Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Welfare

First Advisor

Thomas P LeBel

Committee Members

Tina L Freiburger, Michael Brondino, Danielle Romain, Jonathan W Caudill


Alcohol Dependence, Jail, Mental Health, Recidivism, Substance Abuse


The rabble was a term first used by Irwin (1985) to describe the detached individuals that are incarcerated in America’s jails. These individuals are not overly violent or malicious, rather these are the people that the rest of society would rather not have on their streets. Irwin’s (1985) work was completed in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, since then there has been very little replication of his work. This study examines a more contemporary jail population to see if Irwin’s analysis is still relevant. Moreover, this study examines a jail population in a non-urban area. Much of the reentry literature has examined individuals returning from prison in urban areas. While the research indicates that the majority of individuals return to urban areas, a fair number of individuals are never arrested or incarcerated in urban areas. Thus, it is important to better understand how recidivism from jail operates in a non-urban area.

This study takes a mixed-methods approach in uncovering how this kind of recidivism operates as well as who is incarcerated in a non-urban jail. The quantitative portion of this study examined data from the Pretrial Services Screening Report (PSSR) , which provides information on the barriers to reentry (mental and physical health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, education, housing, veteran status) and factors that are associated with desistance from crime (marriage, employment, parenthood). By combining both desistance factors and barriers to reentry, this study helps us better understand why individuals recidivate as well as how they avoid further involvement with the criminal justice system. Also, within the quantitative portion, will be a replication of Irwin’s (1985) typology. However, this typology was constructed using hierarchical cluster analysis, instead of interviews with incarcerated individuals.

For the qualitative portion, the grounded theory methodology was used to construct a theoretical framework for understanding jail reentry in a non-urban area. This analysis was conducted by interviewing the security and administrative staff (correctional officers, command staff, case managers, and jail screeners) at the Waukesha County Jail. Much of the reentry literature has interviewed inmates in understanding their reentry experience. While this is valuable information, the decision to interview correctional staff was made because of their experiences with individuals incarcerated at their facility, specifically the individuals who have cycled in and out of the jail. Interview participants were asked questions surrounding what kinds of offenders are in jail, the issues these individuals face, and why they come back. With these two approaches, the results were used to triangulate the answers to the major research questions – who is in a non-urban jail and why they come back?

Results suggest that young, male individuals, with a prior record, and whose initial charge was a property offense were most likely to reoffend. However, the reasons for recidivism differ by location. It is clear that individuals in urban and non-urban areas differ in terms of barriers to reentry and desistance factors. This study also highlights why using a mixed methods study allows the researcher to develop more detailed conclusions and a deeper understanding of the problem at hand. The combination of descriptive statistics, logistic regression, cluster analysis, and in-depth interviews allowed the researcher to better understand not only who was in jail but why some individuals come back.

Irwin’s (1985) analysis revealed that the jail is a warehouse for San Francisco’s underclass. The primary goal of this study was to examine if jails in the suburbs are housing the underclass and how recidivism operates for this offender population. Essentially, this study was looking for (and found) the rabble in the suburbs.

Included in

Criminology Commons