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Collateral Consequences: The Impact of State Policies on Perceived Stigma and Coping Strategies among Ex-Offenders

A dissertation that examined how state collateral consequences impact perceived stigma and coping for the ex-offender label.

Bronwyn Hunter

on 18 July 2013

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Transcript of Collateral Consequences: The Impact of State Policies on Perceived Stigma and Coping Strategies among Ex-Offenders

H1) High perceived stigma for the ‘ex-offender’ label will predict increased use of adverse coping strategies (secrecy and withdrawal) and low use of education.
The Problem
Collateral Consequences: The Impact of State Policies on Perceived Stigma and Coping Strategies among Ex-Offenders
It is important to examine the relationships between policy-level restrictions, perceived stigma, and coping strategies among ex-offenders.
Bronwyn A. Hunter
May 9, 2013

Prisoner Reentry
Prisoner Reentry
the process of returning from prison or jail to the community.
successful reentry.
These men and women face multiple challenges:
Family/social supports
Physical and mental health
The reentry experience may be differentially impacted by:
Reentry Policy
State and federal policies impose restrictions on individuals with past criminal justice system involvement.
Educational and employment opportunities,
Civil rights (voting),
Housing options,
Eligibility for welfare benefits.
Influence the way that society views 'ex-offenders.
Perpetuates stigma associated with criminal history.
An “attribute that is deeply discrediting” that “reduces the whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.”
criminal, addict, alcoholic, offender

Devalues/dehumanizes individuals in the eyes of other people and society.
Stigma and Ex-offenders
Limited quantitative research among individuals in community settings.

Men perceived stigma related to label ‘ex-con’
White men were more likely to endorse secrecy as a coping strategy (Winnick & Bodkin, 2008).

Labeling an individual with a criminal record increased recidivism (Chiricos, et al., 2007).

Scholars have called for additional research in this area.
Directly impact the challenges associated with prisoner re-entry:
Housing challenges compounded by policy restrictions.
Employment barriers increased by limitations on careers, and employers who will not hire individuals with a criminal record.
Individuals who have had criminal justice involvement perceive stigma related to their 'ex-offender' status.
High perceived stigma may lead to adverse coping strategies.
Secrecy and Withdrawal
May inhibit community reintegration.
National, cross sectional sample of men and women who lived in Oxford House.
Oxford Houses are democratic sober living homes for men and women in substance abuse recovery.
Data drawn from 2 studies:
Men and Stigma (N = 164)
Women and Empowerment (N = 344)
272 of 508 respondents self-identified as 'ex-offenders.'
State Policies
Oxford Houses contacted by phone and asked to complete study:
Survey packets mailed with postage-paid return envelope and raffle sheet.
Participants emailed a link to SurveyMonkey site.
Offered raffle for $25 VISA Gift card as incentive to participate.
39.80 years old
25.88 months in recovery
12.45 months in Oxford House
54.16 months since conviction
31 states
Participant Characteristics
Criminal Justice Characteristics
State Level Policy
Collateral Sanctions Policy Scores (Ewald, 2012)
Evaluate barriers in 8 areas
Voting, Holding public office, Eligibility for jury service, Driver’s licenses, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, Gun ownership, Employment, Privacy
Score in each area ranged from 0-1
1 = most restrictive
Correlated with:
State Disenfranchisment Rate (0.66)
State Poverty Rate (0.34)
State Incarceration Rate (0.60)
Does perceived stigma impact secrecy scores?
Does perceived stigma impact withdrawal scores?
Do state policy restrictions for employment impact the likelihood of being employed?
No significant relationship between perceived stigma and education scores
Does perceived stigma impact education scores?
Hierarchical Linear Regression model with clustered standard errors.
Model fit: R2 = 0.20, F(5, 28) = 8.13, p < 0.01
Perceived Stigma
Policy X Perceived Stigma
Model fit: , R2 = 0.12, F(5, 28) = 14.41, p < 0.01
Minority Status
Perceived Stigma
Policy X Perceived Stigma
Multilevel Model
Bernoulli distribution
ICC = 0.04.
Employment Policy scores did not significantly impact the likelihood of being Employed, t(27) = 1.60, OR = 2.25; p = 0.12.
Rental Assistance
Do state policy restrictions for TANF benefits impact the likelihood of receiving rental assistance?

ICC (baseline) = 0.25
ICC (Model) = 0.10
Individuals who lived in states with high TANF Benefit Policy restriction scores were 89% less likely to receive Rental Assistance than individuals who lived in high TANF Benefit Policy scores States
b = -2.22; SE = 1.20; OR = 0.11; t(27) = -1.85, p = 0.08
Major Findings
High policy restriction states had higher secrecy and withdrawal scores at low levels of perceived stigma
Policies impose many limitations and also create state norms that may not be conducive to reentry and reintegration.
Secrecy and withdrawal may act as protective factors that allow for avoidance of the label attributes.
May limit social supports, education and employment as well as engagement/availability in services and programs
Gender was a significant predictor of secrecy.
Women had lower secrecy scores than men when accounting for perceived stigma and minority status.

Minority status approached significance for withdrawal.
Minorities may be more likely to use social isolation as a strategy to cope with the adverse impact of stigma than non-minorities.
Perceived Stigma
Public Office


Driver's License

Jury Duty
Gun Rights
TANF Benefits
Likelihood of receiving rental assistance
Additional Findings
600,000 men and women return from prison to the community each year
Direct Impact
H2) State policies will moderate the relationship between perceived stigma and stigma coping strategies.
H3) Individuals who live in states with high policy restrictions for employment and housing will be less likely to be employed or to be receiving rental subsidies for housing than individuals in low policy restriction states.
Devaluation/Discrimination Scale (Link et al., 1989)
12-item scale measured perceived stigma, M = 3.82, SD = 0.79
'Mental illness' replaced with 'ex-offender.'
Stigma Management Scale (Link et al., 1989)
Secrecy, M = 2.98, SD = 1.14
Education, M = 4.06, SD = 1.07
Withdrawal, M = 3.00, SD = 0.97
Employed = 60% (N = 163)
Receipt of Rental Assistance
Yes = 5.1% (N = 14)
Policy Scores moderate Stigma and Secrecy
No significant relationship between policy scores, stigma and education.
Policy Scores moderate stigma and withdrawal
Link and colleagues (1989) developed a five-step modified labeling approach for individuals with mental illness:
Data Preparation and Analysis
Missing data reduced sample size to 262 men and women from 29 states.
Number of participants per state
Range 1 - 51

Preliminary analyses did not support the use of multilevel modeling.
Hierarchical linear regression with clustered standard errors.
Step 1: Gender and Minority Status
Step 2: Perceived Stigma
Step 3: Policy Scores
Step 4: Perceived Stigma X Policy Interaction

Consistent with theory and prior research
Internalized devaluation/discrimination may influence disclosure of one’s status and/or social interactions and supports.
Both perceived stigma and state policy restrictions have an impact on individual outcomes.
State Policies
Low policy states higher secrecy and withdrawal at high levels of perceived stigma
Individual-level perceived stigma for the ‘ex-offender’ label influenced coping more so than policy scores.
Perceived stigma and coping largely and individually-focused construct.
State policies complicate the relationships between perceived stigma and coping strategies.
Non-significant relationship between perceived stigma and education.

Education scores significantly higher than midpoint of scale
The ‘Oxford House’ effect
May promote use of education
Proximal vs. distal contextual factors
Oxford House
Non-significant relationship for employment
More than half of participants employed

Other factors may be important
Minority status, level of education, work history, length of time since conviction

Oxford House members may assist each other with obtaining employment
TANF policy benefits approached significance

Observable trend that policies impacted receipt of rental assistance

Low number of individuals who received assistance
Are individuals not applying or are they rejected after application?
TANF Benefits
Direct Impact
Data collection challenges
Difficult recruiting men to participate in study.

Sampling bias
Not representative of broader ex-offender population
Lowest risk, community based sample
Lack of diversity
Sample not representative of Oxford House
2x number of women than men
Impact of Oxford House not measured
Cross-sectional Data
Multiple identities
Participants were in recovery AND ex-offenders
Future Research
Service providers need to be aware of the policy restrictions in their state and target interventions appropriately
High policy restrictions = community inclusion, teach appropriate disclosure skills
Low policy restrictions = stigma reduction intervention
States should review policies that adversely impact prisoner reentry
Secrecy and withdrawal may inhibit reintegration
Provide funding to support reentry, reintegration, and to reduce perceived stigma
Remove media ads that attribute negative qualities to ‘ex-offenders’
Educate politicians on these barriers and their impact
Policy and Practice
Continue to examine how policies impact perceive stigma and coping among ‘ex-offenders’
Obtain more representative sample
Examine longitudinally
Larger sample size to increase power for analyses
Additional variables
Voting behavior
Use of community services
Integration of social context into theory
Likelihood of being
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