When did crime pay, and for whom? the metamorphosis of an academic's odyssey

James Burnett, Alvin Killough, Eryn Killough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - To share a curriculum that can lead to successful re-entry for those transitioning from prison to freedom. Methodology/approach - We support our argument with data drawn from the intersection of a case study, auto-ethnography and heuristic research. Findings - Convicts, particularly African Americans and other ethnic minorities who are incarcerated experience initiatory rites of passage as enabling mechanisms when facing re-entry to society. These rites can lead to one of two results. One is positive, undergirded by the necessary internal changes of psychological desires to become a productive member in society and supported by complementary external social networks. The other is negative, driven by on-going states of anomie, supported by counterproductive engagements in activities that lead to maladaptive states in terms of qualities of life. Our research findings lead to multiple conclusions and combine to converge in support of a more productive re-entry process. In this chapter, we present three themes critically embedded within The Sacred Space Rite of Passage Transition to Freedom Curriculum that can be used to enhance the prospects for re-entry to society. (1) Value to self and others can be appropriated, if reconceptualized through the personal journey-to-success re-entrymodel, as seen by a once incarcerated African American drug offender, now turned university professor. (2) Value to community can potentially be greatly enhanced, when major dimensions of this journey are structurally used to inform the application of programmatic activities, particularly when undergirding the passage of others. (3) Value to society must be re-visited, conceptually if not paradigmatically, within an interdisciplinary framework that seriously includes the critical voice of the prior incarcerated. Originality/value - The Sacred Space Rite of Passage Transition to Freedom Curriculum is the result of life lessons learned through pre-incarceration, incarceration, and postincarceration in the criminal justice system in America. These important life lessons experienced and learned are the foundation for the journey of re-integration and re-entry to family and community, from prisoner to professor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Crime Law and Deviance
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 by Emerald Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.


  • African American
  • Convict criminology
  • Re-entry
  • Recidivism
  • Redemption


Dive into the research topics of 'When did crime pay, and for whom? the metamorphosis of an academic's odyssey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this