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Baltimore Prisoners' Experiences Returning Home

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Document date: March 15, 2004
Released online: March 15, 2004

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).


The Urban Institute, in 2001, launched a four-state, longitudinal study of prisoner reentry entitled Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry, beginning with a pilot study in Maryland. The first phase of the pilot study involved an analysis of preexisting corrections data to describe Maryland's incarceration and reentry characteristics (see sidebar "A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Maryland"). The second phase of the pilot study involved a series of interviews with prisoners returning to the city of Baltimore, once before and twice after they were released. In addition, interviews with family members of some of the prisoners in our sample were conducted, as were focus groups with residents in two of the Baltimore communities that are home to high concentrations of returning prisoners (see sidebar "Returning Home Study Methodology" for more details about the data collection). This research brief documents the findings from phase two, the primary data collection effort, and provides empirical evidence on the actual experiences of prisoners returning home to Baltimore. It presents key findings on a range of reentry challenges faced by these men and women following their release from prison and describes factors that relate to postrelease success or failure, such as employment, substance use, individuals' expectations and attitudes, health challenges, criminal histories, and the family and community contexts awaiting them.

The purpose of this research brief is to provide a foundation for policy conversations about ways to improve the chances of successful reintegration for prisoners coming home, whether to Baltimore or to other communities around the country. In many respects, our findings confirm conventional wisdom about the challenges posed by the experiences of incarceration and reentry. Yet, in a number of ways, this empirical examination of those experiences has yielded results that are at odds with official documentation or challenge established notions about policy interventions designed to ensure that returning prisoners will find jobs, stay away from crime and drugs, find housing, secure health care, and reunite with families (see sidebar "Interpreting this Report"). It is our hope that listening to the experiences of those prisoners—and members of the communities to which they return—will point the way to policy innovations that are empirically grounded, pragmatic, and reflective of the realities of reentry.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).



Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice


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