Safe and affordable housing for formerly incarcerated individuals is essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness and recidivism that prevents them from rebuilding their lives as productive citizens, according to a report released Tuesday by the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College.
A program launched this year by the Illinois Department of Corrections transfers inmates with less than four years remaining on their sentence to a facility that provides life-skills training and job counseling. The sense of hope among participants is hard to miss, says a reporter who attended a recent “Day with Dad” weekend at the Kewanee Re-Entry Center.
“This is very, very dangerous,” said Daniel Payne of the Defense Security Service. Some 100,000 people hold interim clearances while working for companies with Defense Department contracts or at 13,000 cleared facilities and plants around the U.S.
Most prisoners on the verge of release focus on how to get back on their feet. But finding ways to contribute to the community matters much more—and ensures that they will never return to prison, writes a Washington State inmate as he awaits the outcome of his parole hearing.
Studies have found that black men, even those without a criminal history, are less likely to get called back or hired after a ban the box law is enacted. Researchers suspect that employers who can’t ask about criminal backgrounds preemptively weed out young black men, who disproportionately have criminal records.
Last year, New Orleans became the largest housing authority to end the automatic rejection of felons and give all applicants a hearing. Housing agencies in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have run pilot programs on rehousing former prisoners, including family reunifications.
Even after felons complete their sentences, pay their fines and serve probation, they must wait at least five years to ask the state to restore their rights, and that can take a decade or more. Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet consider several hundred cases a year, but the backlog is 20,000.