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Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School for Social Work


Incarceration and African American women, Shame and African American women, Shame and incarceration, Stereotypes, Reentry, Women ex-convicts-Mental health, Women ex-convicts-Psychology, African American women-Psychology, Stereotypes (Social psychology), Shame


In this age of mass incarceration more and more people are becoming aware of the economic and human toll that incarcerating over 2.2 million people is exacting on U.S. society. A small but important segment of the incarcerated population has historically remained in the shadows, African American women. This qualitative study investigated the history of the incarceration of African American women, the challenges they face upon returning home and how shame impacts their experiences. Six focus groups were held with a total of 36 participants. Findings were based on what African American women said of their own experiences. The women felt shame about their experiences and the effects of their incarceration on their children and family members. The major challenges they faced in reentry were finding employment and housing, and reconnecting with family. The women cited two major sources of strength as their belief in God and the support of their families. This study was conducted for the purpose of designing a supportive, psychodynamic therapy model. Implications for social work policy and practice were discussed.




iii, 188 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 147-169)