Life after prison: Exploring how best to support formerly incarcerated opioid users as they seek employment
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CitationMancuso, Robert. 2021. Life after prison: Exploring how best to support formerly incarcerated opioid users as they seek employment. Master's thesis, Harvard Medical School.
AbstractThe United States incarcerates 698 individuals per 100,000 residents – more per capita than any other nation (Wagner & Sawyer, 2020). An estimated 65% of incarcerated people have a substance use disorder (SUD) (NIDA, 2020). Once released, former prisoners must reintegrate into society, including finding employment and addressing health issues such as opioid use disorder. However, formerly incarcerated people face challenges in seeking jobs due to low levels of human capital, distance from jobs, lack of transportation, and the stigma associated with felony records (Visher et al., 2008). In addition, those with SUD face an increased risk of relapse and death from drug use (Krinsky et al., 2009).
This qualitative research study attempts to determine the most effective ways to assist people who reenter society and have opioid use disorders find employment. We conducted 21 semi-structured interviews: 14 with formally incarcerated opioid users and 7 with individuals who work in organizations that serve this population, which we term the “ecosystem of support.”
Our data indicate that factors that affect a recently released person’s ability to find employment include pre-release programs, connections with trades, addiction recovery support, housing, support for bureaucratic challenges, and soft skills. Interviewees almost unanimously discussed the value of employment as one of the key factors in a recently-released person’s ability to fight and overcome addiction. In addition, recently released interviewees indicated that the “ecosystem of support” professionals played a critical role in helping them reintegrate into society.
Considering the wide-ranging benefits that employment offers for individuals leaving the criminal justice system, it is important to ensure that supports like those identified in this study be widely available.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368600