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Dr. Townsand Price-Spratlen


"Sober Turning Points in an 'Imprisoned Community': Reentry, Desistance and Faith at the DOPE Ministries"


Dr. Townsand Price-Spratlen

Are criminal desistance and sobriety reciprocal and positively related to one another?  How can a “recovery ministry” help former felons sustain crime-free, sober lives?  This project will complete an interdisciplinary exploration of these and other related questions.  It will do so by bringing together and exploring habitus (Bourdieu 1990) from Sociology, the therapeutic community (TC) model (De Leon 2000) from Psychology, and the culture of recovery (CoR; White 1996) from Public Health.  It will analyze the relationships between reentry, desistance, sobriety, and faith by conducting a multilevel case study of the DOPE (Drugs Out, Possibilities Endless) Ministries (pseudonym) and its affiliates.

TC is a contemporary example of a generations-old process of fellowship in support of communal healing.  The culture of recovery “is an informal social network in which group norms reinforce long-term recovery from addiction” (White 1996:222).  And both TC’s and CoR’s are consistent with Bourdieu’s (1990) sociologically-grounded concept of “habitus,” an environment which supports patterns of habitual action, and the capacities which enrich those patterns (see De Leon 2000; Price-Spratlen and Goldsby 2012; Shinebourne and Smith 2011).  This project will qualitatively and quantitatively analyze the life experiences of the DOPE Ministries, its affiliates, and the surrounding neighborhood to document the extent to which the Ministries offers hope.   It is a fully functioning church located in the South Linden neighborhood, and functions as a crime-free, sober sanctuary located in an “imprisoned community” (Clear 2007; i.e., one marked by high poverty, and the severe collateral consequences of mass incarceration).

In addition, the project will extend Laub and Sampson’s (2003) criminological “turning points” they found to be so central to the life stage transformations of young, juvenile delinquents.  What are the turning points in long-term recovery from addiction?  When located in a neighborhood marked by some among the highest poverty, reentry and educational and health disparities in central Ohio (FCOHSJP 2008), what role can a recovery ministry play?  Within it, current and former residents of the Ministries’ Sober Homes transitional housing, and most other affiliates live their sober, desistant faith walk.  Using in-depth interviews, focus groups, surveys, life history calendars, and participant observations, the project will be a multiple methods analysis of the 2x2 matrix of persons who are/are not criminally desistant, and are/are not sober (i.e., addictively desistant).  By focusing on those who are both sober and desistant, the project will specify individual, congregational, and communal ways in which the Ministries informs a longevity of “reciprocity” between them.