Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Marion Nesbit

Second Advisor

Janel Lucas

Third Advisor

Alicia Girgenti-Malone


Prison skills programming that is focused on employment readiness, reentry skills, parenting and family relationships, life skills, and anger management is offered with an understanding that the information will support individuals with reentry in areas such as family reintegration and employment. The purpose of this mixed-methods dissertation study was to explore the reasons that individuals chose to participate in skills programming during incarceration and their perceptions about the ways in which skills programming influenced their experiences with family and employment during reentry. Data were collected from diverse participants using a Reentry Experiences Survey (RES) (Appendix A), in-depth interviews, and archival data from a background questionnaire administered to prisoners for a large national longitudinal literacy study (PIAAC PBQ). Findings showed that for skills programming participants, when programming was available and accessible, participation was viewed as a pathway to self-improvement and learning was positive, productive, and transformative. Participants revealed a range of experiences with direct and ambiguous loss during incarceration, difficulty with employment post-release, and a lack of availability of supportive programming for partners and children in their communities. They also identified a longing for opportunity to build skills, explore career options, and experience success with employment and relationships. A final finding emerged from inviting participants to imagine developing a prison education program from their lived experience that would better meet their needs for reentry. Crossing all guiding research questions, their responses identified social-emotional development, practical skills, and prescribed training programming as “must have” components of an ideal prison skills program. Findings suggest that asking those who experienced prison skills programs firsthand about their reentry experiences provided valuable insights that can inform both curriculum and instruction in prison program development and implementation.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.



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