Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Vicki Lens

Committee Members

Harriet Goodman

Lila Kazemian

Subject Categories

Civic and Community Engagement | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Gender and Sexuality | Race and Ethnicity | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


Baltimore, Criminal Justice, Urban-Unrest, Reentry, Desistance, Positive Growth/Transformations


This study explored how selected returning citizens in Baltimore who experienced the Freddie Gray Uprising of 2015 quelled community violence, stopped looting, and cleaned up the community in the aftermath made meaning of their experiences of the unrest. The central purpose of this study was to collect and analyze the life stories of returning citizens in Baltimore who experienced the Uprising. These men who had been incarcerated for between 5 and 20 years responded to government officials who called on them to quell violence in their neighborhoods that stemmed from the in-custody homicide of Freddie Gray.

The informants provided narratives that expressed how they made meaning of their experiences during and after the Uprising. One way this occurred was through their experience of community divisions, which validated the long-standing tensions between the police and community members in the Penn-North and Sandtown-Winchester neighborhoods. These men reported both short-term and long-term benefits the Uprising had on community unity despite the turmoil. For some, the unrest that harmed the community also served as a catalyst for the community to heal, come together, and become the caring community they recalled from their childhoods. In addition, participants described how helping during and after the Uprising shaped their self-narratives and how different forms of helping influenced their growth/ transformations.

The actions of the informants in this study spanned the spectrum of helping through relational actions such as normal mentoring to helping through political action, advocacy, or civic actions such as cleaning up the neighborhood. There were differences in arrests following the Uprising for those who helped through relational actions, political actions, and civic actions. Participants who helped through relational actions and political actions were more likely to report reoffending post-Uprising than those who helped through civic actions.