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When Policy Comes To Town: Discourses And Dilemmas Of Implementation Of A Statewide Reentry Policy In Kansas

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Published online on


In this case study, we document challenges to reform implementation posed by line staff, supervisors, and managers during a large‐scale realignment of the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) in which they sought to replace a traditional approach of “risk containment” focused on surveillance and incarceration with a new model of “risk reduction” focused on service delivery and reintegration. We draw on interviews, observations, and archival research to document the staff's discursive challenges to the rollout of the new policy. More specifically, we describe how varying challenges to the reforms—“denial,” “dismissal,” and “defiance”—reflect actors’ positions within the organization, the local contexts in which they operate, and more general frames of interpretation of the long‐term orientation of the KDOC. We integrate these perspectives to contribute to the ongoing expansion of conventional models of penal change that highlight the role of actors and local social and institutional context as moderators of the gap between “law on the books” and “law in action.”