Jumpsuit to Button-Down: Clothing Used as Resistance in Prisoner Reentry

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There is a vast body of literature across academic disciplines on prisoner reentry, yet little is known about how men and women use clothing as a form of resistance and personal embodiment of politics to negotiate the reentry process. Drawing on ethnographic data from a two-year interdisciplinary project in Newark, New Jersey, we present “outsider-within status” and the notion of transformative resistance to examine how former prisoners reentering society use clothing to disguise the mark of prison, conceal their felon status, and reshape their public persona with the goal of becoming an accepted member of the community. By conceptualizing how men and women construct their wardrobe as a form of embodied politics to negotiate reentry and resist the label felon, we offer three contributions to the field of critical criminology by: pushing against the orthodox identity of “felon,” which is inherently criminal; focusing on the culture of resistance that arises during reentry; and offering a perspective of reentry that embodies personal politics.


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Journal of Criminal Justice and Law Review