Re-entry as performance: Reflections from Institution X

Adi Barak, Amy Stebbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This qualitative research study explores prisoner and rehabilitation staff perspectives (N=26) on the phenomenon of ‘change’ as a mode of enforced performance in a work release programme in Illinois. Research questions were developed on the basis of a prolonged encounter with re-entering ex-offenders during a project that combined theatre and research. Bringing together two distinct disciplines – Performance Studies and Critical Social Policy – we explore the extent to which re-entering prisoners and rehabilitation staff conceive of their work release programme as enforcing a performance of change into a rehabilitated self. Our results show that all participants feel that the programme enforces such a performance. However, some saw this performance as truly transformative, while others considered it politically oppressive and instrumental. Language performance in particular was considered a strictly imposed demand on prisoners, mostly black, who were advised not to use Ebonics outside of the facility. Implications for policy are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-309
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • incarceration
  • performance
  • prisoners
  • re-entry
  • work release programme


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