The significance of interprofessional and interagency collaboration in reintegration after prison

A qualitative study exploring Norwegian frontline workers’ views


  • Bjørn Kjetil Larsen
  • Sarah Hean



interprofessional collaboration, relational coordination, offenders, substance abuse, reintegration, frontline workers


The Norwegian Correctional Service is well known for its focus on rehabilitation and the humane treatment of offenders. However, welfare issues and comorbidity are overrepresented among offenders, and recidivism rates remain unacceptably high. Mental health problems, substance abuse and a lack of housing suggest that offenders need support from a range of services in their reintegration processes. This calls for collaboration between frontline workers, welfare agencies and non-governmental organizations, especially in the transition from prison back into society.

In the present study, we aim to explore frontline workers’ views of interprofessional and interagency collaboration among frontline workers working with offenders suffering from substance abuse issues in their reintegration after prison.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine frontline workers employed in welfare agencies and the correctional service, with workers directly engaged in supporting offenders´ reintegration after prison.

Findings suggest that interprofessional collaboration is perceived as multifaceted. The participants in the study perceived the welfare needs of offenders as complex, and the transition phase from prison as particularly vulnerable. Finally, findings suggest that frontline workers’ individual values and engagement in the work, as well as a lack of shared knowledge and shared information among frontline workers, are perceived as important factors in how collaboration processes unfold.

We further argue that there is a need for additional knowledge, such as theoretical frameworks and conceptual models, to increase the understanding of interprofessional collaboration in the interface between prison and welfare services. We discuss substance abusers’ transition from prison into society and interprofessional collaboration in this context, using relational coordination as a theoretical framework.

This study shows that relational coordination contributes to a greater understanding of interprofessional collaboration in the prison-welfare context, but an understanding of this phenomenon may be further developed by expanding the theory of relational collaboration, and by using other relevant theories and models. New insights are presented and illustrated, combining the theoretical and practical aspects of interprofessional collaboration.

Author Biographies

Bjørn Kjetil Larsen

Research Fellow
Department for Social Studies, Volda University College

Assistant professor
Faculty of Health Sciences and Social Care, Molde University College 

Sarah Hean

Department for Social Studies, University of Stavanger


Bazemore, G. & Erbe, C. (2004). Reintegration and restorative justice: Towards a theory and practice of informal social control and support. In S. Maruna, R. Immarigeon (Ed.), After crime and punishment: Pathways to offender reintegration (p. 27-56). Willan Publishing.

Bernard, H.R. (2017). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitaive approaches (6th ed.). Rowman & Litterfield.

Binswanger, I., Nowels, C., Corsi, K. F., Glanz, J., Long, J., Booth, R. E., Steiner & J. F. (2012). Return to drug use and overdose after release from prison: A qualitative study of risk and protective factors. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 7(1): 3.

Bolton, R., Logan, C. & Gittell, J.H. (2021). Revisiting relational coordination: A systematic review. The Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 57(3), 290-322.

Bond, B. J. & Gittel, J. H. (2010). Cross agency coordination of offender reentry: Testing collaboration outcomes. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(2), 118-129.

Caelli, K., Ray, L. & Mill, J. (2003). ‘Clear as Mud’: Toward Greater Clarity in Generic Qualitative Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1–13.

Cepeda, J. A., Vetrova, M.V., Lyubimova, A. I., Levina, O. S., Heimer, R. & Niccolai, L. M. (2015). Community reentry challenges after release from prison among people who inject drugs in St. Petersburg, Russia. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 11(3),183-192.

Chikadzi, V. (2017). Challenges facing ex-offenders when reintegrating into mainstream society in Gauteng, South Africa. Social Work (Stellenbosch. Online), 53(2), 288–300.

Clairborne, N. & Lawson, H. A. (2005). An intervention framework for collaboration. Families in society. The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 86(1), 93-103.

Cramer, V. (2014). The prevalence of mental disorders among convicted inmates in Norwegian prisons. Oslo Universitetssykehus.

D’Amour, D., Ferrada-Videla, M., San Martín-Rodríguez, L. & Beaulieu, M.-D. (2005). The conceptual basis for interprofessional collaboration: Core concepts and theoretical frameworks. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 19 (Supplement 1), 116–131.

Denton, M. (2014). Hoping against hope: The prison-to-community transition experience of men with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance use disorder [Doctoral dissertation, University of Queensland]. School of Social Work and Human Services, University of Queensland.

Falck, S. (2015) Tilbakeføringsgarantien som smuldret bort. Mellom kriminalomsorg og kommunale tjenester. Tiltaksbro, systematikk eller tilfeldighet? [The reintegration guarantee that vanished]. Statens institutt for rusmiddelforskning.

Fazel, S. & Wolf, A. (2015). A systematic review of criminal recidivism rates worldwide: Current difficulties and recommendations for best practice. PLoS One.

Fletcher, B.W., Lehman, W. E. K., Wexler, H. K., Melnick, G., Taxman, F. S. & Young, D.W. (2009). Measuring collaboration and integration activities in criminal justice and substance abuse treatment agencies. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 103(Supplement 1), S54–S64.

Friestad, C. & Hansen, I. L. S. (2004). Levekår blant innsatte [Living conditions among inmates]. Fafo-rapport 429. Forskningsstiftelsen FAFO.

Friestad, C. & Kjelsberg, E. (2009). Drug use and mental health problems among prison inmates: Results from a nation-wide prison population study. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 63(3), 237-245.

Garland, D. (2001). The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. University of Chicago Press.

Gisler, C., Pruin, I. & Hostettler, U. (2018). Experiences with welfare, rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

Gittell, J. H. (2001). Supervisory span, relational coordination and flight departure performance: A reassessment of postbureaucracy theory. Organization Science, 12(4), 393-521.

Gittell, J. H. (2002). Relationships between service providers and their impact on customers. Journal of Science Research, 4(4), 299-311.

Gittell, J. H. (2011). Relational coordination: Guidelines for theory, measurement and analysis. Relational Coordination, Brandeis University.

Gittell, J. H., Fairfield, K., Benjamin, B., Jackson, R., Kelly, M., Laskin, R., Lipson, S., Siliski, J., Thornhill, T. & Zuckerman, J. (2000). Impact of relational coordination on quality of care, post-operative pain and functioning, and length of stay: A nine-hospital study of surgical patients. Medical Care, 38(8), 807-819.

Gittell, J. H., Weinberg, D., Bennett, A. & Miller, J. A. (2008). Is the doctor in? A relational approach to job design and the coordination of work. Human Resource Management, 47(4), 729-755.

Gittell, J. H., Weinberg, D., Pfefferle, S. & Bishop, C. (2008). Impact of relational coordination on job satisfaction and quality outcomes: A study of nursing homes. Human Resource Management Journal, 18(2), 154-170.

Graunbøl, H. M., Kielstrup, B., Muilvuori, M.-L., Tyni, S., Baldursson, E.S., Gudmundsdottir, H., Kristoffersen, R., Krantz L. & Lindsten, K. (2010). Retur: En nordisk undersøgelse af recidiv blandt klienter i kriminalforsorgen [The return: A Nordic study of reoffending].

Hansen, G.V. (2015). Can collaboration provide integrated services for prisoners in Norway? International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 4(4), 136‐149.

Hatland, A., Kuhnle, S. & Romøren, T. I. (2018). Den norske velferdsstaten (5 utg.) [The Norwegian welfare state, 5th ed.]. Gyldendal.

Hean, S., Willumsen, E. & Ødegård, A. (2017). Collaborative practices between correctional and mental health services in Norway: Expanding the roles and responsibility competence domain. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 31(1), 18-27.

Hean, S., Willumsen, E. & Ødegård, A. (2018). Making sense of interactions between mental health and criminal justice services: The utility of cultural historical activity systems theory. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 14(2), 124-141.

Hean, S., Ødegård, A. & Willumsen, E. (2017). Improving collaboration between professionals supporting mentally ill offenders. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 13(2), 91-104.

Helgesen, J. H. I. (2019). Straff og velferd i fangebehandling av rusmiddelbrukere [Punishment and welfare in corrections of substance abusers] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Oslo.

King, N. (2012). Doing template analysis. In G. Symon & C. Cassell (Ed.), Qualitative organizational research (p. 426-450). Sage.

Kinner, S. A., Forsyth, S. & Williams, G. (2013). Systematic review of record linkage studies of mortality in ex-prisoners: Why (good) methods matter. Addiction, 108(1), 38-49.

Körner, M., Bütof, S., Müller, C., Zimmermann, L., Becker, S. & Bengel, J. (2016). Interprofessional teamwork and team interventions in chronic care: A systematic review. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 30(1), 15-28.

Larsen, B. K., Hean, S. & Ødegård, A. (2019). A conceptual model on reintegration after prison in Norway. International Journal of Prisoner Health, 15(3), 282-292.

Lehman, W. E. K., Fletcher, B.W., Wexler, H. K. & Melnick, G. (2009). Organizational factors and collaboration and integration activities in criminal justice and drug abuse treatment agencies. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 103(Supplement 1), S65–S72.

Lov om arbeids- velferdsforvaltningen [Law of labour and welfare administration] (2006).

Lov om gjennomføring av straff [Law of execution of sentences] (2001).

Malterud, K. (2001). Qualitative research: Standards, challenges, and guidelines. The Lancet, 358(9280), 483-488.

Mathieu, J., Maynard, M.T., Rapp, T. & Gilson, L. (2008). Team effectiveness 1997-2007: A review of recent advancements and a glimpse into the future. Journal of Management, 34(3), 410 - 476.

Otte-Trojel, T., Rundall, T. G., de Bont, A. & van de Klundert, J. (2017). Can relational coordination help inter-organizational networks overcome challenges to coordination in patient portals? International Journal of Healthcare Management, 10(2),75-83.

Pihl, J. (2009). Interprofessional cooperation between teachers and librarians: Analysing theoretical and professional arguments for cooperation in an era of globalization. In H.B. Holmarsdottir & M. O’Dowd (ed.), Nordic Voices: Teaching and Researching Comparative and International Education in the Nordic Countries. Brill

Pratt, J. (2008a). Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess: Part I: The nature and roots of Scandinavian exceptionalism. British Journal of Criminology, 48(2), 119-137.

Pratt, J. (2008b). Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess: Part II: Does Scandinavian exceptionalism have a future? British Journal of Criminology, 48(3), 275-292.

Reeves, S., Pelone, F., Harrison, R., Goldman, J. & Zwarenstein, M. (2017). Interprofessional collaboration to improve professional practice and healthcare outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reperceptions.

Revold, M. K. (2015). Levekårsundersøkelse blant innsatte 2014 - Før, under og etter soning [Living conditions among inmates in Norway 2014 - Before, under and after prison].

Robinson, G. & Shapland, J. (2008). Reducing recidivism: A task for restorative justice? The British Journal of Criminology, 48(3), 337-358.

Rundhovde, R. R. & Skjevrak, P. E. (2018). Kriminalitetsforebygging på norsk: En kunnskapsoversikt [Crime prevention in Norway - A literature review].

Schinkel, M. (2014) Being imprisoned - Punishment, adaptation and desistance. Palgrave Macmillan.

Stühlinger, M., Schmutz, J. B. & Grote, G. (2019). I hear you, but do I understand? The relationship of a shared professional language with quality of care and job satisfaction. Psychology.

Taylor, C. & White, S. (2000). Practising reflexivity in health and welfare. Making knowledge. Open University Press.

The Norwegian Correctional Service (2021). Frivillige og ideelle organisasjoner [Voluntary organizations].

Tjora, A. (2017). Kvalitative forskningsmetoder i praksis (3. utg.) [Qualitative research methods in the field of praxis, 3rd ed.]. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag.

Travis, J. (2005). But they all come back: Facing the challenges of prisoner reentry. Urban Institute, 83(3), 370–371.

United Nations Office in Drugs and Crime (2019). World Drug Report.

UNODC, ILO, UNDP, WHO, UNAIDS (2013). HIV prevention, treatment and care in prisons and other closed settings: A comprehensive package of interventions. Vienna.

Van Leijen-Zeelenberg, J., Van Raak, A., Duimel-Peeters, I., Kroese, M., Brink, P. & Vrijhoef, H. (2015). Interprofessional communication failures in acute care chains: How can we identify the causes? Journal of Interprofessional Care, 29(4), 320-30.

Ward, T. & Maruna, S. (2007). Rehabilitation. Routledge.

Weaver, B. & McNeil, F. (2014). Lifelines: Desistance, social relations, and reciprocity. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 42(1), 95-107.

Willumsen, E. & Ødegård, A. (2016). Tverrprofesjonelt samarbeid: et samfunnsoppdrag (2. utg.) [Interprofessional collaboration, 2nd ed.]. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Willumsen, E. & Ødegård, A. (Eds.) (2020). Samskaping: Sosial innovasjon for helse og velferd [Co-creation: Social innovation for health and welfare]. Universitetsforlaget.

Ødegård, A. (2006). Exploring perceptions of interprofessional collaboration in child mental health care. International Journal of Integrated Care.

Ødegård, A. & Bjørkly, S. (2012). A mixed method approach to clarify the construct validity of interprofessional collaboration – An empirical research illustration. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 26(4), 283-288.




How to Cite

Larsen, B. K., & Hean, S. . (2021). The significance of interprofessional and interagency collaboration in reintegration after prison: A qualitative study exploring Norwegian frontline workers’ views. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 16(1), 109–134.