Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Social Work

First Advisor

Kelly Bass

Second Advisor

Thomas Mrozla

Third Advisor

Jenna Borseth


Incarceration, Recidivism, Reentry, Correctional Staffing, Case Management, Programming

Subject Categories

Social Work


America has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, along with many issues that keep its inmate population and recidivism rates high. The current inmate population faces unique challenges as it disproportionally consists of racial minorities, those with mental illnesses, and nonviolent drug offenders. Correctional rehabilitative programing, while implemented with good intentions, lacks effectiveness. This is due to factors including institutional staffing mindset and minimal development to expand inmate programs. There is also a lack of overall access to drug and educational courses that are so greatly needed for the incarcerated population. The reentry process for inmates in many correctional facilities falls short in parole and internal case management services due to these same issues. Many internal case managers lack the qualifications needed to be successful, which in turn negatively impacts the effectiveness of reentry and continues the cycle of recidivism. Staff employed in correctional facilities face unique challenges that lead to massive turnover rates, burnout, and increased mental illness related to environmental stress and trauma. In correctional facilities, staff issues directly impact the environment and responses from inmates, often creating turmoil within a facility. This paper will consist of personal experiences working in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, first-hand experience working in case management for Pathways Shelter for the Homeless community transitional program, and published research. I will analyze why it is necessary to target the key areas of rehabilitative programing, correctional staff concerns, and the management of inmate's reentry process to change America’s correctional systems from a punitive structure to a rehabilitative one. Creating a rehabilitative structure will in turn assist in lowering our high recidivism rates and improve the wellbeing of American society.

Included in

Social Work Commons



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