Returning to society after a stint behind bars can be difficult, but those coming back to Washington, D.C., after doing time face particularly long odds, says a report issued today by the nonprofit Council for Court Excellence, reports the Washington Post. The group says 1 in 22 adults in the capital are “under some form of correctional control,” including jail or probation. Prisoners are often housed in federal facilities as far away as the West Coast, and most of the struggles resulting from a criminal record are borne by the city’s black residents. “D.C.’s returning citizens face a variety of challenges that returning citizens elsewhere simply do not confront,” the report says, noting the city’s status as a federal district rather than a state. “It does not have to be this way.”
The report, “Beyond Second Chances,” paints a bleak picture of those with criminal records searching for housing and work in an expensive city where many jobs require a college education. The report urges the Federal Bureau of Prisons to establish an ombudsman position focused on D.C. correctional issues. It also suggests that halfway houses stop charging residents 25 percent of their income for subsistence fees. It found that more than 1 in 5 employed returning citizens lack stable housing when they return to the community, and those who were unemployed were even more likely to stay in homeless shelters or on the street. Correctional facilities should have returning citizens apply for housing up to 90 days before release, says the report, which urges the D.C. Council to bar landlords from discriminating against those with criminal records. D.C.’s “ban the box” law, which prevents employers from screening out job applicants based on criminal convictions, isn’t sufficient, the report says. “In D.C., you can ‘Ban the Box,’ but you can’t ban Google,” says a former inmate quoted in the report.