An Exploration of the Effects of Mastery, Self-Esteem, and Religiosity on Recidivism among Ex-Prisoners
Farrell, Jill Lynn
MacKenzie, Doris L
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While prior research has highlighted the importance of social factors for reentry and recidivism, several criminologists have pointed out that an individual's subjective perspectives (e.g., cognitions and self-concepts) are often neglected when studying these processes. This study attempts to address this gap in our understanding of the effects of subjective perspectives on recidivism by focusing on the impact of mastery, self-esteem, and religiosity among ex-prisoners reentering the community. This analysis utilizes data from the Urban Institute's Returning Home, a longitudinal study of prisoners from three major U.S. cities as they return to their communities. This comprehensive study provides information on both social experiences and the relevant subjective perspectives both during incarceration and after release. The current study utilizes a subsample of 740 males and examines three potential effects for mastery, self-esteem, and religiosity: direct effects, change effects (from prison to the community), and interaction effects with social stressors after release. Overall, the findings suggest that religiosity, through change processes and its capacity to buffer social stressors, is an important subjective perspective for male prisoners. More specifically, ex-prisoners who experienced an increase in religiosity from prison to the community were less likely to be reincarcerated. Further, pre-release religiosity moderated the effect of post-release social stressors on reincarceration. In contrast, religiosity had a positive interaction with social stressors to affect illegal drug use after release. Mastery and self-esteem, on the other hand, do not appear to have noteworthy effects on recidivism for this group, nor do changes in these perspectives or their interactions with social stressors impact the likelihood of recidivism. The findings also demonstrate that social stressors have a robust positive effect on reincarceration and illegal drug use among sample members. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.