Date of Award

6-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Work

Department

School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr Cory Dennis

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Background: Previous criminal justice policies have been non-effective leading to overpopulated prisons and unsuccessful reintegration. There is a lack of effective supportive and/or rehabilitative services resulting in high rates of recidivism and mental health implications. Objective: This study investigated the perceived impact that incarceration and reintegration with little to no supportive and/or rehabilitative services has on the mental health status of an individual. The emphasis was on participant perception and not on professional reports because of underreporting and lack of attention to mental health in the criminal justice system. Methods: Focus groups in the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley were held to gather preliminary data used to develop the survey for this study. The survey was distributed to 88 male and female ex-offenders over the age of 18 who were no longer on probation or parole. Secondary data from United Way 211 and California State Reentry Initiative was collected to report current trends of supportive and/or rehabilitative services. Results: Incarceration was found to negatively impact perceived mental health status, but reintegration was not. Supportive and/or rehabilitative services continue to be rarely offered and accessed, but when accessed, perceived mental health status is better. Supportive and/or rehabilitative services are more readily available. People who are using these services are improving their quality of life, becoming productive members of society, and preventing recidivism. Conclusions: A paradigm shift is currently under way to reduce recidivism by improving supportive and/or rehabilitative services during incarceration and reintegration. Many offenders are receiving services as an alternative to incarceration, recidivism rates are being reduced, and ex-offenders are becoming productive members of society. The field of social work is an integral part of reentry services and should continue advocating for policies and services that support reintegration efforts at the micro and macro level.