Seim publishes research on prisoner reentry

PhD Candidate Josh Seim published his paper, "Short-timing: The carceral experience of soon-to-be-released prisoners," in Punishment and Society.


Abstract: Roughly 700,000 people are released from American prisons every year, yet we know little about their ground-level experiences at or near the moment of exit. This ethnographic study fills part of the gap by examining the aspirations and corresponding actions of soon-to-be-released prisoners, ‘‘short-timers.’’ While previous research suggests this population wants a ‘‘successful reentry,’’ few have detailed such a desire beyond its obvious mismatch with life chances. I show that in addition to verbalizing lucid hopes and plans for the ‘‘straight life,’’ short-timers act in reference to these aspirations while incarcerated by drawing on two meager resources: family and penitentiary. Such aspirations and actions are not markers of ignorance. Instead, I argue that they signal a practical orientation in a world where staff dominate inmates. In friction with the durable forces of inmate objectification, short-timers can use future-oriented perceptions and practices to realize some degree of selfhood. Meanwhile, their custodians, who are never committed to despotic control or total mortification, impose complementary lessons in personal responsibility through the discourse of prisoner reentry. Besides spotlighting a rarely studied moment in prison, I offer a model for how prisoner subjectivity emerges as both a rejection and product of penal power.