After Life Imprisonment: Reentry in the Era of Mass Incarceration

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NYU Press, Sep 20, 2016 - Social Science - 267 pages

One out of every ten prisoners in the United States is serving a life sentence—roughly 130,000 people. While some have been sentenced to life in prison without parole, the majority of prisoners serving ‘life’ will be released back into society. But what becomes of those people who reenter the everyday world after serving life in prison?

In After Life Imprisonment, Marieke Liem carefully examines the experiences of “lifers” upon release. Through interviews with over sixty homicide offenders sentenced to life but granted parole, Liem tracks those able to build a new life on the outside and those who were re-incarcerated. The interviews reveal prisoners’ reflections on being sentenced to life, as well as the challenges of employment, housing, and interpersonal relationships upon release. Liem explores the increase in handing out of life sentences, and specifically provides a basis for discussions of the goals, costs, and effects of long-term imprisonment, ultimately unpacking public policy and discourse surrounding long-term incarceration. A profound criminological examination, After Life Imprisonment reveals the untold, lived experiences of prisoners before and after their life sentences.


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Understanding Desistance
The Context
Lives Spiraling out of Control
A Life Sentence
A Productive LawAbiding Citizen
Life after Life Imprisonment
Residual Effects of Imprisonment
Going Back
Staying Out
Reconsidering Lifer Reentry

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About the author (2016)

Marieke Liem is Senior Researcher and chair of the Violence Research Initiative at Leiden University and a Marie Curie Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Robert J. Sampson is Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. He is the author of several books, including Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.

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