Date of Completion


Embargo Period



justice-involved women, personal resources, environmental factors, redemptive narratives, community reintegration and desistance process.

Major Advisor

Dr. Nina Heller

Associate Advisor

Dr. Cristina Mogro-Wilson

Associate Advisor

Dr. Bonita Veysey

Associate Advisor

Dr. Waldo Klein

Field of Study

Social Work


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The rate of incarceration in the United States is six to ten times higher than in countries with similar living standards. There are currently more than seven million Americans who are justice-involved. Women are the fastest growing sector, with more than one million women currently under some form of correctional supervision. Community reintegration after incarceration is challenging and the needs of women are specific and distinct, differing in intensity and multiplicity from men. Frequently, women’s histories include poverty, abuse, and involvement with mental health and child service agencies which have profound implications for incarceration and reintegration. Therefore, all levels of criminal justice interventions, including reentry, must be gender-responsive and account for the personal, structural, and social contexts of reintegration. This research attempts to fill the gap in knowledge regarding the influence of personal resources and environmental factors on community reintegration for justice-involved women and decisions to desist or depart from criminal lifestyles.

Many of the theories guiding reentry are deficit based, account only for individual behavior, and fail to account for environmental influences on behavior. With approximately 708,000 individuals released annually from prisons, social workers must support community reintegration with interventions rooted in the social context in which they live. The current limited research on personal and environmental factors that influence successful reintegration with justice-involved women, exposes a gap in the literature. This study was designed to address that gap by exploring personal resources and environmental factors associated with agency for desistance, anticipated desistance and redemptive narratives among incarcerated women.

This study provides an exploration of 141 incarcerated women in the northeast region of the U.S. in order to gain insight into the pathway towards desistance for women. The quantitative survey and qualitative narrative findings indicate that agency for desistance, anticipated desistance, and the redemptive self are correlated with personal resources and environmental factors, human capital, social support, identity, marginalized status and other factors for justice-involved women. This study adds to our understanding of the complex relationship between women involved in the justice system, their social environment and factors that support the creation of successful lives after incarceration.