Columbia Justice Lab

Shaping Justice for the Future


About 600,000 people are released from state and federal prison each year, returning overwhelmingly to neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. The Reentry Studies—the Boston Reentry Study and New York Reentry Study— are tailored to studying the process of transition from prison to community of a hard-to-reach population under contemporary conditions of mass incarceration. These studies provide substantive insight into the lives of the formerly-incarcerated men and women as they adjust to living in free society after incarceration.  Through a series of interviews and administrative records, the studies capture the effects of incarceration through a variety indicators, including residential mobility, housing security, relations with family and children, peer networks, earnings and job seeking, and health status and use of health services.


Boston Reentry Study
The Boston Reentry Study (BRS) is a mixed-methods, longitudinal study of 122 men and women released from Massachusetts state prisons to the Boston area. It is a collaborative study led by Bruce Western, Anthony Braga (Northeastern), and Rhiana Kohl (MA DOC) focusing on the transition into the community during their first year after prison release. The data collection combined a panel survey, qualitative interviews, interviews with family members, and administrative records on criminal history. The BRS traces the complexity of integration after incarceration and draws from their life histories, including childhood experiences, to understand how individual biographies shape their transition into the community. Remarkably, over the one year of follow up, the BRS sustained an unparalleled response rate of 94 percent.

New York Reentry Study
The New York Reentry Study (NYRS), led by Bruce Western, is a longitudinal panel survey of 33 men who were released from incarceration on Rikers Island Jails. The series of five semi-structured interviews focus on the topics of housing, employment, health, community membership, and criminal justice system contact. The unique study design of NYRS also incorporates interviews with up to three people in each respondent's network to better understand the impact of incarceration and reentry on families.  By combining data gathered directly from respondents and their closest kin with administrative records, the NYRS aims to provide new insights into the process of reentry for men and their families across New York City.

Research from the Reentry Studies

Working Papers:

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