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Conditions of a Successful Status Graduation Ceremony: Formerly Incarcerated Urban Youth and Their Tenuous Grip on Success

NCJ Number
Punishment & Society Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2011 Pages: 29-46
Jamie J. Fader
Date Published
January 2011
18 pages
This article offers an ethnographic examination of a graduation ceremony from 'Santana School', a reform school targeting youthful drug offenders.
After returning to the facility with five former residents, the author contends that ceremony was a rare opportunity for these young men to reclaim the carceral experience on their own terms. Wearing their own clothing, using their own language, and playing their own music, they affirmed both their personal choices and the legitimacy of their cultural identities as Black men and its compatibility with success. Returning to the place where they had been held against their will offered them the chance to actively shape the staff's collective memories of them and who they could become, as well as transforming their own narratives of the place and their time there. However, unlike most status passages, Santana's graduation ceremony failed to confer the concrete privileges of a truly new status. The author analyzed the meaning of the experience for the young men in his study in light of Maruna's call in this issue for the provision of redemption rituals which could strip the stigma from incarceration and restore the offender's status in the community. (Published Abstract)