Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Drakich, J.


Sociology, Criminology and Penology.




The purpose of this research is to explore the identity of life-sentenced inmates ('lifers') after they are released from prison and the impact of identity on reintegration. This research is based on the literature that argues that inmates develop a convict identity while in prison. Few studies, however, follow these convicts after they are released; thus, little is known about the fate of the convict identity. Based on role exit theory and role transition literature, it was expected that lifers would be required to shed their identity as lifers and assume a straight identity for successful reintegration. Seven lifers were interviewed about their identities. The main findings of this research reveal that a unique lifer identity exists in prison, survives the release date, and that identity plays a role in reintegration. The findings of this research suggest that identity needs to be addressed in correctional programming and policies. Identity post-release is a contested terrain in which lifers struggle between acquiring a straight identity and shedding their lifer identity. The continued connection to a lifer identity poses problems for acquiring a straight identity and successful reintegration---for example, locating and maintaining employment, obtaining housing once fully paroled, acquiring relationships with age appropriate and non-criminal individuals, and re-establishing familial and romantic relationships. This study contributes to both role transition literature and reintegration literature. In particular, the experience of lifers identifies weaknesses in Ebaugh's (1988) role exit theory and extends our understanding of identity post-release and the role it plays in reintegration.Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis2003 .B75. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 42-02, page: 0479. Adviser: Janice Drakich. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 2003.