About -> About ReentryToolsNY
Reentry Tools NY
This page explains the process and methodology of the research behind ReentryToolsNY. This includes:
Purpose of ReentryToolsNY: My goals in creating ReentryToolsNY
History of ReentryToolsNY: Brief overview of ReentryToolsNY as my Honors Thesis
Significance: A short literature review on the context of reentry in Upstate NY
Methodology: A detailed look at the methods of my interview research
The Purpose of ReentryToolsNY
‘Reentry’ is the period of time following release from incarceration. It’s an incredibly dangerous time – the first few weeks after release hold an abnormally high risk for suicide, overdose, and death (Binswanger et al. 2011, Nowels et al. 2012). The massive population of people leaving county jails each year are more likely than the general population to be homeless, unemployed, in poverty, mentally ill, addicted to drugs, and experiencing chronic medical problems (Binswanger et al. 2011, Nowels et al. 2012, Scott et al. 2016, Ward and Merlo 2016). Publications of all forms, from peer-reviewed research manuscripts to podcasts to documentaries and TV shows, discuss the emotional, mental, and physical difficulty of being marked as a criminal in the United States.
‘Reentry programs’ are dedicated to helping people in this transition from incarceration back into the community. I studied the process of building reentry programs specifically available for county jail populations in Upstate New York, directly from the minds of the people who work tirelessly to help this population. First, I interviewed several people who run reentry programs across Upstate New York to understand the logistics of how their programs work, what they do, and the journey it took to build the programs. Then, I built a website that I will update throughout my career to present this information for the general public and act as a hub for anyone interested in the field of reentry. The website, ReentryToolsNY.com, presents information from these interviews on each program (Programs), the patterns I identified across programs in the process it took to build them (Guidebook), research relevant to a variety of reentry programs (Resources), and the methodology and process behind the project (About ReentryToolsNY). By making all this information accessible and understandable for the public, I hope to facilitate an explosion of reentry programs across New York State and connect people working in the field of reentry to make frontline reentry work easier and more accessible.
I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice -
in New York State and nationwide.
The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies. To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website.
What I hope you gain from this website
My hope is that everyone who comes to ReentryToolsNY gets excited about reentry, finds one thing that interests them, and adapts it to their local community. That could be something as large as building an entirely new reentry program, or something as small as changing the way you think about people who have been to jail. I'm always focused on improving and expanding the things available to help people, and I've built this website which that in mind. Everyone could learn something from ReentryToolsNY and hopefully this website helps us all connect and serve our communities better.
The History of ReentryToolsNY
ReentryToolsNY.com began in May 2022 as my (Darby Larkin's) Honors Thesis Portfolio project at UMass Amherst. The Honors Thesis at UMass is an original research project on a topic interesting to the student with a written document of some form that gets published at the conclusion of the project. The Thesis Portfolio is the creation of some 'creative artifact' along with this written document. This website, ReentryToolsNY, is my creative artifact! The version of this website first published in May 2022 is my (Darby Larkin) Honors Thesis. This version includes the following pages:
To create this thesis, I reviewed the literature on reentry, conducted and analyzed original interview research on reentry programs in Upstate NY, wrote Public Sociology/journalistic-style summaries of relevant research, and built this website. On the page About Darby you can read more about my journey to build this website, including the applications, forms, approvals, contracts, amazing Professors, and grant that helped make it happen. For more specific information on the thesis process, see the Overview section below.
After May 2022 I will continue adding resources and programs as I continue working in the field and learning about more reentry programs. This website is my thesis, but also my passion project! But seeing as it is a thesis, it included a lot of formal research, contracts, applications, and strong foundations in both theory and literature. Below I've included the formal methodology of the research project and a condensed literature review that established the need for this website.
NYS Criminal Justice Quick Guide
The Cycle Of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health in Jail
A Condensed Literature Review for the Context of ReentryToolsNY
‘Significance’ Section of Thesis Project for UMass Proposal for Second Semester of Thesis
The Urgency of Jail Reentry in Upstate
(explanation of the research, data collection, and analysis behind this project)
Here I will detail the research methodology for the research that is presented in this website in May 2022. This author, Darby Larkin, used research and qualitative data collection and analysis to study several reentry programs in Upstate New York. The data from this research is presented in the Programs section on this website. Each article in the Programs section presents the research on each program studied.
Below is a Table of Contents for the Methods section - please feel free to use the buttons on the right to skip around and read whatever interests you!
Table of Contents for methodology
Overview of the Project and Intended Final Product
A Guide to Building Reentry Programs for County Jail Populations in Upstate NY
This guide promotes the growth and expansion of reentry programs across New York State and the country by providing details on the structure and creation process for programs that currently run across Upstate New York in a case study style. I gathered my own research data from frontline workers in the field to encourage a model of program and policy development for reentry programs grounded in learning from other programs. I have synthesized the experiences of people involved in the creation and running of reentry services with my own translation of academic research and concepts pertaining to criminal justice for a wide variety of audiences. ReentryToolsNY.com is centered on practical tools and accessibility, with specific and action-oriented concepts for building programs and easy-to-read references and summaries of important research. The website is designed for a wide variety of audiences, including the general population. In this way, ReentryToolsNY.com serves as an axis of resources and information, a journalistic work of Public Sociology bringing together relevant academics and my own fresh research on the logistical process of reentry program creation.
This project began as an Honors Thesis...
I investigated several reentry programs in Upstate New York that work with county jail populations through interviews with reentry service providers. The goal of this research is to ultimately create a central guide to building and expanding reentry programs across Upstate New York to facilitate an explosion of reentry-related services. ReentryToolsNY.com is this guide in the form of a website, presenting my own original research as well as other relevant research and multimedia publications that could aid the field of reentry.
I published the Honors Thesis published in May 2022 as the first version of this website, ReentryToolsNY.com.
Today, the project continues...
After May 2022, I continue to add to the website. Throughout my career and in my free time I'm adding more information on existing programs in Upstate New York, more information I learn on the job, and more resources. These changes are made by me as an independent researcher, outside the purview of the Honors Thesis and no longer sponsored by UMass Amherst.
The Thesis Process
Qualitative Interviews of Reentry Service Providers
This project was an Honors Thesis Portfolio for the Commonwealth Honors College at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The Faculty Sponsor and Thesis Committee Chair was Joshua Kaiser, Professor Sociology at UMass Amherst. Also recruited to Darby’s Honors Thesis Committee, a panel of UMass Amherst faculty to assist in the thesis process, were Millicent Thayer and Jane Pendergast. Honors Thesis Portfolios consist of research endeavors led by the student to produce a 'creative artifact' and a written component to explain the research process and give legitimacy to the artifact. Darby created ReentryToolsNY.com, a guide to building reentry programs for county jail populations in Upstate New York, as a creative artifact.
My own experience working with reentry programs in Upstate New York and my review of the relevant literature has influenced my choice of audience: anyone who is motivated enough to get involved in reentry services. This can include formal employees at a jail, like a correctional officer, social worker, or medical staff. This can also include a person working with a jail to be formally hired as a reentry coordinator, as is the case with Albany county jail’s services. Or, the audience could be a formerly incarcerated person wanting to change the system they experienced - as is the case in Saratoga county. Further still, this could be a motivated and passionate community member who wants to see a change, as is the case in Columbia and Broome counties. At the most formal level, this could also be the Sheriff or jail administration in a county looking to build reentry programs.
The Research Process
Qualitative Interviews of Reentry Service Providers
The backbone of ReentryToolsNY.com is my investigation into reentry services for county jail populations in Upstate New York directly from the mouths and perspectives of the people who built them. I conducted 15 interviews with people involved in reentry programs, both in and outside county jails, across 7 counties in the summer of 2021. Some interviews took place over Zoom, and others I traveled around Upstate to conduct in-person. The content of these interviews focused on how the programs were created, how they run and are organized now, and tips for building similar programs in the future. This involved gaining approval from UMass Amherst’s IRB and Human Research Protection Office, creating interview guides and informed consent forms, researching existing programs, and reaching out to practitioners for interviews.
In Upstate New York, reentry programs encompass a huge range of programs including case management, criminal and addictive thinking courses, yoga classes, and post-release support groups. The literature and research on reentry suggests all types of programs impact an individual’s chances of successful reentry. Target participants for this research were people over the age of 18 involved in programs focused on reentry currently working with people in or released from county jails in Upstate New York. To begin, I conducted online research to make a list of reentry programs in Upstate New York, especially those in the area around my home for travel convenience (as I hoped to conduct as many interviews in person as possible). I searched for contact information for these programs online. I also had preexisting connections to several reentry programs because of my work at the time. I was an intern for ABLE, a reentry case management program in Warren County, New York and had already made connections with several other reentry providers. I sought out even more participants through snowball sampling. When interviewing a participant, I would ask if they knew of any other reentry providers in the area who may be interested in being interviewed about their reentry program. With this list of potential participants, I reached out via the contact information to which I had access. The final participants for the research became the people who answered my inquiries.
To be allowed to conduct this research in the first place, I received approval from the UMass Amherst Human Research Protections Office and Institutional Review Board (IRB) as well as a formal determination letter from the IRB stating that this research was exempt from the federal regulations that govern human subjects research. For these interviews I created an Informed Consent Form that assured confidentiality as well as anonymity for participants, with the option for participants to instead provide some way to be identified in the publication (including with their real name, agency, and position if they so chose).
Before beginning this qualitative research, I designed a general interview guide to focus on the current structure, process, and implementation of the program the participant was involved in as well as the logistical process followed to create and expand the program. Before each individual interview, I conducted online research about the reentry program and the participant and designed an interview guide specifically for that interview to ask relevant questions about their program. I asked for in-depth information about funding availability and applications, decisions about structure of the program, participant recruitment to the program, and specific people or agencies involved in the creation. Most of my interviews were conducted in-person, for which I traveled to or near the offices of the program about which I was interviewing.
During the summer of 2021 I interviewed eleven people from seven counties in the State of New York. During Winter 2022 I conducted two follow-up interviews with participants to flesh out more details and specifics to these overviews. During the spring of 2022 I conducted a few additional follow-up correspondences to finalize details and get feedback from my participants as I developed the website so it could be in constant conversation with my participants. This is to ensure it is as relevant and easy to use as possible. I audio recorded in-person interviews and audio- and video-recorded Zoom interviews. I used the audio and video recordings as well as transcriptions generated for the process of analysis. To analyze my interviews I used narrative analysis to open code and focused code my data. I then conceptualized and segmented the data to re-organize it into a format usable for the website guide.
Materials and Special Training
The Resources Used to Complete This Project
My primary materials to conduct this research were my smartphone, laptop, and car. I recorded my in-person interviews using an audio recording app called Otter.ai on my smartphone and used Zoom’s recording functionality to audio- and video-record Zoom interviews. I also used my laptop and smartphone, as well as paper and pen, to conduct research and data analysis. For traveling to interviews across New York I primarily used my own car. This research was supported by an Honors Research Grant from UMass Amherst received in May 2021. Funds were provided for gas money for travel, laptop repairs in preparation for my summer of interviews, and any potential car repairs needed. With the grant I was able to purchase a new laptop when my pre-existing laptop had several hardware failures, and to begin traveling around Upstate conducting my interviews.
I have also received various kinds of specialized training that prepared me to complete the different facets of my thesis project, both in academic and real-world settings. In the spring of 2020, I completed the UMass Amherst Honors research seminar class ‘Interviewing as a Research Tool’ (391AH) with an experienced interviewer and researcher. Through conducting my own research project as part of the class, I studied the ethical considerations of interviewing, project proposal-writing, created informed consent forms and interview guides, and practiced interview analysis and the presentation of findings. In the spring of 2021 I participated in the UMass Amherst Sociology class ‘Field Research Methods’ with another experienced interviewer and a future member of my Honors Thesis Committee, Professor Millie Thayer. I studied, and once again practiced, the academic and theoretical foundations of qualitative research, the ethical considerations at every stage of an interviewing project, and developing rapport with participants. For the final project I chose to interview a prison employee, further strengthening my skills in the arena of criminal justice interviewing.
My interview project required an IRB protocol, as previously mentioned. I had multiple conversations with UMass HRPO personnel and my thesis committee to develop a plan and proposal in the spring of 2021. I submitted a Determination Form and an IRB Protocol submission and received approval with 'exempt' status. I completed the UMass CITIProgram virtual training "Social and Behavioral Research Investigators and Key Personnel" which trains students and faculty to conduct research in the field of social and behavioral science. For this research project, my summer 2021 in-person internship at Warren County Jail (internship not affiliated with UMass), and my UMass-credited internship at Hampshire County Jail in spring 2022 I signed UMass Field Experience Risk Acknowledgement Forms.
Culturally and socially this research also required training not only to engage with my participants and my intended audience, but also to know where to look and what information may or may not be important. The population of service providers and jail staff I interviewed work with some of the most vulnerable populations in our country. The work they do is very complicated and often takes place at an intersection of NYS Office of Mental Health and Office of Addiction Supports and Services requirements, agency regulations, Department of Corrections guidelines, funding structures, and political landscapes in Upstate New York. I've worked hard to put myself in positions and train in specific ways to be able to navigate and understand this landscape. In November 2020 I created an internship with the ABLE Reentry Program in Warren County jail, meeting in-person with inmates and jail staff and working to expand the programs and opportunities for inmates. This was not a preexisting internship so I created it – I contacted the woman who runs the program, asked to learn more about the program, and asked if I could assist her in any and all ways possible. This prepared me to engage with a wide variety of people and exposed me to the structure and politics of an Upstate County and the politics and process behind running a reentry program. To enter Warren County jail I also completed a criminal background check, drug test, and security clearance procedure. I was also employed by the outpatient recovery center that created ABLE, and gained formal training and experience with HIPAA, a direct service setting, and the language used by treatment and reentry providers. This work placed me within a network of service providers, agencies, and nonprofits in Upstate New York who work with justice-involved people. My work expanding services in Warren County jail and at ABLE made me recognizable to reentry providers in the surrounding area. My perspective on reentry programs has also been heavily informed by my extensive internship and work with the ABLE Case Management reentry program in Warren County Jail.