Sample English Paper on The Social Problem of Life After Prison


The following paper discusses the problems that ex-inmates face after rejoining society. Individuals released from prison encounter challenges that increases chances of recidivism. Recidivism is the re-arrest, resentencing, as well as re-incarnation of a former inmate within a given period. The social problem is caused by various problems that can be categorized into micro, mezzo, and macro levels. On that account, the following paper examines how factors on these levels lead to the social problem of life after prison, the possible solutions to these challenges as well as their limitations.

The Social Problem of Life After Prison

Problem Definition and Description

Whenever inmates in the United States are released from prison, they encounter an environment that actively prevents them from becoming productive and meaningful members of society. Bruce Western and his colleagues engaged in a study to find out the rates of recidivism in the United States. They reveal that within three years after release from incarceration, 67.8% are re-arrested (Western et al., 2015). Further, in five years after release, 76.5% are rearrested (Western et al., 2015).  Maruna and Immarigeon examine the difficulties that ex-prisoners face after serving their sentences. They assert that more than 2 million people are imprisoned in the U.S. and recidivism adversely affects both inmates and their families. (Maruna & Immarigeon, 2013). It also affects the general society since taxpayers are forced to support an ineffective system that places ex-offenders on the path to failure upon release. The Congressional Research Service states that recidivism is the re-arrest, resentencing, as well as re-incarnation of a former inmate within a given period. Due to systemic societal and legal hindrances, once ex-offenders are released, it is harder for them in comparison to the general population to find meaningful employment, a reliable shelter, and function the in society. Typically, perceived as secondary citizens, ex-offenders are constantly punished for their offenses. The causes of such hindrances are systemic and impact the ex-offenders at all societal levels.

Societal Issues That Contribute to The Creation and Maintenance of The Problem

It is critical to comprehend the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of examination to illustrate the issues that lead to the social problem of life after prison. The micro level of examination looks at the person, the mezzo level of examines small group of people or even families, and the macro analysis looks at the bodies, institutions, and the wider society including countries and large communities (Visher, Debus-Sherrill, & Yahner, 2011). In nearly all social change setting, these levels are interweaved and impacted each other. Ex-prisoners encounter challenges at each level, and the challenges are manifested in different forms.

Micro Challenges


            Whereas statistics on post-imprisonment employment in association with recidivism is highly limited, it appears clear that it is much less likely for ex-prisoners to gain employment than a member of the general population. Western and colleagues refer to a previous study that shows that job seekers who are former prisoners with nearly the same experience as non-offenders are less likely to get employment opportunities. The Bureau of Justice states that only 12.5% of employers stated that they would acknowledge an application from an ex-prisoner (Western et al., 2015). Paradoxically, going back to work reduces recidivism; however, the public is unwilling to offer ex-convicts’ employment.

A large percentage of prisoners do not have adequate work experience and their education is limited thus making them to get employment after serving their sentences.  A wide body of literature shows that most offenders and ex-offenders dropped out in high school (Western et al., 2015).  As a consequence of imprisonment and being involved in the criminal justice system, most ex-prisoners are perceived negatively by ex-employees or people within their former professional networks. To compound matters, most ex-inmates have a record of substance abuse and many suffer from psychological and physical health problems (Western et al., 2015); this effectively restricts their ability to gain employment since employers view them as unsuitable for duties. Visher, Debus-Sherrill, and Yahner (2011) state that an employer can be held accountable for exposing the public to a potentially dangerous person; therefore, many are apprehended by the notion of employing a person with a criminal record. In many cases involving negligent hiring, employers lose and are slapped with fines amounting to millions of dollars; this is a great disincentive to employing ex-prisoners.

Race is another factor that influences recidivism, especially when interwoven with a history of imprisonment. In the Milwaukee study mentioned above, employers also stated that African American offenders were not likely to get job offers (Western et al., 2015). Further African-American non-offenders were less likely than white non-white offenders to get job offers. On that note, African-American ex-prisoners face a significant dual challenge; even if they do not have criminal records, racism is a key hindrance to their employment opportunities. As they have engaged in criminal activity, they must surpass the barrier of racism to sway the employer that their former-inmate status that does not designate them as risky candidates. Ingrid Binswanger and her team study the link between drug abuse and offending in their 2013 study.  Binswanger et al (2013) suggest that for many ex-prisoners, employer interest in them increases when they discover the crime was not drug-related or violent. On the condition that one has suitable work experience and refrains from using drugs, he/she has enhanced chances to gain employment.

Mezzo Difficulties


             A wide body of literature demonstrates that inmates who keep constant contact with their loved ones have a reduced probability of recidivism compared to those who do not communicate with their families. Statistics also reveal that half of adults in jail have young children, meaning that they may miss some of the most crucial years of their kids’ lives while in jail (Western et al., 2015). However, according to Duwe, and Clark (2013), there are many barriers to keeping consistent communication with family and difficulties once ex-prisoners are released. A study conducted by the Maryland Department of Human Resources and Women’s Prison Association stated some major barriers to the visitation of a child in prison including;

  • Location of prison facilities. Figures show that men are typically one hundred miles away from their loved ones while women are one hundred and sixty miles far from their children.
  • The lack of funds by families to go to jails.
  • It is hard to plan prison visits.
  • Visiting processes are uncomfortable or humiliating.
  • Visiting spaces cannot host children.
  • The foster parents are not willing to grant visits.
  • Communicating through phone calls from prison is expensive since they are surcharges that are applied.
  • Inadequate information about the visiting process.

When ex-inmates return home, they are highly reliant on their family members and must repair broken ties due to years of restricted communication and a shift in the nature of the household. The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center states that before rerelease, 82% of former prisoners believed that it would be simple to renew family associations, but after going back home, over 50% stated that it was harder than anticipated (Western et al., 2015). Indeed, ex-inmates face potential resentment as the family members must take on a new emotional and financial burden upon one’s return.

Some prison facilities have initiatives to enhance parenting skills to simplify the reunification of families and regain the lost time of the parenting experience. Whilst there is evidence that such prison initiatives are beneficial and negative for inmates and their families, participation in such initiatives has been steadily declining over the years (Duwe & Clark, 2013). Whereas it is not apparent why this is so, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that many inmates who could not get the co-parent to take part were less likely to continue taking part (Western et al., 2015). This induced some prisons to develop novel incentives for inmate participation; these includes allowances for video chat and gas subsidies for partners to motivate increased visitation.

Macro Challenges

Collateral Impact

            Collateral impact refers to the legal barriers not related to the initial offense that apply to ex-prisoners upon release and includes the inability to vote and lack of access to food stamps. Some studies depict that there are tens of thousands of collateral damages associated with imprisonment (Western et al., 2015). Such a figure illustrates the thousands of legal barriers faced by ex-prisoners that they did not encounter before their convictions. Whereas some are perpetual and obvious, like the inability to apply for grants from the federal government, others are described vaguely, and enforcers usually apply the strictest interpretation (Visher & Travis, 2011). For example, former inmates are not exempt from public housing, although housing officials can use one’s criminal record to deny a person housing. Many official incorrectly think that they have to deny ex-criminals housing thus developing an implicit ban on public housing for former inmates.



Possible Solutions to The Problem

Systemic Transformations

Most of the challenges that ex-prisoners encounter are systemic and need policy changes and a move away from the mindset of some that punishment should persist after sentences are completed. Ban the Box is a widespread initiative that lobbies against the perpetual barriers in employment and mandates employers to refrain from using a candidate’s criminal history as the basis of denying one a job (Visher & Travis, 2011). Former president Barrack Obama urged the federal government to reinforce the campaign in 2015 (Western et al., 2015). Whereas one’s criminal record should not be ignored, it should not form the basis for denying a qualified candidate a job; a candidate should be given the chance to state his/her case.

Grassroot Transformations

On top of campaigning for policy shifts, many nongovernmental institutions are pioneering grassroots endeavors to assist ex-prisoners with recidivism. Projects such as the Prison University Project gives inmates the chance to earn degrees while locked up. A survey by the Criminal Justice Reference Service shows that prisoners who manage to get a degree before being released are likely to find it easier to rejoin society (Western et al., 2015). Another initiative, California’s Ride Home Program, makes it substantially easier and cheaper for prisoners to keep in touch with their families, which is a key part of reducing the chances of going back to jail upon release.

Limitations of These Solutions

            When ex-prisoners are released from jail, they usually discover that going back to normal life is not as easy as they believed whilst in prison. Indeed, such a fact is especially true for prisoners who are in jail for a long time because they may probably face technological advancements that are crucial to work environments and do not have the training to qualify them for roles. Due to this unavoidable advancement, the solutions to make it easier for ex-prisoners to rejoin society may not work effectively.

A study by the Urban Institute in Baltimore highlights that offenders who go back to prison originate from a small set of communities that have large percentages of unemployment, impoverished households, and female-headed homes. Ex-prisoners encounter massive barriers when looking for jobs, so they end up reoffending or taking very low paying jobs. Overall, life after prison is a social problem since ex-inmates encounter numerous challenges when trying to rejoin society.




Duwe, G., & Clark, V. (2013). Blessed be the social tie that binds: The effects of prison visitation on offender recidivism. Criminal Justice Policy Review24(3), 271-296.

Binswanger, I. A., Nowels, C., Corsi, K. F., Glanz, J., Long, J., Booth, R. E., & Steiner, J. F. (2012). Return to drug use and overdose after release from prison: a qualitative study of risk and protective factors. Addiction science & clinical practice7(1), 3.

Maruna, S., & Immarigeon, R. (Eds.). (2013). After crime and punishment. Routledge.

Visher, C. A., Debus-Sherrill, S. A., & Yahner, J. (2011). Employment after prison: A longitudinal study of former prisoners. Justice Quarterly28(5), 698-718.

Visher, C. A., & Travis, J. (2011). Life on the outside: Returning home after incarceration. The Prison Journal91(3_suppl), 102S-119S.

Western, B., Braga, A. A., Davis, J., & Sirois, C. (2015). Stress and hardship after prison. American Journal of Sociology120(5), 1512-1547.