Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education (PhD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kristin Kay Higgins

Committee Member

Kristi Perryman

Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member

Paul Blisard


African American, Black Studies, Critical Race Theory, Incarceration, Mental Health, Wellbeing


African Americans encounter a high rate of imprisonment, and the social, economic, mental and other effects of imprisonment are extended to their families and communities (Roberts, 2004). In addition to separating individuals from their families and communities, incarceration maximizes the probability for fractured relationships, fragmented communities, and encumbers the public service systems (DeHart, Shapiro & Clone, 2018).Therefore, the purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to explore the mental health effects of incarceration on the family members of African American males who experience the U.S prison system.

The theoretical framework utilized for this study was the critical race theory (CRT) immersed in the constructivism paradigm which were useful in creating meaning from the phenomenon studied. The study utilized transcendental phenomenology as the research design. Data was collected from nine individuals who had significant relationships with incarcerated African American males. The data was analyzed using phenomenological reduction and data visualization. The findings were then synthesized into themes which helped to produce textural and structural descriptions leading to thick, rich descriptions of the participants lived experience. The emergent themes were familial changes and adjustments, impacts on family members wellbeing, Support systems, stigma of incarceration, and sharing personal experience.