Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Maureen Carrigan

Second Advisor

Laura Swain

Third Advisor

Adam Pazda


Objective: Prisoners and ex-prisoners face overt and covert forms of prejudice and discrimination (e.g., barriers to employment, housing, healthcare, voting rights). Fueling this prejudice and discrimination are implicit and explicit negative attitudes towards prisoners. Negative implicit and explicit attitudes play a major role into successful reintegration into society post-release. The purpose of this study was to examine if exposure to prisoners/ex-prisoners and political affiliation influence implicit and explicit attitudes.

Method: Participants (n = 73) completed a prisoner Implicit Association Test (IAT). Then, participants completed the explicit measures, Social Distance Scale, Attribute Questionnaire, Belief in Redeemability, Attitudes Towards Prisoners, and Prosociality Towards Ex-prisoners. Lastly, participants completed the Level of Contact Report and the demographics questionnaire.

Results: Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted examining if level of contact, political affiliation, social distance desirability, and implicit attitudes were predictive of explicit and implicit attitudes towards prisoners as predicted. Multiple regression analyses determined that political affiliation, level of contact, and implicit attitudes were predictive of social distance desirability. Implicit attitudes were predictive of attitudes towards prisoners. Implicit attitudes and social distance desirability were predictive of perceived dangerousness. Social distance desirability was predictive of belief in redeemability, prosocial motivation, and implicit attitudes.

Conclusion: The present study confirms that there are factors that influence explicit and implicit attitudes towards prisoners and ex-prisoners. At the societal level, the results of this study have implications for how exposure, political affiliation, and social distance desirability influences recidivism rates by limiting prisoners’ and ex-prisoners’ social supports and increasing barriers to various domains of successful reintegration (e.g., housing, employment). The present study discusses important implications for exposure to this population and successful reintegration as well as future directions for research.