Pre-release expectations and post-release experiences of prisoners and their (ex-)partners

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Abstract

Purpose

This study compared prisoners’ and their (ex-)partners’ forecasts and actual experiences of life after prison. The aims were to: (1) assess prisoners’ self-expectancies of problems and actual resettlement experiences; (2) compare prisoners’ post-release expectations and experiences to their partners’ forecasts and valuations of these outcomes; (3) examine whether pre-prison factors have an effect on each partners’ outlook of the future; (4) examine the predictive utility of each partners’ expectations on the men's post-release outcomes; and (5) explore a range of resettlement issues which may play a vital role in pathways for reducing reoffending (i.e., family relationships, accommodation, finances, employment, alcohol use, and drug use).

Method

We employed a prospective longitudinal design and used semi-structured interviews to gather quantitative and qualitative data from 39 male prisoners in England and their respective (ex-)partners.

Results

The couples showed relatively strong agreement on the men's post-release difficulties compared to their earlier predictions; however, there was some variation in the ‘realism’ and ‘optimism’ of their outlooks. Their expectations were partially based on pre-prison factors: higher frequencies of pre-prison problems were positively associated with anticipated difficulties post-release. Pre-release expectations significantly predicted the men's post-release difficulties with substance use and relationship factors.

Conclusion

Overall, our findings lend support to a dual hypothesis on the function of prisoners’ cognitions of future resettlement. On one hand, a ‘realistic view’ is important in recognizing when one is at risk for adversity. On the other hand, a ‘positive mindset’ has been associated with active coping and positive outcomes (e.g., desistance). The findings also underscore the importance of a holistic, family perspective in release and resettlement planning, and highlight key areas for targeted service delivery to promote successful desistance.

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