College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nathan R. Todd, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Patrick J. Fowler. Ph.D.


Incarcerated individuals have many needs that are not addressed while incarcerated or upon return to the community. These needs are exacerbated by the 'collateral consequences,' and 'invisible punishments' of a criminal conviction which are the state and federal social policies that limit formerly incarcerated persons opportunities for voting, employment, housing, financial benefits, and education, among others. The stigma associated with a criminal conviction may impact offender reentry and reintegration and be compounded by reentry policies. For example, studies have demonstrated that ex-offenders' perceive stigma related to the ex-offender label and that perceived stigma often leads to adverse coping strategies. Furthermore, the use of adverse coping strategies, such as secrecy and withdrawal, may negatively affect ex­ offenders social supports and community ties and hinder attempts towards reintegration.

The primary purpose of the present study was to examine the impact of state reentry policies on ex-offenders' perceived stigma and the strategies used to cope with that stigma. Participants were 272 men and women who lived in substance abuse recovery homes and self­ identified as 'ex-offenders.' Exploratory findings were consistent with labeling theory as the results indicated a strong relationship between perceived stigma and stigma management strategies. In addition, an interaction between state-level policy scores and perceived stigma occurred for the secrecy coping strategy and approached significance for the withdrawal coping strategy. Finally, individuals who lived in states that had high policy restrictions for housing subsidies (TANF) were less likely to receive housing assistance than individuals who lived in states with low policy restrictions. Implications for theory, policy, and practice are discussed.