Dr. Brett Garland understands the importance of community involvement in both addressing crime and assisting ex-prisoners.
After working with the Indiana Department of Corrections to coordinate an offender transition program, Garland, professor of criminology, better understood the many challenges facing ex-prisoners in their readjustment to free society. However, that transition period had rarely been studied in depth by criminology researchers. Seeing this need, Garland initiated the first study on prisoner reentry in a small metropolitan community.
“Crime can have profound physical, psychological and financial consequences for victims, both on an individual and community level,” said Garland. “Because of the harm caused by crime, we are obligated as concerned citizens to study it and find solutions to reduce its frequency and impact.”
During the past few years, Garland and three graduate students have explored the prisoner reentry process, specifically focusing on obstacles and public support. From interviews with ex-prisoners, Garland learned that psycho-social strains, such as marital dilemmas and socialization problems outside of the prison environment, were cited more often as obstacles in the reentry process than housing and employment concerns. Garland and his team are also measuring public support for prisoner reentry initiatives.
“This is important to investigate as legislators and policymakers are often guided by public opinion in decision making,” said Garland. “This research found that while the public generally supports the idea of assisting ex-prisoners with their reentry, public support decreases when reentry services hit too close to home or compete with the privileges enjoyed by the average, middle-class citizen.”
By identifying these obstacles, Garland hopes to explore possible solutions that could be integrated into the prisoner reentry process. In addition to his interest in prisoner reentry research, Garland is involved in a number of community agencies, including the Task Force on Gangs and Youth Violence at the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, the cabinet of the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and the Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee in the Greene County Juvenile Office.
“Community involvement is critically important for criminology professors as crime is a social phenomenon that has direct impacts on communities,” said Garland. “Community agencies and criminal justice researchers should constantly work together to identify the sources of crime and to devise and continually evaluate policies and programs that address crime problems.”
Garland brings his commitment to the community into the classroom, encouraging students to become involved, whether through research, practicum projects or internships.
“I enjoy watching my students take knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom and apply them to real-life cases and scenarios,” said Garland.