Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Alida V. Merlo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

W. Timothy Austin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Erika Frenzel, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jonathon Cooper, Ph.D.


Research on prison and jail reentry related barriers typically addresses employment, housing, mental health, and substance abuse issues associated with returning prison inmates. Historically, these challenges are discussed from the perspective of offenders returning to urban areas. This dissertation explored challenges inmates experience leaving jail and returning to rural areas. Utilizing a mixed-method approach, this study examined the challenges associated with rural jail reentry perceived by probation/parole officers (N = 411), current inmates (N = 200), and treatment staff (N = 21). Survey methodology was employed for the probation/parole and inmate samples, and semi-structured interviews were utilized for treatment staff. Results showed that consistent with prior research, returning rural inmates face challenges related to employment, housing, transportation, substance abuse, and mental health treatment. There is some evidence that inmates and practitioners differ in their priorities of reentry. Inmates view structural barriers (e.g., ability to pay fines or court fees, low wages, limited employment opportunities, lack of transportation, and finding housing) to be the most challenging, while practitioners found the biggest challenges to be within the inmates themselves (e.g., poor work ethic, lack of motivation, return to substance abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, associating with the wrong people/peer pressure). Policy implications and recommendations for future research are also included.