Dissertation

Brokering Freedom: An Organizational Case Study of A Reentry Organization 

My dissertation focuses on an emerging type of social enterprise — the reentry organization. Sometimes quasi-charitable or faith-based, reentry organizations are public-private partnerships that purport to broker the social and cultural capital that the formerly incarcerated are perceived to lack. Thus, these organizations could represent entry points for the formerly incarcerated to gain access to work or education in their bid to reintegrate into society and avoid a return to incarceration. This dissertation highlights the link between a highly topical problem — the mass incarceration of minority men and women — to a larger organizational theory concept, the brokerage of social and cultural capital by organizations. The dissertation also advances the sociological study of stigma by undertaking to study not merely how stigma is acquired, but also how a particular outgroup might utilize membership in an organization to surmount or ameliorate said stigma in the pursuit of social inclusion.

I employed ethnographic research spanning a 16 month period. I also conducted in-depth interviews of the formerly incarcerated, case workers, and reentry officials. I deployed an organizational case study of one such reentry organization to examine how such an organization might broker the necessary resources and tools its clientele required to become productive members of society. In addition to organizational theory and critical legal theory, this interdisciplinary dissertation also parses public policy and social attitudes towards health (both mental and physical), particularly in relation to the reentry efforts of the formerly incarcerated. The dissertation complicates the idea that social and cultural brokerage is instrumental to network efficiency and social mobility by demonstrating how the organizational environment of the brokering organization plays an important part in what social and cultural is brokered and in what manner the social and cultural capital may be employed by the outgroup. The dissertation also examines the often overlooked role of gender in the process of reentry for formerly incarcerated women.

The insights from my dissertation hold broad value for the integration of other outgroups into the workplace to increase diversity and foster continued innovation in the workplace. The dissertation speaks to how public-private partnerships may be mobilized to solve the social problem of integrating marginalized groups. Additionally, the dissertation explores challenges faced by social entrepreneurship organizations in the deliverance of social goods.

Synergistic Activities:

– I helped organize and moderate the academic panel for the inaugural Business and Reentry conference at Columbia Business School headed by Professor Damon Phillips and supported by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School and the Columbia University Center for Justice.

– One chapter of my dissertation has already been published in the Fordham Law Review, one other chapter is under review at a peer-reviewed journal.

– Stemming from my dissertation research, I have published an op-ed with the Washington Examiner calling for college administrators to examine how criminal records are used in the college applications process.