Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)


Douglas A. Orr


Reentry, Recidivism, Returning Citizens, Prisoner Reentry, Family Support


Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to define and measure more extensively the personal barriers of family members of returning citizens recently released from incarceration in the United States. Also sought was examining the returning citizen's family members' perspectives of their issues relating to their loved ones in the reintegration process and how their challenges and barriers impacted their desire to provide transitional support to the returning citizen. The theory guiding this study is Bowen's family system theory as it suggests that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. Participants were recruited through the purposive sampling technique. Data collection was done through interviews, document analysis and reflective journal. The transcendental phenomenology approach was used to analyze the data. The findings revealed that returning citizens had exceptional challenges that resulted from both the returning citizen and the family being unprepared for the needs and demands of the former offender and the changes experienced within the family as family members attempted to adapt to their return. Support from extended family members, the community, and reentry programs is essential to the returning citizen's successful reintegration, yet most families in this study reported sparse support from these groups. Family members must be included in the pre-release planning stage of the returning citizen, where they can adequately address any concerns, expectations, and potential issues they may have in the reentry process.