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Journal of Contemporary Ethnography


Prisoner reentry, Surveillance, Ethnography, Race, Organizations


As they have become increasingly common, prisoner reentry organizations have become a topic of interest to ethnographers, particularly those focused on race crime and justice. Reentry organizations are typically understood in terms of the social services they provide with the purpose of easing their clients’ social reintegration after incarceration. However, ethnographers of nonprofit prisoner reentry organizations have interpreted them as linked to a broader project of disciplinary poverty governance. Based on participant observation and interview evidence of a government-run prisoner reentry organization in a large northeastern city, I argue that an overarching security culture structured not only the organization’s security and surveillance practices, but also its disciplinary service provision. I argue that security culture also helps explain staff attitudes toward clients, and clients’ response to the organization as an extension of their experience of punishment. This ethnography builds on previous work through its specific examination of frequently taken-for-granted concrete security practices in conjunction with social service programming in order to highlight the overall effects of a government-run prisoner reentry organization’s security culture.




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