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Network Integration within a Prison-Based Therapeutic Community

Published onJan 31, 2021
Network Integration within a Prison-Based Therapeutic Community
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Network integration within a prison-based therapeutic community
Description

Prison-based therapeutic communities (TCs) are a widespread, effective way to help incarcerated individuals address substance abuse problems. The TC philosophy is grounded in an explicitly relational paradigm that entails building community and conditioning residents to increasingly take responsibility for leadership therein. Although TCs are based on cultivating a network that continuously integrates new residents, many common structural features can jeopardize TC goals and are hence discouraged (e.g., clustering, homophily). In light of this tension, analyzing the TC from a network perspective can offer new insights to its functioning, as well as to broader questions surrounding how networks integrate new members. In this study we examine a men’s TC unit in a Pennsylvania prison over a 10-month span. Using data on residents’ informal networks, we examine: (1) how well individuals integrate into the TC network across time, (2) what predicts how well residents integrate into the TC, and (3) how well the TC network structure adheres to theoretical ideals. Results suggest that individual integration is driven by a range of hypothesized factors and, with limited exceptions, the observed TC is able to foster a network structure and integrate residents consistent with TC principles. We discuss the implications of these results for evaluating TCs and for understanding the process of network integration.

 

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