Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor(s)

Ric Curtis

Committee Members

Jayne Mooney

David Brotherton

Michael Jacobson

Jennifer Wynn

Subject Categories

Criminology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Keywords

Anger, Violent offenders, parole, mandated treatment, formerly incarcerated persons

Abstract

Anger management is a mandated treatment for violent offenders (VOs) in Harlem, New York returning from prison under parole supervision. This dissertation asks VOs to describe their experiences with parole-mandated anger management (AM). The objectives of this research are to help illuminate the reasons why anger management is mandated for VOs and why, for some, mandated AM may be potentially harmful to their reintegration. To date, there have not been any studies exploring the role of AM for people on parole charged with violent offenses; the extant literature on AM provides neither formal evaluations nor long-term follow-up to indicate what the effect from AM is on the process of reintegration after prison. This research uses grounded theory methodology to question the assumptions underlying mandating anger management treatment for VOs. Semi-structured interviews with 26 VOs on parole in Harlem provide rich description of their experience in AM.

Through the lens of symbolic interactionism, the qualitative data reveal that the majority of VOs did not report benefits from being mandated to AM and discussed profound needs that AM was unable to address. Notable findings include that participants’ level of anger and motivation for treatment were heterogeneous as were their self-reported anger and violence. VOs described justifications for continuing to use violence, in particular, self-defense and regulating an illegal economy. Rather than producing therapeutic outcomes, VOs describe AM as an extension of parole or a means of generating income for the agency providing services. The VOs explain why AM does not reduce violence or ease reintegration and that some participants may be better served by professional mental health services that address trauma recovery. VOs describe the ideal type of reentry intervention to reduce violence and propose services that connect VOs to mainstream activities like work and education as crucially important, along with opportunities to discuss strategies for overcoming the obstacles that reentry in itself presents. A final point is the role of assessment to determine the appropriate level and modality of care. All respondents described a general lack of specificity with their referral to AM despite the range of demographics. The findings have implications for effective practice in prisoner reintegration and human services development.

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