Christopher Uggen, Jeff Manza, and Angela Behrens. 2004. “Less than the Average Citizen: Stigma, Role Transition, and
the Civic Reintegration of Convicted Felons.” Pages 258-290
in After Crime and Punishment: Ex-Offender Reintegration and Desistance from
Crime, edited by Shadd Maruna
and Russ Immarigeon.
We ask how criminal offenders define successful reintegration into work, family, and community life and how role transitions across these domains are linked to an identity as a deviant or law-abiding citizen. We examine data from semi-structured interviews with prisoners, parolees, and probationers in developing a life course model of role transitions and desistance based on Matsueda and Heimer's (1997) symbolic interactionist theory. The interview data suggest that successful role transitions across socioeconomic, familial, and civic domains contribute to an emerging identity as a law-abiding citizen. Unfortunately, ex-felons have difficulty establishing the social relationships and role commitments necessary to stabilize or solidify these emerging identities. We find that offenders are attuned to the stigma of a felony conviction and concerned about the civil disabilities that limit their civic participation. Nevertheless, most are eager to establish or reestablish adult roles as productive workers, responsible family members, and active citizens. In fact, formal punishment and the concomitant barriers to establishing or reestablishing these roles seem to engender a new or renewed appreciation of their importance.