Prisoner Reentry at Work: Adding Business to the Mix M. Delgado. London: Lynne Rienner (2012) 241pp. £47.50hb ISBN 978‐1‐58826‐818‐1

Date01 May 2016
Published date01 May 2016
The Howard Journal Vol55 No 1–2. May 2016
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 255–263
Book Reviews
Prisoner Reentry at Work: Adding Business to the Mix M. Delgado. London: Lynne Rienner
(2012) 241pp. £47.50hb ISBN 978-1-58826-818-1
This book describes the difficulties faced by people re-entering the community after
a period of custody. Melvin Delgado provides a detailed and accessible view of the
nature of the challenges of re-entry, the disproportionate impact of these challenges
on people of colour, and the structural systems that maintain and exacerbate the social
exclusion of individuals long after they have served their sentence. Delgado draws on
studies from a variety of jurisdictions, including Norway,Canada, Australia and the UK.
He acknowledges and explains the antithetical nature of the legislation and practices
that regulate prison leavers, but also highlights examples of profit-oriented businesses
that are, nonetheless, operating in a way that is socially conscientious. The book gives
examples of how business can be an important part of the support networks for a socially
marginalised group of people, and it unashamedly seeks to cultivate enthusiasm for these
efforts within its readers.
Delgado’s work combines an academic literature review and commentary, with prac-
tical guidance for practitioners of social enterprise. Its cross-purpose delivery provides
a dual lens that means the book will appeal to a broad readership. Delgado’s approach
of combining analysis of specific practices alongside broader academic overview is in
contrast to what Delgado describes as the government’s propensity to ‘compartmentalize
social problems’ (p.12). He is consistent in his calls for increased understanding about the
struggles of routes out of crime. He argues that effective solutions are unlikely without
this understanding.
Tothis end, Delgado examines the prospects for desistance-oriented prisoner release
by drawing on ideas from a range of disciplines and varied perspectives, including
county,State and federal levels. Within this broad lens of inquiry, the absence of a victim
perspective seems surprising. Delgado advocates for a paradigmatic shift away from
deficits, towards assets (p.177). It would have been especially interesting to see how
the perspectives and experiences of victims within a socially collaborative and cohesive
approach to reducing barriers to re-entry might have shaped this analysis. The absence
of this perspective within the book implies that there is a presumed difference between
the ‘victim’ and ‘offender’ perspective when this is not necessarily so.
Delgado explores the ‘employment mind-set’ of prison leavers (p.56) as one of the
deficits that can result from incarceration. He situates his examination of the ‘employ-
ment mind-set’ within the economically-deprived social contexts to which many people
return after release from prison. This context can result in financial hardship for those
who choose to ‘go straight’. Delgado recognises that addressing the economic barriers
to re-entry will require a ‘major financial commitment on the part of government at all
levels’ (p.89) and that this can be difficult because of public and political perceptions of
‘unworthiness’ about prisoners as recipients of public money. This multi-faceted cover-
age brings to the fore connections between problems of micro and macro scale as well as
the necessity of action in both of these planes if improvement is to be achieved.
2016 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK

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