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The Residue of Imprisonment: Prisoner Reentry and Carceral Gang Spillover

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: Online Dated: 2023
Date Published
28 pages

What happens to the gang ties of people when they leave prison and return to the community? There is much speculation but little empirical research concerning carceral gang spillover, which refers to the reproduction of prison gang associations, identities, politics, and structures in communities. This study examined continuity and change in gang embeddedness in a representative sample of 802 men in Texas interviewed in prison and reinterviewed twice upon release. Based on a series of multilevel models this study arrived at four main conclusions. First, prisons are a vector of gang activity. Embeddedness in gangs dropped markedly after release from prison and continued to recede with temporal distance from prison. Second, the residue of imprisonment was moderated by pre-release gang status. Negative linear trends were stronger for active gang members and weaker for former and never gang members. Third, a temporary surge in gang identification occurred for active and former gang members despite continued declines in gang associations, reflecting a behavioral-cognitive decoupling. Finally, the types of groups with which prisoners affiliated contoured trajectories of gang embeddedness. The declining significance of gangs with prisoner reentry opens productive lines of inquiry on carceral gang spillover and offers policy and practice guidance concerning reentering populations. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023