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Chapter 6 On the Outs Some of the kids are prepared to leave, and some not. A lot of the kids fight the system, fight the staff, fight the change. And we’ve got to let them go. Throwing together supports for aftercare and hoping the tape holds. (Mr. Robbins) You see so many kids that fail and go back to their old ways right when they get out but when you look at these kids have been in the environment they are from for sixteen years and we get them for six months, so you can only expect so much . . . it’s tough to do a lot in six months. But at the same time there are kids that do change. (Mr. Morales) The success of any juvenile correctional program, whether punitive or rehabilitative in its orientation, is typically measured by what happens to the youth when they return to society. Will they become law-abiding citizens or will they continue to commit crimes? Irrespective of one’s political position on how to best address youth crime, the general consensus appears to be that correctional programs work when they prevent repeat offending, and as long as that end is achieved, the methods employed along the way are less relevant . As indicated by the persistence of high rearrest and reincarceration rates among formerly incarcerated youth (see chapter 1), the return to society, often referred to as reentry or reintegration, is quite challenging for many young people. The quotes from the staff that open this section both hint at the central idea that long-lasting behavior change is sorely tested upon reentry , and that perhaps the best that any program can hope for is that something that youth learn during confinement will assist them in successfully overcoming these challenges. Research has shown that upon the return to society, youth face an array of barriers toward successfully reestablishing themselves logistically, economically , and emotionally. Many young people exit correctional institutions with the desire to complete basic tasks related to school and employment, but find school reentry or locating a viable job to be out of their reach (Bullis and Yovanoff 2002). The acquisition of stable housing also presents challenges , as youth whose family relations are strained or who have aged out of 111 designated foster care or juvenile housing placements may wind up without a secure place to live (Altschuler and Brash 2004). These logistical and financial concerns can be compounded by some of the emotional dimensions of the reentry experience. Despite the comfort that close family members and friends can provide for returning young people, these connections may also hold potential for emotional strife and other layers of difficulties (Martinez and Abrams 2011). For example, returning to one’s family can be experienced as a relief for a young person but may also become troublesome when family dynamics continue to be dysfunctional, or when families even encourage, either tacitly or explicitly, a return to criminal activity (Breese, Ra’el, and Grant 2000; Parkman 2009). Reconnecting with old friends may also challenge a young person’s resolve to forge a new pathway, or, on the other hand, may lead to a sense of isolation or loneliness if these familiar friends are avoided (Abrams 2007; Hughes 1998; Fader 2008). In this complex relational playing field, youths’ personal goals to achieve a different type of future are often compromised by the temptations and pressures they encounter in their home and community environments. In chapter 5, we laid out a series of findings concerning the residents’ responses to the treatment program, ranging from rejection of all program influences to a genuine embracing of the treatment program’s goals and philosophy . As many of the boys anticipated, particularly those who had strong motivation to change, the true challenge of accomplishing the personal work required of them by Wildwood House would be put to test upon their release. This relates in essence to young people’s ability to enact a new version of the self when they cross back into their old worlds (Phelan, Davison, and Yu 1993), without the same set of messages, rules, or norms that they became accustomed to in the institution. With this theory in mind, this chapter examines the reentry experiences of several Wildwood House youth to better understand the process of border crossing from the world of the institution into the worlds of their lives “on the outs.” These stories are presented according to the three patterns of change described in chapter...


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