Coming home: Post incarcerated lived experience of a caring community

Linda Woodbine, Fordham University


Background: The Life Skills Empowerment Program (LSEP) model was developed over 25 years ago to support persons in transition, providing life skill building and case management. Data used in this research is drawn from a demonstration study on LSEP programs for New York Community Trust (NYCT). Three sites from the NYCT study are examined to understand the lived experience of post incarcerated persons attending faith-based community reentry programs. Objective: Building on Vaillant’s decades of research on resilience, this study seeks to understand the lived experience of post-incarcerated person, and the pathways to restoration during reentry. Coping skills and trauma symptomology are analyzed to understand their association and importance. Participant experiences of community, inclusion, caring and spirituality are also examined. This study seeks to identify the strengths and barriers in providing reentry support within the community, and how current reentry policy supports or hinders this pathway. Methods: Data used is from the NYCT study. Data was collected using a mixed method, longitudinal design. Surveys distributed during baseline, post program and reunion measured coping using the Sense of Coherence (SOC) and trauma using the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – Civilian Version (PCL). Qualitative data from NYCT study was also examined and includes participant focus groups held at post program and reunion, and graduation ceremony analysis. Original interviews with Program Coordinators from two sites is also analyzed. Different types of data were interpreted to understand the lived experience of participants in a caring community during reentry. Results: There appears to be an association between coping and trauma. SOC and PCL scores indicate there is a certain level of coping that is necessary to work with and heal trauma. Participants that have an average ability to cope successfully manage and reduce trauma symptoms. Participants understood and experienced spirituality as a community that cares. Participants understood the community as caring through experiences of trust, safety, connection, welcoming, witnessing, inclusivity, accountability and empathy. Participants experienced love, hope, faith, joy, compassion, forgiveness and awe through group bonds described by many as family. Conclusion: Post-incarcerated participants regained their humanity and dignity through relational experiences in LSEP reentry groups. Participants were able to access and experience positive emotions after years of being isolated. Congregations experienced different benefits and barriers specific to group culture, program infrastructure and congregational composition. Evaluation of current reentry policy is recommended to understand what works other than cognitive-behavioral and ready for work programs. Policies that provide support and funding for reentry alternatives, such as faith-based community programs can be beneficial.

Subject Area

Social work|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Woodbine, Linda, "Coming home: Post incarcerated lived experience of a caring community" (2016). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10153615.