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The Experiences of Men with Substance Use Disorders Exiting Prison at the Height of the Opioid Crisis

NCJ Number
Date Published
283 pages

This dissertation explores the experience of men with substance use disorders (SUDs) re-entering their communities.


This dissertation follows a sample of men with substance use disorders (SUDs) from prison-based drug treatment to their reentry communities. The connection of pre-release planning to post-release experiences unpacks the complexities accompanying the overlapping processes of reentry and recovery. In-depth interviews shed light on precursors to, and situations of, relapse and recidivism, the impact of disparate social capital and resources, the criminalization of traditional recovery, criminal justice supervision in reentry, and the vast emotional complexities of offender reentry. These men are tasked with maintaining sobriety in communities devastated by the opioid epidemic while simultaneously confronting the amassed complications of community reentry. Understanding the complexities of these tasks, and the accompanying impediments, enables the reduction of relapse and recidivism through well-informed policymaking. Rates of SUD among criminal justice-involved Americans are approximately twelve times higher than among the general population. While previous research has outlined the challenges of community reentry, substance-using reentrants require additional research attention, especially given our nation’s pervasive opioid epidemic. Reentrants are at high risk of relapse, overdose, and death in the weeks immediately post-release, and this risk has only increased as the opioid epidemic continues to devastate communities. A better understanding of the experiences and challenges of reentering men with SUDs informs criminal justice policies and programming, thereby reducing rates of relapse and recidivism among this high-risk population. 

Date Published: January 1, 2021