Incarceration and Personal Networks: Unpacking Measures and Meanings of Tie Strength

Andres F. Rengifo, Samuel E. DeWitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: The advent of mass incarceration has reinvigorated calls for a deeper understanding of how the “quality of relationships” is shaped by imprisonment (Travis J, Western B, Redburn S (eds), The growth of incarceration in the United States: exploring causes and consequences, National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2014). We address this issue by describing how imprisonment relates to four dimensions of tie strength in a sample of South Bronx residents. Methods: We draw on a series of survey-based multilevel models to examine how tie strength relates to characteristics of respondents and their self-reported contacts (N1 = 585 ties, N2 = 97 egos) regarding (a) frequency, (b) duration, (c) multiplexity, and (d) reciprocity. Results: Ties of formerly-incarcerated persons are of shorter duration and exhibit less overlap relative to other respondents. However, markers of general association across the sample to currently/formerly incarcerated persons correlate with alter-ego ties that are more frequent, long-lasting, and multi-dimensional. Conclusions: There is some support for the notion that direct exposure to incarceration is linked to a weakening of ties akin to a “knifing-off” process (Maruna and Roy, J Contemp Crim Justice 23(1):104–124, 2007). Indirect exposure to incarceration may follow an inverse pattern, strengthening the ties among those “left behind”.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-431
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


  • Mass incarceration
  • Multilevel models
  • Prisoner reentry
  • Social networks


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