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On the Outside

Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration

One of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Best Criminal Justice Books of 2019

America’s high incarceration rates are a well-known facet of contemporary political conversations. Mentioned far less often is what happens to the nearly 700,000 former prisoners who rejoin society each year. On the Outside examines the lives of twenty-two people—varied in race and gender but united by their time in the criminal justice system—as they pass out of the prison gates and back into the world. The book takes a clear-eyed look at the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated citizens as they try to find work, housing, and stable communities. Standing alongside these individual portraits is a quantitative study conducted by the authors that followed every state prisoner in Michigan who was released on parole in 2003 (roughly 11,000 individuals) for the next seven years, providing a comprehensive view of their postprison neighborhoods, families, employment, and contact with the parole system. On the Outside delivers a powerful combination of hard data and personal narrative that shows why our country continues to struggle with the social and economic reintegration of the formerly incarcerated.

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304 pages | 4 line drawings, 8 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2019


Political Science: Public Policy

Social Work

Sociology: Criminology, Delinquency, Social Control, Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations


“In a powerful mixed-method analysis, On the Outside reframes the policy conversation around prisoner reentry, from recidivism to reintegration. This book should be read by all those interested in incarceration and its connections to poverty and racial inequality in America.”

Bruce Western, Columbia University

On the Outside is an ambitious but thoughtful and accessible book based on findings from the Michigan Study of Life after Prison. The central aim of this revelatory, timely, and important book is to move the literature beyond a focus on recidivism toward a more robust understanding of community reintegration. It will be of great importance to criminal justice scholars, probation and parole officers, correctional administrators, and even policy makers.”

Reuben Jonathan Miller, University of Chicago

“The vast increase in the number of its citizens America incarcerates means that a huge number of people leave prison each year. On the Outside is a crucial analysis of how the truly disadvantaged people who enter prison fare in the three years after their release. Read it if you want to understand what helps some find housing, jobs, and meaningful social ties, and what leads others to end up back in prison.”

Paula England, New York University

"Their careful depictions of the focal participants’ lives, the cohort of parolees’ trajectories of residential instability, and barriers to neighborhood attainment and employment stability direct our attention to the deeper changes that have to be made in preparing prisoners for release into the community as well as in the types of institutional barriers that fore-shadow continued periods of confinement. This is mandatory reading for every state governor and member of Congress."

American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Trajectories
Chapter 2. Transitions
Chapter 3. A Place to Call Home?
Chapter 4. Families and Reintegration
Chapter 5. Navigating Neighborhoods
Chapter 6. Finding and Maintaining Employment

Appendix: Data and Methodology

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