Criminology & Criminal Justice
© The Author(s) 2021
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in a sample of Israeli parolees
on completion of their term
of supervision: A qualitative
Ashkelon Academic College, Israel
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, NY, USA
For many released prisoners, the period following release is characterized by extreme challenges.
The ability to overcome such challenges depends on the services, level of supervision, and
type of support available. One type of support offered by the Israeli Prisoners’ Rehabilitation
Authority provides a supervisory and rehabilitative framework for reintegration after release
from imprisonment, with an emphasis on employment. The present study examines the
subjective experiences of ex-prisoners on their journey from incarceration through reentry
and reintegration while participating in supervision, treatment, and employment intervention
operated by the Israeli Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Authority. Semi-structured interviews were
conducted with a sample of released prisoners who successfully completed Israeli Prisoners’
Rehabilitation Authority supervision between 2014 and 2019. The interviews reveal four main
themes that in turn identify pathways to “better lives” through the reintegration process.
Employment intervention, reentry, reintegration, released prisoners, supervision, psychological
Ronit Peled-Laskov, Ashkelon Academic College, 78211 Ashkelon, Israel.
1055975CRJ0010.1177/17488958211055975Criminology & Criminal JusticePeled-Laskov et al.
2 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
Many released prisoners encounter difficulties after their release from prison that impede
the reintegration process. Overcoming such difficulties depends on the individual’s abili-
ties, motivation and mental state, as well as the social environment’s willingness to assist
in the reintegration process (McNeill, 2016), the rehabilitative and therapeutic milieu,
and the level of supervision and guidance provided (Seiter and Kadela, 2003; Visher and
Rehabilitation is a specific process intended to enable participants to resume and prac-
tice a normative and healthy lifestyle and activities. In the penological literature, this
concept is further developed into stages of reentry and reintegration, the latter referring
to the long process of reintegrating into normative society as a law-abiding citizen,
desisting from crime (LeBel et al., 2008; Maruna, 2001; Sampson and Laub, 2003) and
exhibiting full recovery (White and Kurtz, 2005).
Specifically, rehabilitation, reentry, reintegration, and desistance from crime are
viewed as related concepts that describe an evolving process. Rehabilitation describes
the initial process that targets the needs of the offender as identified by the intake pro-
cess, and will vary in depth and duration of intervention until the point of reentry (usu-
ally, the date of release back into the community). A successful rehabilitative intervention
while incarcerated may culminate in early reentry followed by the reintegration process,
a process of assimilation that will vary in duration depending on the strengths and weak-
nesses of the individual and the conditions of their release (Gideon and Sung, 2011;
Travis, 2005). Successful reintegration means that the individual refrains from criminal
involvement while assuming normative roles in society that symbolize their desistance
from crime. Such desistance involves breaking away from old connections while making
good (Maruna, 2001).
One theoretical model aimed at rehabilitating offenders and reducing their recidivism
is the good lives model (GLM; Ward and Stewart, 2003). According to this model, reha-
bilitation of offenders should focus on those means that will enable them to better live
their lives while improving their well-being and quality of life, which in turn will reduce
their risk of recidivism (see Ward and Maruna, 2007). Accordingly, setting modest and
attainable goals, such as securing a job, taking up new hobbies, and being exposed to
new experiences, will assist the individual in moving forward and building new life,
rather than simply desisting and “floating” (Healy, 2014; Weaver, 2013, 2015).
The GLM approach to rehabilitation sees desistance from crime as a by-product of
major positive life events experienced by the individual offender (Cullen, 2012; Laub
et al., 2006). For example, Laub and Sampson (1993), in their age-graded theory, argue
that marriage, stable and meaningful employment, and military service are key turning
points that lead to desistance from crime (Doherty, 2006). Such explanations were fur-
ther developed into desistance theories (Bersani and Doherty, 2018; Broidy and
Cauffman, 2017; LeBel et al., 2008; Maruna, 2001; Segev, 2018) that describe a gradual
process that is completed when criminality is no longer manifested.
Specifically, desistance theories distinguish between primary desistance (temporary
desistance from delinquent and criminal behavior) and secondary desistance (active
Peled-Laskov et al. 3
participation in intervention programs that communicate a normative lifestyle). Such
theories assume that it is essential to examine the overall lifestyle of the individual after
the intervention program is completed (Rhine et al., 2017). They also assume that suc-
cessful transition from primary to secondary desistance (Maruna and Farrall, 2004) does
not guarantee tertiary (final) desistance, which includes broad social acknowledgment of
change (McNeill, 2016).
The initial stage in desistance from crime is hope (Farrall et al., 2014), this being a
time when the aims of the individual undergoing rehabilitation are still unclear and
unconsolidated; he is preoccupied principally by what he does not want to do (e.g. return
to prison, disappoint those around him). Later, as the rehabilitation process advances,
and with the help of support agents, expectations and goals regarding the future begin to
take shape (Farrall and Calverley, 2006). The more these are fulfilled, the more hope
increases and becomes integral to the rehabilitation process (Gålnander, 2020). In con-
trast, a failure to achieve aims (the “pains of desistance”) can drive the individual to
despair (Nugent and Schinkel, 2016).
The aim of this study is to gain insight into the experiences of individuals who have
participated in the supervision and employment guidance programs operated by the
Israeli Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Authority (IPRA). This will further our understanding of
their rehabilitation, reentry, and reintegration process, from their time of incarceration up
to and beyond completion of mandatory supervision. Such insight will facilitate the iden-
tification of factors that may have a positive effect on that process and lead these indi-
viduals to a life free from crime.
The Israeli Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Community
Unlike many rehabilitation programs throughout the world, those geared toward paroled
prisoners in Israel are not operated by volunteer agencies acting in varying degrees of
coordination, such as the Second Chance Act in several US states (D’Amico and Kim,
2018). Instead, they have been mandated by law since 1983 (The Prisoner Rehabilitation
Authority Act, 5743-1983, 1983) with agencies spread across the country. Prisoners who
wish to earn early release on parole apply to the parole board after serving approximately
two-thirds of their sentence. Among many things considered by the board when making
their decisions are risk of recidivism, behavioral infractions during the period of impris-
onment, active participation in prison intervention programs, such as educational, pro-
fessional, substance abuse, anger management, and other therapeutic and rehabilitative
programs. This has led some to argue that prisoners seeking parole are driven by external
motivation (Ryan and Deci, 2008) to take part in the rehabilitation programs offered.
Nevertheless, their participation and subsequent release on parole requires them to
remain under the supervision of the IPRA throughout the set period (i.e. the remaining
one-third of the original sentence) while also being supervised in the community (e.g. in
a seamless system of care).
From 2004 to 2013, conditional parole was granted to about 36% of sentenced offend-
ers in Israeli prisons each year (Timor and Nagar, 2014). The vast majority of paroled
4 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
offenders were mandated to participate in a rehabilitation program organized by the
IPRA and to remain under its supervision.
The IPRA operates in a dual capacity as a supervising and reintegration agency
that assists released prisoners, regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliation, to
reassimilate into the normative community. The IPRA program combines supervision
and treatment with a strong emphasis on employment integration. IPRA counselors,
who are responsible for the therapeutic aspects of the programs, meet with eligible
prisoners during their incarceration periods for interviews, assessment and evaluation
of various reports and intake summaries. Eligible prisoners are those who express
interest, motivation, and commitment to the IPRA program; they are required to
understand, accept, and adhere to the conditions set by the counselors assigned to
them. Thus, prisoners who participate in the program do so voluntarily, with the full
understanding that the reduction of their prison sentence is dependent on that
A tailored therapeutic program for the individual is then presented to the parole board
for approval. Once this review is completed and approved, the prisoner is released con-
ditionally (i.e. on license) and subject to the supervision of the IPRA, which is mandated
to provide quarterly progress reports to the parole board.
Successful reintegration into the normative community requires the individual to
change his thought processes, social perceptions, and behavior (Shoham and Timor,
2014). Such change is essential when dealing with convicted criminals, who are accus-
tomed to non-normative ways of thinking and manifest non-normative behavior (Ward
and Maruna, 2007). Accordingly, as part of the conditions of release, an ex-prisoner is
expected to participate in an individually tailored psychological treatment program cor-
responding to the conviction. In many cases, the individual is mandated to attend at least
two weekly therapeutic sessions, one of individual treatment and one of group therapy,
each lasting 50 minutes.
The supervisory and rehabilitative program is prepared by treatment staff and employ-
ment counselors. As mentioned earlier, entry into the program is voluntary and requires
acceptance of the treatment and supervision protocol. In addition, participants are
required to be drug-free for a period of at least 6 months prior to release (Peled-Laskov
et al., 2019).
The program was developed in response to difficulties experienced by many released
prisoners when seeking meaningful employment, due to factors including stigma, poor
prior employment background, limited skills, low wages, and unrealistic expectations for
rapid promotion (Davis et al., 2014; Lucken and Ponte, 2008; Pager et al., 2009; Seiter
and Kadela, 2003). In the development of the program, securing meaningful employ-
ment was regarded as a crucial step in rehabilitation, reintegration, and assimilation
(Duwe, 2015; Gillis and Nafekh, 2005; Laub and Sampson, 1993). Thus, the IPRA estab-
lished a counseling initiative run by employment counselors who advise and supervise
ex-prisoners while providing them with the necessary support for finding and maintain-
ing employment (Efodi, 2014). Such a system is essential if ex-prisoners are to assimi-
late into the workforce and persevere in their employment (Peled-Laskov and Bialer,
Peled-Laskov et al. 5
The current study
Evaluating employment reintegration and recidivism of ex-prisoner found positive out-
comes related to successful reintegration among ex-prisoners who were under IPRA
supervision and who participated in its employment programs (Peled-Laskov et al.,
2019). Specifically, positive outcomes were identified regarding reintegration, length of
reported employment, higher overall average income and lower imprisonment rates. Yet
the study failed to focus on actual subjective views and experiences of the prisoners,
missing the opportunity to gain important insights into the actual experiences during the
program to assess its strength and weaknesses. The present study aims to fill this gap by
examining the subjective perceptions and experiences of ex-prisoners on their journey
from incarceration through reentry and reintegration while participating in an IPRA
supervision, treatment, and employment intervention. It thereby seeks to identify influ-
ences that may have a constructive effect on the reintegration process and help lead the
participants to a normative life.
In addition, the study identifies factors that contributed to, or impeded, the rehabilita-
tion and reintegration process, as well as the level of satisfaction obtained from employ-
ment. The latter consideration is of great importance, as many ex-prisoners reintegrate
into the least skilled sectors of employment as laborers (Ramakers et al., 2016). Unlike
other recent studies (e.g. Farrall et al., 2014; Gålnander, 2020; Nugent and Schinkel,
2016), the present research focuses on prisoners’ perceptions regarding the course they
have pursued rather than on the process of desistance per se.
A list of eligible ex-prisoners who had completed their term of community supervision
and participated in the IPRA program between 2014 and 2019 (i.e. the sampling frame)
was obtained from the IPRA. Because of language limitations, the study focused on
Hebrew-speaking participants, and only Jewish men were sampled and interviewed.
Interviewing those who had completed the program provided insight into the process in
retrospect while avoiding the biases that can arise when interviewing individuals cur-
rently involved in a process. Participants were selected from the list at random, and no
additional participants were sought once saturation for the main themes had been reached.
The interviewees were 17 adult Jewish men aged between 22 and 77. Five of the
interviewees reported being single, nine divorced, and three married. Most reported
being fathers. Their level of education ranged from 9 to 17 years of formal schooling,
with six holding academic degrees. The interviewees had been convicted of crimes
including drug, robbery, aggravated assault, rape, and white-collar crimes. Accordingly,
the length of their supervision in the community varied from 4 to 18 months.
Data collection method
To gain insight into the experiences and perceptions of participants in the IPRA employ-
ment and supervision program and their assimilation and reintegration into a normative,
6 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
non-criminal way of life, a semi-structured interview was used, with an interviewer doc-
ument detailing the themes and topic to be covered. This method gives researchers the
flexibility to collect as much information as needed while remaining open to themes that
emerge unexpectedly, allowing them to explore certain themes in depth (Shkedi, 2003)
even in a single interview (Bernard, 2010). The interview guide included items exploring
themes regarding the prison experience, the period of supervision (e.g. availability and
supervision of IPRA treatment, finding employment, relationship with the employer, and
perceived benefit to the rehabilitation process), and the period immediately after the end
of supervision (e.g. employment, aspirations, and plans for the future). Other items cov-
ered demographics and personal background information.
The authors met with representatives of the IPRA to learn more about the program and
to secure permission to conduct the research. This step enabled the researchers to obtain
a valid sampling frame of eligible ex-prisoners who had completed the treatment and
supervision. It also provided access to potential interviewees, who were asked for their
consent to participate in the study and be interviewed by research staff. In compliance
with the Institutional Review Board of the parent institution where the researchers work,
complete, and total anonymity and confidentiality were guaranteed. Interviews were in
depth, with only the interviewer (the first author and a trained graduate research assis-
tant) and the person interviewed present. Interviews lasted approximately 1 hour on aver-
age and were documented verbatim in handwritten notes.
Analysis of the interviews was in three stages. First, all the interview notes were
evaluated by two raters (seasoned researchers and practitioners in the field of prisoner
rehabilitation) using the inter-rater/inter-observer reliability method to identify, classify,
and arrange the emerging themes. Next, each interview was analyzed separately by the
researchers, which resulted in the identification of a small number of additional themes.
Finally, the researchers compared the analyses of the interviews to finalize themes and
sub-themes, and to cross-match and verify any additional information of relevance that
may have been overlooked (Hsieh and Shannon, 2005).
Four main themes emerged, providing a broadly chronological view of the participants’
perceptions and expectations: (a) reentry and post-release challenges; (b) psychological
treatment provided by the IPRA; (c) employment during supervision; and (d) future
Reentry and post-release challenges
As in many studies that examine the challenges of reintegration after release, partici-
pants reported experiencing a range of difficulties regarding their marital and family
relationships, monetary debts, physical and mental health, and employment. One, con-
victed of assault, focused on the difficulty of leaving behind his social and criminal
Peled-Laskov et al. 7
environment (the “pains of isolation”; Nugent and Schinkel, 2016) and his plans for
I left all my friends. In time of need, a friend can come ask for a favor and then there are
problems. Now I don’t have friends, only my girlfriend and another couple. We go on dates
once or twice a week, and that is it. (Interviewee 9)
Another discussed the health issues he had to deal with upon his release:
When I got out of prison, I had bronchitis and it was difficult for me to function healthwise.
After I received medical treatment, I was on my feet again. (Interviewee 17)
Unfortunately, some were unable to overcome their medical and health issues, which
also took its toll on their financial situation, as one, convicted of assault, reported:
My mental health and health situation are not 100%. I have difficulties recovering due to what
I went through. Only trouble and debts . . . Had to pay 50,000 in reparations for the victim. Too
much for me, all of this . . . If not for my family, I would not be here . . . I’m a wreck. I cannot
get over the situation, cannot support myself. My mom keeps me with my wife and kids. I can’t
even make the regular payments. My home [my family] is falling apart. I am currently in
psychiatric treatment . . . even if I wanted to begin rehabilitation, I just can’t do it because of
all the debts, banks and all of that . . . (Interviewee 10)
Another participant, the owner of a well-known factory, had been on the verge of
despair in having to deal with major financial difficulties. He was able to recover only
with the support of his new spouse and family members:
It was the most difficult time of my life. I saw that I couldn’t lift up the business; banks won’t
give you credit, everywhere is closed and sealed. You’re paralyzed and no one understands you.
I wanted to die when I hit rock bottom. I have a new wife and a three-year-old son. I thought
about what this would do to them. The family helped me. Within 3–4 months your head starts
thinking like it did before. With God’s help and strong belief, God will not let me fail.
In summary, these testimonials confirm the various impediments and difficulties in
reintegrating after release from prison that are well documented in the literature (Nugent
and Schinkel, 2016; Visher and Courtney, 2006). While many can overcome such imped-
iments with informal support from family and friends, others require further care from
formal support systems, such as the IPRA, or even intensive psychiatric care.
Psychological treatment provided by the IPRA
Experiences with the IPRA and its staff took central stage in the interviews, with a major-
ity of the interviewees (14 participants) reporting a positive experience overall:
IPRA supervision works. IPRA staff are doing a great job, they are trying to do everything they
can to prevent a prisoner from going back to where he was before. Everyone at IPRA was
amazing. (Interviewee 5)
8 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
Individual therapy sessions. Twelve interviewees (including five convicted of white-collar
crimes) praised the individual therapy sessions they had with IPRA social workers, cred-
iting these sessions with a great positive influence. One, convicted of property crimes,
claimed that these sessions had changed his life perceptions and positively affected his
behavior and outlook:
Talking [with the social worker] helped, now I view life completely different, I do not fight with
anyone, [I] behave at work. (Interviewee 2)
Positive attitudes toward the program were evident in interviewees who said that they
wanted to continue with the treatment to continue bettering themselves and to improve
their ability to cope with personal issues while avoiding criminal activity and behavior.
One, convicted of drug-related crimes, said,
[I now] understand things differently, and this is all thanks to the intervention. A change in
thinking, understanding and moving thoughts; bad thoughts that flood your mind; victimization
thoughts, I was able to move it all [overcome these negative thoughts]. (Interviewee 1)
The individual treatment sessions with IPRA social workers affected perceptions and
fostered a sense of accountability, as well as of interactions and relations with others, as
reported by one interviewee, convicted of property crimes:
The period of supervision changed my views on life. I was closed [did not communicate], the
sessions with the social worker, it helped, it affected my relationship with my spouse, I felt
responsible . . . I wanted to prove myself. (Interviewee 15)
In summary, most of the interviewees expressed high levels of satisfaction with their
individual sessions with IPRA social workers. Their accounts support the view that indi-
vidual sessions bring much-needed changes to perceptions and ways of thinking and
behaving, and thus have a positive effect on reintegration into normative society: “I
waited for these meetings” (Interviewee 5). Yet, there were a few participants who
viewed these sessions as onerous and a waste of time.
Group therapy sessions. Seven interviewees (including three convicted of white-collar
crimes) expressed satisfaction with the group sessions, emphasizing that group therapy
had prompted them to admit responsibility for their wrongdoing while enabling them to
receive guidance from other group members. Taking part in group therapy also allowed
individuals in similar situations to share their experiences more easily, being empathetic
to others and easing their own mental burden. For example, one interviewee, convicted
of domestic violence, reported being so satisfied with the group sessions that he contin-
ues to attend them voluntarily, even though he is no longer required to do so. He noted
the value of the positive support and feedback he receives from the group:
You have a [safe] place where you can share with everyone, and I also gave my word that I will
not continue with the crime I had done. A burden has been lifted. It makes me feel good.
Peled-Laskov et al. 9
Another interviewee, convicted of violent crimes, viewed the group sessions as a
valuable opportunity to learn from the experiences of others:
Group therapy is like talking to friends. You learn from others like you what you can and cannot
do. I liked the group therapy more. . . . You must learn and internalize things . . . (Interviewee 9)
One participant, a retired army officer with an advanced degree who was convicted of
white-collar crimes, compared two types of intervention sessions offered by the IPRA:
Both individual and group sessions were very good and effective. They both changed me a lot,
way more than prison did. If they would only convert some of the prison sentence either to
group therapy or individual therapy sessions, like they do in IPRA, meaning less prison and
more IPRA [intervention] that helps create a citizen who is more connected to society . . . that
would have been much better. (Interviewee 16)
A few interviewees attributed a lesser effect to the group sessions compared with the
individual therapeutic sessions:
The individual therapeutic sessions provided by IPRA helped me a lot; the group sessions had
less effect on me. (Interviewee 7)
This experience can be attributed to the fact that inclusion in the group sessions is
determined by the crimes the individuals were convicted of, which affects the group
dynamic and its efficiency in delivering therapeutic content. One of the interviewees, a
retired army major with a bachelor’s degree explained:
The group did not help me. I was unable to find my place in that group because they are in a
completely different state-of-mind than me. It did me no good. (Interviewee 12)
One other participant described the group sessions as a “waste of time” (Interviewee 17).
Thus, a majority of the participants indicated that they had benefited from the group
sessions, which enabled them to learn from the experiences of others while getting others
to listen to them, show empathy and provide social affirmation. Nevertheless, two par-
ticipants viewed these group sessions as useless and a waste of time.
Employment during supervision
Acknowledging the importance of meaningful employment in the reintegration process
is at the heart of the IPRA. Accordingly, almost all its rehabilitation programs contain an
employment component. This section discusses the experiences reported by individuals
who took part in employment and mandated supervision by the IPRA as a condition of
Most job placements did not require any professional training. Some participants
worked in deliveries, fast-food stands, car washing, garage cleaning, and other unskilled
jobs. A majority of participants viewed these jobs as temporary and hoped to advance to
better and more respectable jobs at the end of the period of supervision, as one, an
accountant convicted of white-collar crimes, explained:
10 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
I worked in a coffee shop on the boardwalk . . . The employer there was amazing, he was great
. . . he let me place supply orders, manage the merchandise. I also managed the stock room, but
it wasn’t a place I could grow. It wasn’t a place with a lot of work. I waited for my [parole] to
be over. I wanted higher pay. Something more stable. A place where you are being appreciated
more [by others who see you]. (Interviewee 4)
Participants reported an overall positive attitude from their employers, which in turn
made them work harder to please their employers, as reported by one of the participants,
convicted of tax evasion:
My boss was okay. I did not experience any rejection; the opposite, he really liked me. It is
obvious that when you arrive to work on time and do a good job . . . it’s like showing—you get
what you give. I never hide from him; I demonstrate seriousness and care. People like that.
Participants in the study also discussed the issues of being criminally convicted and
serving time and how they dealt with these issues with their employers. One, an account-
ant by profession, said:
My employer knew [about my background], I could not hide it from him . . . I had to tell him
(a) because he needs to know that I am under supervision and as an employer, there is a
document he must sign, (b) from a professional aspect, there are limitations on things I can do,
like dealing with banks. My boss’s attitude was not easy. (Interviewee 8)
While most employers treated participants well, three participants reported negative
attitudes and treatment from their employers, including one who was convicted of a sex
I began working for this employer, in a clothing store, when I was still in prison [work release].
When I got out, I continued working for him, and he treated me as if I was still a convict. He
didn’t see me as a regular person, he was nervous all the time, never said good morning or
anything, but it didn’t bother me because I came to work. (Interviewee 14)
Regarding employment supervision, most of the participants did not elaborate on this
topic, acknowledging it briefly and technically:
They explained to us in the employment [IPRA employment counselor] what we can and
cannot do. They taught me that even if the boss is wrong I need to restrain myself because I
need him. (Interviewee 5)
Another participant reported that the IPRA employment counselors run employee–
employer simulation sessions with the ex-prisoners they supervise. Two other partici-
pants said that the supervisors had simply verified their employment:
Once every month-and-a-half they send a supervisor to check on me, to see that I am really
employed. (Interviewee 8)
Peled-Laskov et al. 11
A majority of participants were able to secure employment on their own, without the
help of the IPRA. Some sought the help of relatives and close friends. For example, two
participants (Interviewees 11 and 16) were employed in the offices where their wives
worked. Six participants reported that the IPRA employment counselor was there to help
them during their entire period of supervision, including finding them a job:
[The employment counselor] . . . was great. He actually helped me A LOT to find a job. He
didn’t reject or abandon me, when I wasn’t managing in my place of employment, he would
take care of me. I felt he cared for me. (Interviewee 16)
In summary, employment assimilation was not easy for many of the participants. A
major impediment was their criminal record; some also mentioned limited assistance in
finding employment. Nevertheless, all the participants were able to secure employment,
with some being successful thanks to help from personal contacts, friends, and family.
When they found jobs, the majority reported experiencing good and fair treatment from
their bosses, along with expressions of trust and belief in their abilities. Only a few
described discriminatory and stigmatizing attitudes directed at them from their bosses.
Some of the participants discussed their jobs and their adjustment to their new work
environment, which mostly involved unskilled physical labor.
In terms of supervision, most participants reported this to be a practical matter that
needed to be completed as part of their conditions, with over one-third of them (six par-
ticipants) reporting that their employment supervisor did a great job in helping them find
suitable jobs and in supporting them through the process.
All participants in this study successfully completed their term of supervision, comply-
ing with all of the IPRA’s requirements and beginning a new chapter of their lives. It is
in this context that the themes of reintegration back into society, assimilation into the
workforce, and plans and expectations for the future emerged and became salient. A
majority of the participants (13) continued to work in the same place after their term of
The majority of participants in this study did not report any grandiose expectations
from their employment. They demonstrated relatively modest goals that align with nor-
mative ways of thinking. Some emphasized that they had given up on unrealistic dreams:
I would be happy to go back to my old job, from before I went to prison, but I am happy with
what I have—helping my daughter in her event-planning business. (Interviewee 11)
Another participant explained,
I don’t have any grandiose aspirations; just earn a decent living, not making millions.
With age, dreams become more realistic, as explained by another participant:
12 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
I do what I love . . . I don’t aspire for much; I am 70 years old; I got old. I do things according
to my ability. (Interviewee 14)
One of the participants discussed employment that benefits society, talking about their
desire to work as a lifeguard and to work with others and feel that they can contribute:
I have this path that I planned for myself . . . I work as a lifeguard, so I can teach swimming,
aqua therapy, surfing classes, be responsible for pools, operating pools, and managing pools.
It's also very dynamic with kids. (Interviewee 1)
Other participants expressed their desire to invest in rebuilding a family life:
I am a father, I have a seven-year-old son, with God’s help I will be a husband. (Interviewee 7)
A father of five said,
I want to have time to spend with our children. It’s a shame. I don’t have more time to be with
the children. (Interviewee 3)
Two of the participants discussed their desire to gain additional professional knowl-
edge to advance their careers:
I work in internet infrastructure all over the country. It is a very technical thing that I connect
with. I do not have any formal training for it but would like to get some. I want to learn as much
as I can, to gain as much knowledge as possible. (Interviewee 7)
Aside from making plans for the future regarding employment, family and education/
vocational training, some participants emphasized their commitment to desisting from
I am never going back to prison. If it’s up to me, I will never go back! (Interviewee 5)
Another participant, who became religious, explained,
Your mind begins to repent. With God’s will and strong faith, God will not let me fall back
down [to criminality]. (Interviewee 16)
The words of one of the participants summarize the sentiments of all our participants
in the study regarding their expectations for the future:
I’m rebuilding my life bit by bit, I rent a house, spend some time with my children, try to see
them as much as possible; use any possible opportunity. Every aspect of life, I take bit by bit,
try to rehabilitate, return to normal life. I understand that I can never return to the full one-
hundred percent like I was before prison. Now I am about 60%, and hope that at the end of the
process I will be 80%. It’s impossible to go back to one-hundred percent, the stain [mark of
being in prison] is too big . . . the blow I endured cannot go away. (Interviewee 8)
Peled-Laskov et al. 13
No matter what plans participants reported for their future, all the interviews expressed
the strong desire to desist from crime and to focus on a more normative venue in their
lives, be it family, work or education. In that respect, their conviction and sentence was
a trigger to behavioral change that was developed further with the IPRA’s various modes
of intervention, as all participants were required to comply with IPRA supervision, inter-
vention and employment requirements.
The aim of this study was to gain insight into the experiences of individuals who partici-
pated in the supervision and employment guidance programs operated by the IPRA,
furthering our understanding of their prison–reentry–reintegration journey up to the
completion of the period of mandatory supervision. It sought to identify factors that may
have a positive effect on the reintegration process and help the participants to desist from
Accordingly, this qualitative study presents the attitudes and experiences of prisoners
who were under the supervision of the IPRA. Notable are the favorable perceptions of
the interviewees with respect to the programs and their expectations for the future, par-
ticularly regarding the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program. These findings are in
line with previous research (Peled-Laskov and Bialer, 2013; Peled-Laskov et al., 2019)
and with the statistical data available from the IPRA as to the low rate of recidivism
(20%) among prisoners who have completed the program (Timor and Nagar, 2014).
The in-depth interviews also contribute to existing knowledge by helping to identify
important factors that may be strongly related to desistance and successful reintegration,
providing insight into these factors as experienced by the interviewees in our sample.
The findings from the interviews confirm the damaging effects of imprisonment on rela-
tionships with spouses and children, health and mental health (e.g. Brinkley-Rubinstein,
2013; Corzine-McMullan, 2011; Erlyana et al., 2014), economic status, and relationships
with friends and social relations. These issues are well documented in the literature and
have been attributed to the deprivation/endogenous model associated with being impris-
oned (Einat, 2005), as well as to the pains of desistance (Nugent and Schinkel, 2016)
regarding isolation and goal failure, which often leads to hopelessness and a diminished
While most participants in the present study were able to surmount these obstacles
with support from family and friends, others required further care from formal support
systems, including the IPRA. During the rehabilitation process, it is therefore important
that such sources target the difficulties that may impede reintegration, and that they assist
the individual in addressing those issues.
In the interviews, the participants’ experiences with the IPRA were salient, with a
majority reporting an overall positive experience. The findings provide evidence in sup-
port of the usefulness of both individual and group therapy, provided by IPRA counse-
lors, as an overall contribution to the adoption of optimistic views and realistic life goals
aligned with a normative lifestyle. Both therapeutic modalities were found to support the
GLM (Ward and Maruna, 2007), enabling participants to gain those desired “goods”
associated with positive and successful reintegration and assimilation into normative
society upon release.
14 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
Aside from supervision and the ability to learn from other participants, group therapy
serves another latent function that is essential to the rehabilitation and reintegration pro-
cess: peer support. It was clear from the interviews that the participants viewed therapy
meetings as an opportunity to meet and talk with friends. Thus, the combination of func-
tions served by group therapy makes it an essential social prop or platform, and it satis-
fies a basic need in the process of rehabilitation (Graffam and Shinkfield, 2011). However,
the interviewees who had been convicted of white-collar crimes did not appear to experi-
ence those benefits of group therapy, and they tended to view it as a waste of their time.
It is possible that white-collar offenders view themselves differently from other offend-
ers and therefore lack the “sense of affiliation” that would enable them to experience the
meetings in a positive way. This is reflected in the fact that the white-collar interviewees
in our sample enjoyed stronger social support and social networks compared with those
convicted of other crimes.
Some participants compared the effectiveness of therapy in prison with that pro-
vided by the IPRA, claiming, for example, that the “therapeutic sessions were very
good and effective. They both changed me a lot, way more than prison did.” Apart
from the clear expression of the view that the therapeutic sessions operated by the
IPRA are important and help to bring about change, there appears to be an expectation
on the part of the prisoners (and shared by professionals) that the very fact of impris-
onment will achieve the aim of rehabilitation (Timor, 2011). The gap in expectations
regarding the effectiveness of prison-based therapy compared with that provided by
the IPRA can be attributed to the prison environment. While prisoners tend to expect
their therapy during incarceration to result in profound behavioral changes, the reality
is different. Prison is not a suitable environment for rehabilitation (Ortmann, 2000),
and efforts made to develop rehabilitation programs for incarcerated individuals often
have few or no favorable outcomes (Bullock and Bunce, 2020). This gap can be attrib-
uted in part to the importation model; offenders bring their criminal behavior and
approach from the outside into the prison, where they use it for survival purposes.
Another explanation can be found in Goffman’s (1961) concept of the “total institu-
tion” having an adverse effect on rehabilitation, as exemplified in the distance and
hostility that develop between prison inmates and staff or professional personnel. In
this connection, it should be noted that many therapists in prison wear a uniform,
which identifies them more closely with the penal system than with rehabilitative
Participants in the current study reported positive experiences with their assigned
therapists and mentioned highly supportive and constructive relationships characterized
by mutual trust and respect. Many viewed their therapists as well-trained professionals.
From the interviews, it seems that the mandatory aspect of participation in treatment, as
part of the sentence and conditions of early release, did not play a central part in the treat-
ment; treatment staff did not “play the mandatory participation card” that could have
clouded the relationship between therapist and client (Etgar, 1999).
Employment is a key factor in successful reintegration after release from prison
(Gillis and Nafekh, 2005) and in crime desistance. Accordingly, the IPRA attempts to
integrate released prisoners almost immediately into the labor market by providing
them with regular and meaningful employment that enables them to interact with other
Peled-Laskov et al. 15
employees who have no prior criminal record. In this environment, the individual is
under daily supervision, which makes compliance with the assigned conditions of
release very likely. This positive work environment enables the individual to acquire
personal and social assets (such as a steady and fair income, experience in the work-
force, compliance with employer demands, and new and normative social connections)
that improve self-esteem and boost social image (Bouffard et al., 2000). The desire to
maintain and grow such gains further propels the desire to succeed in the program.
Success in employment is one of the “goods” mentioned in the GLM as an essential
component in successful rehabilitation (Ward and Maruna, 2007).
Although finding employment was difficult for most of the participants, much-needed
assistance was received from prior personal contacts, and in many cases, this resulted in
unskilled jobs that paid low wages. In the absence of such contacts, the engaged and
professional approach of the IPRA employment counselors was crucial to success.
Regardless of who helped, most participants interviewed for this study reported positive
experiences with their employers, who often treated them fairly, respectfully and without
bias, as in previous studies (Pager et al., 2009).
The interviews indicate that most of the participants did not need the assistance of the
IPRA employment counselors to find a job; as stated earlier, most of them relied on prior
contacts, family, and friends. This finding indicates that the presence of a strong informal
support network reduces the need for formal support, such as that provided by IPRA
counselors. It may also provide an indication of the actual ability of certain ex-prisoners
to reintegrate successfully when they have a strong informal support network of friends
Even in the presence of these support systems, barriers to meaningful employment
remained. In particular, some participants reported hesitation in divulging their past to
potential employers. Although such reporting was mandatory (because treatment ses-
sions take place during normal business hours and participation is obligatory), in many
cases, they felt that it jeopardized their chances of securing the desired employment.
Notably, the interviewees seemed to view the formal control assigned to them by the
conditions of their parole as a barrier to their personal reform. Contemporary desistance
research has discussed how desisters manage the stigma that comes with a previous devi-
ant lifestyle (Maruna, 2001). Specifically, there is evidence that “label negotiation”
(Schur, 1971, 1979) and “ban-the-box” policies (Pager, 2008, 2018) are effective meth-
ods of reducing, and even neutralizing, stigmatization. Desistance theory (Bersani and
Doherty, 2018; Broidy and Cauffman, 2017; LeBel et al., 2008; Maruna, 2001; Segev,
2018) holds that successful transition from primary to secondary desistance does not
guarantee tertiary or final desistance, as the latter requires a broad social acknowledg-
ment of change that is necessary for long-term results (McNeill, 2016). Accordingly,
social acceptance is an essential stage in achieving successful desistance, and anything
that jeopardizes it should be avoided. This includes negative credentials (Pager, 2018)
that may impede or exclude released prisoners from participating in the normative labor
market and successfully reintegrating into normative society.
Since the formal educational level of the sample varied greatly (from 9 to 17 years,
with some holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees), it is reasonable to assume that labor
market attachment will vary accordingly. Those with higher levels of education are likely
16 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
to benefit from stronger hard skills and more stable and “healthy” support networks, and
thus tend to have higher expectations of securing meaningful jobs.
Examining the employment component of the IPRA program from the viewpoint of
participants who completed the program exposes a weakness that is well documented in
the literature. Although the program is effective and contributes to the rehabilitation and
integration of offenders upon their release, it seems to lack three main components: (1)
proper vocational training that will lead to meaningful employment; (2) integration into
meaningful jobs; and (3) a seamless transition from prison-based vocational training and
employment to employment upon release in the community (see, for example, Cook
et al., 2015). Moreover, the fact that the interviewees seem to view the supervision as an
impediment to their employment reintegration and personal reform should be acknowl-
edged and addressed by IPRA counselors. For example, mandatory therapeutic and
reporting meetings could be conducted more flexibly to enable the parolee to navigate
and comply with the supervision requirements without the potential harm caused to their
employment reintegration by strict or unreasonable reporting hours. Meetings could be
scheduled to reflect the working hours and shifts of the parolee, and adjusted according
to their individual risk level.
Overall, evaluation of the experiences shared by the participants in this study along-
side findings from other relevant studies (Bouffard et al., 2000; Friedmann et al., 2012)
makes it clear that individual and group therapy should be considered as a top priority.
More emphasis during therapy sessions should be given to strengthening existing norma-
tive social networks. These networks have the potential to draw people away from stigma
and help them to rejoin normative society, as suggested by the concept of reintegrative
shaming (Braithwaite, 1989), while minimizing the potential harm of defiance due to
disintegrative shaming (Bouffard and Piquero, 2010; Sherman, 1993). Nevertheless, it
seems that the IPRA program already provides an effective therapeutic balance while
fulfilling employment needs. The connection between the supervision agents and the
clients, and the process of “normalizing” and neutralizing the stigma of criminal convic-
tion while focusing on the needs of the offender, seems to be of great importance.
The IPRA rehabilitation program triggers an important component of external moti-
vation (Valleran, 1997) based on the desire of many prisoners to earn early release (i.e.
parole). It is because of this incentive that many are willing to commit to all the compo-
nents and stages of the program, including intensive supervision by both the IPRA and
the parole board. Fear of being returned to prison for non-compliance also drives their
motivation to work hard and to comply with the demands of the program (Maguire and
Raynor, 2006; Marklund and Holmberg, 2009). It seems that this external motivation
triggers internal motivation, as individuals advance through the program successfully
and enjoy the benefits of the changes to their lives (Gideon, 2010; Ryan and Deci, 2008).
Future expectations should be recognized as an important factor in personality func-
tioning and adjustment (Landau, 1975) and in future orientation and socialization, which
can serve as an indicator of potential assimilation and reintegration after release from
prison. Contrary to the assumptions of previous studies that have examined the future
time perspectives of delinquents and criminals, participants in the current study reported
very modest and realistic future expectations. Such findings are in line with recent desist-
ance research (Bottoms and Shapland, 2011; Gålnander, 2020). One possible explanation
Peled-Laskov et al. 17
for this finding is a desire to avoid unrealistic expectations that will generate unwanted
stress (Merton, 1968) and lead to the use of illegitimate means and further criminality. It
is possible that participants, as a result of their previous failure to achieve unrealistic
goals and subsequent imprisonment, internalized the consequences of their actions and
gained valuable insight into the risks of repeating instrumental delinquent behavior. It
can also be supposed that the individual and group sessions and conversations with IPRA
counselors helped them to appreciate the safety and feasibility of pursuing more modest
and attainable goals that minimize the risk of failure (Farrall and Calverley, 2006; Nugent
and Schinkel, 2016), resulting in less stress and more security and thus improving their
lifestyle (i.e. the GLM).
The results of this study provide insight, albeit limited, into the prison–community
transition experiences of those convicted of white-collar crimes. This is of great impor-
tance, as these offenders tend to be underrepresented in the literature. Participants in this
study who had been convicted of white-collar crimes tended to view the IPRA program
favorably. In particular, these participants benefited from the individual treatment ses-
sions, which were viewed as better suited to their status. For the majority of these partici-
pants, securing employment was not an issue, as they were able to benefit from previous
contacts. It seems that the success of this particular group derives partly from the fact that
the IPRA is unique in allowing the use of networks to secure meaningful employment as
part of supervision. As far as we know, this approach has no counterparts internationally,
and other prison and probation services are less likely to give such influence to proba-
tioners. However, it is recommended that future studies should include a substantial
focus on the experiences and perceptions of those convicted of white-collar crimes.
In our estimation, the effectiveness of the program stems from the fact that almost all
rehabilitation programs for released prisoners in Israel are under the unified sponsorship
of a single professional agency—the IPRA—whose aim is to rehabilitate prisoners and
prevent them returning to a life of crime. This fact appears to contribute substantially to
the favorable attitude toward the IPRA on the part of paroled prisoners who participated
in the programs, as well as the relative success in lowering the rate of recidivism (Peled-
Laskov et al., 2019). The activities of the IPRA as a governmental agency are funded by
the state and managed and run by professionals in the field of prisoner rehabilitation
(social workers, criminologists, and educators). Its programs are developed by these pro-
fessionals in coordinated efforts and focus explicitly on reducing prisoners’ predisposi-
tion to criminal activity. Moreover, its activities are subject to ongoing assessment and
evaluation studies to foster evidence-based practices that will enable the development
and application of the most innovative interventions.
The current study uses the qualitative method of interviews and has the associated
limitations. Specifically, it focuses on a small group of Jewish, Hebrew-speaking male
participants who had completed a term of community supervision and treatment operated
by the IPRA (the agency that provided the sampling frame for this study). Moreover,
because all the participants had completed their term of supervision and successfully
reintegrated back into their communities, those who failed to complete the IPRA pro-
gram are not represented here. Thus, the results provide limited insight into the multidi-
mensional challenges faced by those who fail to comply with the IPRA’s conditions of
supervision, treatment, and employment.
18 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
Although our sample does not represent many groups of offenders (e.g. non-Jewish
offenders and those whose primary language is not Hebrew), few white-collar and highly
educated offenders were examined in our study, and thus, the findings provide an inter-
esting glimpse into the experiences of white-collar offenders and how they perceive and
react to rehabilitation. Thus, our study provides a foundation for closer examination of
the rehabilitation of white-collar criminals and more educated offenders who led a nor-
mative lifestyle prior to their offense. It also opens up avenues for future research. For
example, future studies could usefully examine a more diverse group of ex-prisoners,
including those who failed to complete the IPRA program or who were not subject to
mandatory community supervision. Greater emphasis should be given to future time
perspectives and expectations reported by ex-prisoners and those about to be released, as
these may provide good indicators of desistance and successful reintegration (LeBel
et al., 2008). Accordingly, it is recommended that future studies should combine qualita-
tive and quantitative methods to yield more objective and empirical data on the frequen-
cies of the perceptions and attitudes experienced and viewed by the offenders themselves,
as an indication of the process of transition through rehabilitation, reentry, supervision,
and reintegration. This will provide much-needed insight into the resources available to
them that correlate with successful completion of supervision and reintegration.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
Ronit Peled-Laskov https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1964-651X
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22 Criminology & Criminal Justice 00(0)
Ronit Peled-Laskov, PhD, is working as a senior lecturer at the Department of Criminology,
Ashkelon Academic College, Israel. She is also a clinical criminologist. She is mainly interested
in psychological accounts for crime and delinquency, prisoner rehabilitation, and white-collar
Uri Timor, PhD, is working as an associate professor at the Department of Criminology, Bar-
Ilan University and Department of Criminology, Ashkelon Academic College, Israel. He is the
editor-in-chief of Glimpse into Prison: Crimes and Penalties in Israel. His research focuses on
issues in prisoners’ rehabilitation, prisons reform, and youth violence.
Lior Gideon, PhD, is working as a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the Department
of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration, John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
New York. He is the editor-in-chief of Health & Justice. His work on correctional populations,
rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders, comparative attitudes, social support, as well as meth-
odological work, culminated in many peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and several
books on correctional population, methodology, and survey methodology.