Housing Called ‘Missing Link’ in Inmate Reentry

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A new Illinois report contends that new housing policies can help formerly incarcerated people while also saving taxpayer dollars. The Metropolitan Planning Council and the Illinois Justice Project offer more than a dozen policy proposals that can help government officials reduce recidivism while saving the state more than $100 million annually, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Nearly 40 percent of released inmates return to prison within three years. “The discussion around preventing recidivism is always focused on job training for people and somewhat on their health needs,” said King Harris, co-author of the “Re-Entry Housing Issues in Illinois” report. “Rarely is the conversation focused on housing and we feel that is the missing link.”

About 40,000 people are now held by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). “In an ideal world, IDOC would find housing (including housing with needed social services), employment, affordable healthcare, and necessary counseling to all … released prisoners,” the report said. Limited resources makes that unrealistic. Recidivism has its own price; the report notes that each time someone goes back into the prison system, it can cost taxpayers over $150,000, according to the report. The report urges the state to create a new supportive housing rental subsidy program for those with physical and mental health needs. “There is a very human side to this; 28,000 people get out of jail or prison every year and 12,000-to-13,000 of those people go back to prison within three years,” Harris said. “If we cut down recidivism, we save families and lives.”

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