass incarceration with the prison population of the United States quadrupling since the early 1970s. In addition to America’s shift in sentencing policy, political and social forces in this country have led to a reduction in both prison rehabilitation and parole programs. As a result, more prisoners are completing full sentences while in prison, and being released with little or no legal supervision on the outside.

As Jeremy Travis states in But They All Come Back, the reality of mass incarceration has translated into a reality of reentry (2005, p.xx). Because there are record numbers of inmates who are being released with minimal to no preparation behind bars or support services in their communities, criminal justice experts, academicians, policy makers, and practitioners have once again turned their focus to prisoners returning to society, or what has become known as prisoner reentry.

Prisoner reentry has become a lens through which to view the numerous issues related to the process of a prisoner’s release from incarceration and his or her reintegration into communities and society at large. It seeks to encourage the coordination of programs, services, and human resources--both inside and outside prison walls--in order to ensure the successful assimilation of prisoners into new lives, roles, jobs, families and communities.

The literature on prisoner reentry is considerable. Anyone looking into the subject of reentry might consider the wide array of issues subsumed under the prisoner reentry umbrella—probation, parole, prisoner deinstitutionalization, restorative justice, recidivism, crime victims’ rights, public safety, health, substance abuse, family violence, mental illness, housing, employment and economics. Questions of race, gender, and/or age are also of interest. Employ these words and/or phrases as key words in developing a successful research strategy for locating books in CUNY+ and/or journal articles in the periodical databases listed below. Reentry is sometimes spelled with a hyphen as “re-entry.” You may want to use both spellings.

This pathfinder is a guide to locating relevant research on the topic of prisoner reentry published since the year 2000. We begin with a list of encyclopedias (call numbers are listed) in the field of criminal justice in order to provide a broad overview of related topics. A list of recent books and reports is included to guide the reader to key recent publications in the field. Relevant journal articles on prisoner reentry are abundant. Periodical databases are named and search strategies suggested. The section on special issues lists numerous journal issues devoted entirely to this topic. They are available either in print in the library or online from the Library’s home page. Lastly, online sources for reputable statistics, websites and associations related to prisoner reentry are included.


Encyclopedias are valuable tools for providing broad overviews on a topic, learning relevant terminology, and finding additional sources of information listed in subject bibliographies attached to the articles. Criminal justice encyclopedias do not, for the most part, have entries under the heading “prisoner reentry”. One exception is listed below. Criminal justice encyclopedia articles on topics such as prisons, parole, rehabilitation, restorative justice, or recidivism in the titles listed below might prove useful as well.

Bosworth, M. (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of prisons & correctional facilities (Vols. 1-2). Thousand Oaks, CA.:Sage Publications. Ref HV 9471 .E43 2005 Prisoner Reentry, Vol. 2, pp. 760-763.

Bryant, C.D. (Ed.). (2001). Encyclopedia of criminology and deviant behavior (Vols. 1-4). Philadelphia, PA: Brunner-Routledge. Ref HV 6017 .E53 2001

Dressler J. (Ed.). (2002). Encyclopedia of crime & justice (2nd ed., Vols. 1-4). New York: Macmillan Reference. Ref HV 6017 .E52 2002

Levinson, D. (Ed.). (2002). Encyclopedia of crime and punishment (Vols. 1-4). Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications. Ref HV 6017 .E524 2002

Sullivan. L. (Ed.). (2005). Encyclopedia of law enforcement (Vols. 1-3). Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications. Ref HV 7921 .E53 2005

Wright, R.A. & Miller, J.M. (Eds.). (2005). Encyclopedia of criminology (Vols. 1-3). New York: Routledge. Ref HV 6017 .E5295

Recent Books

Use CUNY+, the Library catalog, to find books. Search using the keywords reentry (or re-entry), prisoner reentry, or juvenile reentry. Other keywords worth using include probation, restorative justice, ex-convicts, women ex-convicts,offenders, ex-offenders, parole, rehabilitation, community-based corrections, victim’s rights, public safety, etc. Check the catalog record of those books you find relevant and search on those subject headings for more related materials. The following list includes items in the John Jay College Library which have been published since 2000.

Bernstein, N. (2005). All alone in the world: Children of the incarcerated. New York: New Press. HV8886 .U5 B47 2005

The deleterious effects of parental incarceration told in the voices of the children themselves forms the backbone of this volume. The final chapter's recommendations are firmly based in the point of view that “children do better when their families do better.”

Gadsden, V. (Ed.). (2003). Heading home: Offender reintegration into the family. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association. HV 8886 .U6 H43 2003

The papers in this volume were presented at the Annual Research Conference of the International
Community Corrections Association in 2001 and were updated for publication here. Centered around
“ what works”, the authors explore the many issues relating family to successful reentry.

Gonnerman. J. (2004). Life on the outside: The prison odyssey of Elaine Bartlett. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. HV 9468 .B28 G66 2004

The story of Elaine Bartlett, an African-American woman, imprisoned for a drug offense with four small children left behind. Eighteen years into her sentence she was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki. The book traces her path to prison and back out again. The author is committed to putting a human face on the issue of reentry.

Jensen, J.L. (2006). Scales of success: Factors affecting a successful reentry. Unpublished master's thesis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York.LD2602 .J3i

This thesis was written for the M.A. program in Criminal Justice at John Jay College. It compares reentry issues in New York and New Jersey. The data was collected through questionnaires and informal discussions.

Krienert, J.L. & Fleisher, M.S. (Eds.). (2004). Crime and employment: Critical issues in crime reduction for corrections. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. HV 9304 .C73

This book is a collection of essays exploring the relationship between crime and employment. There are four sections: Pre-imprisonment employment, Prison industries, Ex-offenders and In the community.

Mauer, M., & Chesney-Lind, M. (Eds.). (2002). Invisible punishment: The collateral consequences of mass imprisonment. Washington, D.C.: New Press. On Reserve HV9950 .I59 2002

The editors wish to examine “invisible punishment” or the collateral consequences of incarceration. The issues range from health, housing, and families, to voting rights and driver’s licenses. The impact of social policy on American society is at the heart of the matter.

O’Brien, P. (2001). Making it in the “free world:” Women in transition from prison. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. HV 9304 .O145 2001

This book is noteworthy for its focus on women emerging from prison. It tells the stories of 18 women who were successful in their reentries and tries to answer the question what does it take to make success possible.

Pattillo, M., Weiman D. & Western, B. (Eds.). (2004). Imprisoning America: The social effects of mass incarceration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. HV 8705 .I455 2004

The essays, which originated at a 2001 conference on “The Effects of Incarceration on Children and Families”, are divided into two groups: Families and Communities. The final chapter, by Jeremy Travis, explores the implications for policy changes.

Petersilia, J. (2003). When prisoners come home: Parole and prisoner reentry. New York: Oxford University Press. HV9304 .P464 2003

The author provides a thorough look at the impact of reentry on former inmates and their communities, with specific recommendations for reform of current practices.

Rex, S. & Tonry, M. (Eds.) (2002). Reform and punishment: The future of sentencing. Cullompton, Devon:Willan Publishing. KD 8406 .R44 2002

This collection of essays covers sentencing in England and Wales, giving some international perspective on the topic. Chapter 8, “Revisiting ex-prisoner re-entry: a buzzword in search of a narrative,” looks at re-entry practice in the United States and its relevance to British reform.

Travis, J. (Eds.) (2005). But they all come back: facing the challenges of prisoner reentry. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press. HV 9304 .T68 2005

This book is the culmination of several years of work begun at the National Institute of Justice and continued at the Urban Institute. Part 1 surveys the current state of affairs with regard to sentencing, parole, and “invisible punishment.” Part 2 defines areas of society affected by reentry, and Part 3 looks to the future and makes suggestions for reform.

Travis J. & Waul, M. (Eds.) (2003). Prisoners once removed: The impact of incarceration and reentry on children, families, and communities. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press. HV 8886 .U6 P75 2003

The chapters in this book are expanded versions of papers presented at a 2002 conference organized by the Urban Institute to ascertain what was then known about the effects of imprisonment and reentry on individuals, families and communities. Each of these perspectives is covered in one of the three sections in the book. An introductory chapter presents statistical information on prisoners and their families.

What works and why: Effective approaches to reentry. (2005). Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association. HV9279 .W48 2005

Academics, researchers and corrections professionals have contributed to this collection of essays which attempts to analyze many of the “practical questions” surrounding reentry and supply “realistic responses”, i.e. to discover what works.

Recent Reports

Here is a select list of some important and useful recent reports on prisoner reentry available in the Library or online. Both the call number and the URL are given when available.

Byrne, J.M., Taxman, F.S., & Young, D. (2002). Emerging roles and responsibilities in the Reentry Partnership Initiative: New ways of doing business. College Park, MD: Bureau of Governmental Research HV 9304 .B96 2002a

Prepared for the National Institute of Justice, this report explores the key elements of a successful Reentry Partnership Initiative with the ultimate goal of public safety. These authors outline the roles and responsibilities of the key players in this initiative: police, institutions, treatment providers, community corrections and the victim.

From prison to work:The employment dimensions of prisoner reentry: A report of the Reentry Roundtable.(2004). Washington, DC: Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center. HV9304 .F76 2004a

A report of the Urban Institute's Reentry Roundtable with the stated goal of identifying research and key policy issues in the intersection of reentry and employment such as viable employment niches for released prisoners, a look at employment programs inside state and federal prison systems, and opportunities and barriers to work on the outside.

Hughes, T.A., & Wilson, D.J. (2003). Reentry trends in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

A compilation of reentry statistics (federal, state and some local) gathered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment. (2006). Report and recommendations to New York State on enhancing employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. New York: Author. SpecColl HV9305 . N7 I63 2006

Identifying “quality employment” as central to breaking the incarceration cycle, this report makes seven recommendations which include a wage subsidy program and the education of business owners and hiring personnel in an effort to promote the hiring of formerly incarcerated people. Among the appendices is a table with over 100 occupations which need licensing, registration or certification in New York State and the statutory restrictions which apply to the formerly incarcerated.

La Vigne, N.G. & Cowan, J. (2005). Mapping prisoner reentry: An action research guidebook. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute. HV9304 .L39 2005a
http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411250%5FRMNguidebook.pdf The executive summary states: “This guidebook provides information on how to understand and address prisoner reentry at the community level through mapping and analysis.”

Lynch, J.P. & Sabol, W.J.(2001). Prisoner reentry in perspective. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.

An Urban Institute Crime Policy Report filled with relevant statistics attempting to characterize the recent population wave of released prisoners, along with the correctional responses to and community capacity to absorb these individuals.

Re-entry Policy Council (2005). The report of the Re-Entry Policy Council: Charting the safe and successful return of prisoners to the community. New York: Council of State Governments.
Ref HV9304 .R384 2005

A groundbreaking report from the Re-Entry Policy Council offering policy recommendations for the stated goals of reducing public spending and increasing public safety in order to assist policymakers and practitioners in making the transition from prison or jail to the community both safe and successful. The report centers on policy statements with corresponding research and statistics.

Reentry Roundtable Meeting, the Urban Institute (2004). Prisoner reentry and community policing: Strategies for enhancing public safety. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. HV9304 .R386 2004a

A meeting summary of the Urban Institute's Reentry Roundtable on the topic of prisoner reentry, community policing, and public safety. Presentations, discussions, and future considerations for research and policy are presented.

Samuels, P. & Mukamal, D. (2004). After prison: Roadblocks to reentry:A report on state legal barriers facing people with criminal records., NY: Legal Action Center.
KF390 .E87 S3 2004a

This report presents the findings of a two year study by the Legal Action Center focused on the legal roadblocks ex-offenders face once they exit state prison walls and reenter society. Extremely useful in its breakdown of each state's legal barriers to employment, housing, benefits (such as eligibility for food stamps), voting, access to criminal records, parenting, and driving.

Smith, C.J., Bechtel, J., Patrick, A., Smith, R.R., & Wilson-Gentry, L. (2006, May). Correctional industries preparing inmates for re-entry: Recidivism and post-release employment.Unpublished report.HV8925 .C676 2006a

The report of a study to determine the effectiveness of Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Programs (PIECP), which bring state prison inmates into private sector jobs, as compared to traditional industries or other than work activities.

Taxman, F.S., Young, D., Byrne, J.M., Holsinger, A., & Anspach, D. (2001). From prison safety to public safety: Innovation in offender reentry. College Park, MD.: Bureau of Government Research.

This paper is part of a series conducted by the Bureau of Government research at the University of Maryland. It provides a framework for implementing practices for successful prisoner reentry initiatives based on the Office of Justice Program's eight Reentry Partnership Initiative (RPI) sites.

Travis, J.T., Solomon, A.L. & Waul, M. (2001). From prison to home: The dimensions and consequences of prisoner reentry. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. HV9276 .T73 2001

A monograph which incorporates discussions and papers from the first Reentry Roundtable meeting with an aim to highlighting research and identifying those issues warranting policy attention at the time of publication. The reentry process is described, challenges outlined, and consequences considered.

Young, D., Taxman, F.S., & Byrne, J.M. (2002). Engaging the community in offender reentry. College Park,
MD: Bureau of Governmental Research. HV9304 .Y68 2002a

Another Bureau of Governmental Research Report with an emphasis on what constitutes community, as well as community involvement, design and evaluation in the Office of Justice Program's Reentry Partnership Initiatives. Reentry partnerships are placed within the context of community justice. The importance of community in prisoner reentry is also discussed.

Journal Articles

There is an abundance of journal articles addressing the topic of prisoner reentry. These discussions embrace the many aspects of prisoner reentry from the general to the specific, including the evaluation of particular work release programs, employment obstacles, health issues, victims’ rights issues, public safety concerns, or the role of information technology in prisoner reentry initiatives.

The most appropriate and productive of databases to search for journal articles on prisoner reentry are:

  • Criminal Justice Abstracts
  • Criminal Justice Periodicals Index
  • EBSCOHost Academic Search Premier
  • Sociological Abstracts
Some (NOT ALL) articles are available fulltext. If you don’t see a fulltext link, click to determine the journal’s availability in our Library (electronically or in CUNY+PLUS, bound or on microfilm/fiche) or other CUNY libraries (through CUNY+PLUS).

The term “prisoner reentry” is NOT an official subject heading in any of these databases. Moreover, each database may have its own official subject heading or descriptor term for articles related to prisoner reentry.

As with books, a keyword search is the best strategy. Use AND or OR to combine some of these keywords:

prisoner reentry (or prisoner re-entry) inmates, felons
ex-convicts offenders or ex-offenders
parole or parolee rehabilitation
recidivism reintegration

A general search for reentry may result in an overload of articles. Try to narrow your search to a particular aspect of reentry. Try ex-offenders and employment, reentry and prison programs, or recidivism and drug offenders or mental illness—there are many options.

Special Issues of Journals

Here are some special journal issues dedicated wholly to the topic of prisoner reentry. They are available digitally through subscription databases in addition to being on the Library shelves.

Corrections Management Quarterly, 5, 3, (2001) HV9469 .C683 (bound) and digitally

Entitled Rethinking Prisoner Reentry: Implications for Corrections, this issue marks a recognition that successful reentry not only begins at the time of confinement but may also depend on new insights, models, and goals which integrate services, programs, and people throughout the entire reentry process--from corrections to community. A collection of articles by correctional leaders, practitioners, policy makers, and academicians rethinking key reentry issues in the hopes of providing offenders with more successful pathways back to their communities.

Corrections Today, 65, 5, (2003) xHV7231 .A5 (bound and microfilm) and digitally

This issue focuses on the role that corrections plays in the reentry and reintegration process. Articles cover such topics as programs in Iowa and Pennsylvania, the pros and cons of inmate user fees, victims' issues, and navigating the federal bureaucracy.

Corrections Today, 67, 2, (2005) HV7231 .A5 (bound and microfilm) and digitally

A publication of the American Correctional Association (ACA), this issue discusses many aspects of prisoner reentry from "what works" to specific programming with inmates as well as suggestions for implementing some of the guidelines set forth in the Report of the Re-entry Policy Council, all in an attempt to promote more successful transitions for those reentering society from incarceration.

Criminology & Public Policy, 5, 2 (2006) HV6001 .C758 (bound) and digitally

This issue devotes two large sections to reentry. They each contain an editorial introduction, an article and two reaction essays. The first of these sections, called simply Prisoner Reentry, makes the case for the importance of research in conjunction with practice in moving forward on reentry issues. The second section, entitled, Aftercare & Reentry, focuses on a study involving the effectiveness of community based aftercare following correctional boot camp.

Crime & Delinquency, 47, 3, (2001) HV6001 .C7 (bound and microfilm) and electronically

This special issue consists of discussion papers from the Urban Institute’s Reentry Roundtable’s first annual meeting in the fall of 2000. Leading academics in the field take on many dimensions of the multifaceted issue of prisoner reentry. These same papers are published in the Institute’s From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry.

Federal Probation, 68, 2, (2004) HV9261 .F4 (bound and microfilm) and digitally

A critical look at offender reentry which focuses on the causes of the problem rather than the consequences. Articles fall into three main categories: evidence-based practices related to offender change and cost effectiveness, program models, and key issues in reentry design and implementation.

Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2, 1, (2004) HV9069 .Y69 (bound), Ref HV9104 .Y6853 2004 and digitally

Articles in this issue examine the particulars of youth reentry--research and policy directions, a developmental perspective on young offenders returning to the community, an empirical portrait of the population, the experience and challenges faced by teenage and youthful offenders, and what works and what does not.

Sources for Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics

This BJS site offers statistics on inmates returning to the community after serving time in prison. Type reentry in the search box in the upper right corner.

Corrections — Prisoner Reentry, National Criminal Justice Reference Service

This site from NCJRS is a good source for government statistics on prisoner reentry.

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, you may find statistics in Section 6, Persons Under Correctional Supervision. The most current edition is available in print at the Reference Desk HV6787 .A27. Older editions back to 1973 are shelved in Ref HV6787 .A27.

Web Resources

Corrections: Reentry/Release,National Criminal Justice Reference Service

Offender Reintegration, National Institute of Corrections

National Institute of Corrections' Digital Resource Library with online publications on offender reentry. Search the entire NIC site for more information.

Prisoner Reentry, Urban Institute

The Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute “manages a portfolio of prisoner reentry research to advance knowledge and identify effective methods of reintegrating offenders with their families and communities.” A substantial resource for state of the art publications, research projects and transcripts or live audio of public discussions related to the return of prisoners back to society.

Prisoner Reentry Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

John Jay's Prisoner Reentry Institute has as its mission “to strengthen, support, and sustain prisoner reentry practice as a coherent professional discipline…, to foster academic interest and advance knowledge about prisoner reentry…, [and] to serve as a vehicle for the exchange of prisoner reentry research and information.”

Reentry,, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

An extensive treatment of prisoner reentry including an overview of the topic, state activities and resources, federal and national resources, training and technical assistance, and an extensive bibliography of publications with links when available.

The Re-entry Policy Council

The Re-entry Policy Council offers their groundbreaking Report along with other resources such as national initiatives, statistics, news and media coverage. Extremely useful is their inventory of federal and state reentry legislation (http://www.reentrypolicy.org/reentry/Re-Entry_Legislation.aspx), with a brief description of the bill or law and a link to the full text. This site includes information on the Second Chance Act of 2005.

Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007(H.R. 623 IH)

Thomas, Legislative Information on the Internet, provides bill summary and status for the Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2007, a piece of federal legislation on expungement of criminal records for certain nonviolent offenders.


There are many associations which devote themselves in whole or part to the prisoner reentry question; many are local, concerning themselves with specific communities. Here we list some which cast a multi-state or national net.

American Correctional Association (ACA)

This international professional organization is involved with all issues relating to corrections, including public policy and research.

American Probation and Parole Association

This professional organization sets itself in the vanguard of community based corrections. It offers training opportunities, acts as an information clearinghouse and publishes a quarterly journal: Perspectives.

Fortune Society

Educating the public about prisons, criminal justice issues, and the root causes of crime is the Fortune Society's main goal. It also works directly with “former prisoners and at-risk youth [to] break the cycle of crime and incarceration through a broad range of services.”

Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR/USA)

This organization is aimed at assisting offenders with reentry issues. Originally founded in Virginia, it now has affiliated offices in four states.

Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign

The aim of this organization is to heighten awareness and foster discussion of prisoner reentry issues through use of the media.

Vera Institute of Justice

“The Vera Institute of Justice works closely with leaders in government and civil society to improve the services people rely on for safety and justice. Vera …studies social problems and current responses, and provides practical advice and assistance to government officials in New York and around the world.”

Women’s Prison Association & Home, Inc.

“WPA is a service and advocacy organization committed to helping women with criminal justice histories realize new possibilities for themselves and their families.”

There are many faith-based organizations working in prisons and with ex-convicts. Some examples:

Good News Jail & Prison Ministry

Justice Fellowship

We Care

updated 3/2007, CS


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