When reintegrating back into society, ex-offenders often face difficult barriers due to the stigma of a criminal record. The journey of re-entry can be especially challenging when people return to small towns. The reentry literature tends to focus on large cities; not many scholars have researched the effects of small-town attitudes and lifestyles on reentry. This study draws on ten interviews conducted with formerly-incarcerated citizens. Every participant was arrested in a rural area and returned to a home within approximately fifteen miles of that arrest. The three social theories used in this study to help understand an ex-offender’s experience were Goffman’s Stigma theory, Braithwaite’s theory of gossip and shame, as well as Foucault’s Panopticism theory. This study’s findings indicate that gossip and lack of privacy are two main features of rural areas that make the reintegration process for returning citizens extremely strenuous. Small towns also lack resources, such as housing programs and employment opportunities, so returning citizens find few supports. Due to their criminal record, ex-offenders are highly stigmatized in places where “everybody knows everybody” and they are rarely able to escape their label as a “criminal.”


Nurse, Anne


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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