Re-entry Experiences in Western Canada (2022–)

The University of Alberta Prison Project (UAPP) is currently undertaking a large-scale, longitudinal project examining the factors contributing to the successes/barriers of community re-entry among people released from provincial prisons (remand and sentenced) in Alberta – acknowledging that provincial prisoners account for most people released and reintegrating across the country.

For those released from prison, there is a large and growing infrastructure of services aimed at assisting re-entry. However, there is no systematic longitudinal research that examines the factors that might contribute to successful re-entry into Canadian society, or alternatively, the factors that might contribute to why people return to prison. Consequently, we currently lack a systematic understanding of the unique challenges for re-entry related to factors such as social connections, employment, race, housing, health, and other domains that have been studied in other countries. This leaves Canadian scholars, ministries, and policy makers in a situation where evidence-based suggestions about the services needed to support successful re-entry and disrupt recidivism cannot be made. Our current knowledge about re-entry is largely based on studies conducted in the US and Europe. The findings from these studies are not easily transferrable to the Canadian context or suitable for understanding how people in Canada experience re-entry and recidivism.

Our study, the first of its kind in Canada, examines the following questions in the Albertan context:

  1. What barriers do incarcerated people anticipate when re-entering society and how do these differ across different populations?
  2. What programs/services/factors do incarcerated people anticipate being helpful/beneficial during their re-entry and how do these differ across different populations?
  3. How do the factors participants have identified during their baseline interview/survey in prison change during their actual experience during their first year of re-entry?

We use a mixed-methods approach to examine the barriers to successful reintegration, and conversely, the aspects that contribute to successful re-entry among provincially incarcerated / released men and women in Alberta. Both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of our study follow a longitudinal design, with the first baseline survey/interview being conducted in prison (on release day) and follow-up surveys/interviews being conducted in the community post-release (about 2 weeks post release, 2 months post release, 4 months post release, 6 months post release, and one year post release). This design allows us to capture a person’s re-entry experience for the first-year post prison and matches the design of the most prominent international studies.

At the time of this writing (May 2024), we have recruited almost 500 participants to the study and are aiming for a sample of 1000 people representing 30% of the provincial prison population.