Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Debora M. Ortega

Second Advisor

Jennifer Bellamy

Third Advisor

Shannon Sliva


Dehumanization, Human dignity, Incarcerated people, Inhumane treatment, Prison


Cruelty and brutality are common and persistent features of prisons. Early prison institutions were characterized by poor living conditions and harsh punishments. While some of these punishments have fallen out of favor, the dehumanization of incarcerated people continues to be an enduring feature of prisons in the United States. Despite the proliferation of dehumanization research over the past few decades, there is limited empirical work that focuses on incarcerated people and how dehumanization operates within the context of imprisonment. Even fewer studies examine the phenomenon from their perspective. Consequently, the dehumanization of incarcerated people has not been well defined, and examination of the phenomenon has not been sufficiently explored. This study centers the voices, experiences, and stories of formerly incarcerated people and draws attention to a topic and population that are understudied and overlooked. The purpose of this study was to understand experiences of dehumanization in prison and how formerly incarcerated people make meaning of those experiences. Using a narrative approach, in-depth interviews were conducted with 17 people previously imprisoned in the Colorado Department of Corrections. Findings illuminate shared experiences of dehumanization and highlight how storytellers resist their dehumanization and assert their humanity. Additionally, study findings address existing gaps in the research and expand current understandings of the phenomenon through a definitional and theoretical contribution to the literature. Implications for social work education, practice, policy, and research are discussed.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Tyler Miyoshi Han


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


244 pgs

File Size

1.3 MB


Social work

Available for download on Sunday, April 26, 2026