Is Reducing Homelessness the Key to Preventing Recidivism?
This is an important question. Many people have written that preventing ex-prisoners from being homeless is one of the most important factors in reducing the number of people who return to prison. This question was recently explored in greater depth from an article discussing a recent reentry program in the state of Washington. The article is entitled “Housing First’ Helps Keep Ex-Inmates off the Streets (and Out of Prison).”
Many inmates are released without having the money to put down and obtain an apartment to rent. These inmates often don’t have the support system to get to the point where they can afford an apartment on their own. And even if they do have the money, many landlords will not allow tenants who have criminal backgrounds to live in their housing. Therefore, the newly released inmates end up living on the streets and fighting just to survive.
As a professor is quoted in the article says:
“Without a safe and stable place to live where they can focus on improving themselves and securing their future, all of their energy is focused on the immediate need to survive the streets,” says Faith Lutze, criminal justice professor at Washington State University. “Being homeless makes it hard to move forward or to find the social support from others necessary to be successful.”
The program in Washington looks to end this vicious cycle by providing housing support for 12 months to high-risk offenders. Along with stable housing, those in the program also required to receive treatment, find jobs and become self-sufficient.
A study tracked 208 participants in the program and found significantly lower rates of new offenses and a large drop in prison readmissions. In addition, parole revocations were also lowered.
There are several other programs across the nation that are experiencing similar results such as “The Castle,” a transitional housing facility in West Harlem, New York, and a program in San Francisco run by the Delancey Street Foundation.
While the program discussed in the article may seem a common sense strategy, programs that place housing at the forefront of prisoner reentry (that is, reentry into society after their prison term) are actually relatively low in the U.S. They have historically been driven by a handful of non-profits attempting to push the boundaries of prisoner reentry initiatives.
By creating and following a program that encourages support for prisoners being released back into society, we can help them better integrate and become functional, productive members of society.