Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Roderick J. Watts

Committee Members

Willie F. Tolliver

Steve Burghardt

Subject Categories

Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Work


reentry, hyperincarceration, reintegration, post-prison success, Black men


The problem of community reintegration emerged following the rise of the US prison population, which began in in the 1970s, disproportionately affecting US-born African American men. In this qualitative study, the researcher examined the perceptions of 17 formerly incarcerated New York City African American men to understand how they defined post-prison success after having been in the community at least three years in the wake of the era of mass (hyper) incarceration.

During the study, the researcher employed a constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) approach using data from semi-structured interviews to identify factors that enabled these African American men to make the social and psychological adjustments needed to get on with their lives post-release. Success, as defined by the men in the study, meant fitting-in to their home communities as if they had never been in prison. The findings of this study demonstrate that success is a construct inclusive of material, social, and psychological components. A number of themes emerged from the data that respondents attached importance to that the researcher linked to each component of success and subsequently related to the fitting-in process.

The eligibility requirements for this study, which limited participation to men who had been out of prison at least three years, restricted generalizability of the results and suggest that length of time since release likely influenced definitions of success. This dissertation concludes proposing research to examine potentially influencing issues related to time upon definitions of success, post-prison achievements, and the psychological effects of the incarceration experience and its relationship to African American men’s post-prison experiences. These findings can enhance social work practice with justice-involved African American men, enable social workers to better understand this population, and encourage the development of additional methods to address the psychological challenges related to post-prison adjustment likely to contribute to their well-being.