Approximately 1.5 million persons are incarcerated in American prisons (Carson, 2020), and the rate at which persons who have been incarcerated reoffend (recidivism) is high (Alper et al., 2018, p. 1). This has propelled the effort to help offenders change their trajectory. Rehabilitative programs are used to help prisoners gain skills and strengths necessary to succeed in the community after their release. Yet, these high recidivism rates persist. Why do some prisoners not benefit from these programs? Although many researchers have studied the efficacy of programs over the past six decades, less attention has been directed towards access to prison programming. Additionally, studies that explore prisoners’ perspectives are not common. This researcher sought to understand programming access and utilization through the prisoner’s lens. This phenomenological, qualitative study explored 49 male prisoners’ perspectives. The findings suggest the prison’s operational structure impeded program access and the study’s participants who experienced blocked access were negatively affected, not receiving needed rehabilitative programming and, separately, suffering from the act of disenfranchisement from services.


phenomenology, reflexive thematic analysis, class, stratification, justice, program participation, inmate

Author Bio(s)

Kerry Edwards is an Assistant Professor at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include the sociology of work and organizations, the criminal justice system, work and crime, reentry, therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice, and procedural justice. Please direct correspondence to kerry.edwards@sru.edu.

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