Here and back again: Community reentry from a rural county jail as a learning experience

Open Access
Gee, Jeremiah Compton
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 27, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Melody M Thompson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Gary Kuhne, Committee Member
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Member
  • Kai Arthur Schafft, Committee Member
  • Davin Jules Carr Chellman, Committee Member
  • rural jails
  • rural
  • jail. education
  • adult education
  • correctional education
  • phenomenology
  • critical phenomenology
  • prison
When people leave county-level jails, they reenter the community without having had the same opportunity for educational programs that they would have had if they were incarcerated in a state or federal prison. At the county level, little is known about community reentry. This study sought to find out what rural community reentry is like from the perspective of those who experience it, investigate learning’s relationship to community reentry, and examine power relationships that affect the reentry experience. Through interviews with young men ages 18-24, a phenomenological approach to this case study of one rural county jail’s participants yielded descriptions of community reentry that were interpreted using a conceptual framework based on Gehring’s (2012) Integral Approach to correctional education and a theoretical framework based on Dewey’s (1938/1997) experiential learning theory, Foucault’s (1977/2005) description of how people can be subjugated by a panoptic power arrangement, and Mezirow’s (1991, 1995) theory of transformational education. Several themes were identified to describe the community reentry experience. Individuals described learning as navigating the space between the reality that jail doesn’t teach you anything and society’s expectation that they learn a lesson that has not been fully articulated. The factors influencing reentry as an educational experience included how long and how many times one had been in jail, which the participants connected with learning by losing and becoming mature. Experiences with probation and parole officers, described as “being on paper,” defined the power relations of community reentry. These critical and interpretive themes were juxtaposed against two descriptive themes that depicted reentry as an up-down cycle of “getting your feet underneath you” and then “slipping up.”