Faculty Mentor

Dr. Darren Wheelock, Criminology and Law Studies


Vanessa Lopez is a senior majoring criminology with a minor in Health Studies. Vanessa is a recipient of the Urban Scholarship. After she graduates in May of 2014 she plans to pursue her master’s in public health. She is interested in health care issues and would like to work with other public health professionals to improve the public health within national and international communities.



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This qualitative study explores the difficulties released prisoners and their families encounter through the reintegration process. The reentry process into society is a challenge for both released prisoners and their families to overcome, since the social stigma of a criminal conviction creates barriers. The challenging component of the social stigma essentially prevents individuals with a criminal conviction from sustaining themselves financially and finding a place to live. Besides the stress of overcoming the barriers of judgments created by society; many of these individuals have to face the rejection of their children, partners, and extended kinship groups. Existing literature has focused on how families provide help and assistance to released prisoners without recognizing ways in which families can also be harmful. Little is known about how gender shapes the ways in which individuals experience the reentry process with their families. This study, which includes 30 in-depth interviews of Milwaukee residents, explains that both genders maintain a different relationship with their children. Women who are ex-convicts can quickly reintegrate themselves into their children’s life because they did not lose contact with their children while incarcerated. Unlike women, a role reversal was seen amongst the men and their children. The results demonstrated that men were not fulfilling their role as a parent. Instead, children were the individuals caring out the paternal role. Additionally, the study demonstrates that families can provide financial, emotional and motivational support. However, relationships with family members can also adversely impact an individual’s reentry in a negative way.

Publication Date

Summer 2013


Family, Life Course, and Society

Vanessa Lopez - Family Ties: Exploring Familial Relationships for Individuals with a Felony Conviction