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“Bodies in the Building”: Incarceration’s Afterlife in a Reentry Housing Facility

Gretchen Purser, Madeleine Hamlin

Social Service Review, June 2022

Gretchen Purser

Gretchen Purser

In this article, we examine the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals living in a brand-new reentry housing facility in Syracuse, New York, that we call “New Beginnings.” At this site, a select group of returning residents are placed in permanent supportive housing or shelter beds. In analyzing the experiences of residents, we borrow from Avery Gordon’s conception of “haunting” to explain the seething presence of the prison in a facility designed for its afterlife.

We find that despite intensive service provision intended to help residents move on from their carceral pasts, New Beginnings reanimates the specter of the prison for its formerly incarcerated residents. Throughout, we present New Beginnings as an illustrative case study that demonstrates the blurriness of prison boundaries and the contradictions of contemporary reentry programs and policies.