Date of Award



© 2019 Michael Thomas Wilber

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Michael Patrick

Third Advisor

Michael Grossman


The United States incarcerates more individuals per capita than any other nation. According to Porter, Bushway, Tsao, & Smith (2016), “There are currently 2.1 million individuals detained in the correctional institutions in the United States. Young adults, individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, represent the smallest portion of the general population yet comprise the largest portion of the incarcerated population. Furthermore, African Americans comprise 13% of the general population of the United States but comprise 58% of the prison populations in the United States. Finally, the recidivism rate, the rate at which former inmates recriminalize and return to prison, has remained at 75% for the past 40 years.” (p. 2) The findings of Porter et al. are counter intuitive. First, young adults represent the highest demographic group among prison populations. Second, African Americans are disproportionately represented in prison populations, and finally, the recidivism rate for the last forty years is indicative of failed intervention programs, ineffective rehabilitation, and inadequate post-incarceration preparation.

This narrative study sought to create the foundation for a Holistic Understanding of Recidivism by interviewing three incarcerated, young adult, African American males who had multiple incarcerations. The Holistic Understanding of Recidivism acknowledges the clinical definition of recidivism as a return to criminal behavior while proposing there is more to recidivism than recriminalization. The Holistic Understanding of Recidivism submits that there are four spheres of influence that affect young adult recidivism; pre-natal experience, family, education, and socio-economics.

The purpose of this study was to record and retell the pre-incarceration life experiences of the three incarcerated, young adult, African American males to further drive and explore the development of a holistic understanding of young adult recidivism. This study was framed within the context of the Social Constructivist Theory and the Critical Race Theory. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provided the lens through which the findings of the study were understood. Because of the small sample size of the study, no generalizable knowledge can be gleaned from the study. The findings of the study did not always match the findings of other studies. Contrary to current literature, this study found no pre-natal substance use by any of the parents of the participants. However, the influence of drugs was an unintended but real finding of this study, but not as drug use as displayed by popular culture, but rather marketing for income and survival.

The Holistic Understanding of Recidivism widens the lens through which recidivism is understood. There is more to recidivism than the nanosecond in time when recriminalization occurs. There are life forming events that occur leading up to the criminal act; events that impact individual thought and behavior. Changing the unwanted outcome of recidivism requires changing the interventions used to remediate recidivism as well as changing how recidivism is understood. The Holistic Understanding of Recidivism provides such an instrument.


Ed.D. Dissertation

Michael’s presentation on this topic for the UNE CGPS Virtual Research Symposium 2019 can be found here: