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.
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This research brief presents findings from the Returning Home study in Cleveland, Ohio. Returning Home is a longitudinal study of prisoner reentry in Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas based on personal interviews with prisoners before and after their release from prison. Previous reports from the Ohio project examined prisoners' expectations for life after prison and their experiences in the first few months after release. This final report—"One Year Out: Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland"—describes the lives of nearly 300 former prisoners at least 12 months after release, including their ability to find stable housing and reunite with family, and identifies factors associated with getting a job, and avoiding substance use and return to prison (recidivism).
With more than 650,000 prisoners released nationwide each year, the reintegration of men and women leaving prison is challenging policymakers and practitioners at the federal, state, and local levels. Often cited as being of greatest concern is the high rate of recidivism among former prisoners—half of whom return to prison within three years—yet, recidivism is only one outcome in the process of leaving prison and returning home. To examine this entire process, in 2001, the Urban Institute launched a four-state, longitudinal study entitled Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry. The study explores the experiences of released men and women returning to communities in Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, and the factors influencing their success and failure.
This research brief presents the final results from the Returning Home study in Ohio, based on the third and final follow-up interviews conducted with nearly 300 former prisoners at least 12 months after release who were living in Cleveland and the surrounding area. We describe the lives of the men during their first year out, including their ability to find stable housing and reunite with family after release, and identify factors associated with getting a job, and avoiding substance use and recidivism. We also discuss the policy implications of our findings and offer specific recommendations for helping released prisoners become healthy and productive members of the communities to which they return.
This research brief is intended to serve as a foundation for policy discussions about how released prisoners can successfully reintegrate into their communities, whether in Cleveland or in similar cities around the country.
Housing and Community Residence
Finding a place to live is one of the first obstacles that former prisoners must overcome after they are released. In this study, the men recognized the significance of housing to their success after release, with 84 percent anticipating in prerelease interviews that having a place to live would be an important factor in staying out of prison.
Over one-third had lived in their own home before incarceration, but immediately after release, only 18 percent were living in their own home—though by one year out, this had risen to slightly more than 25 percent. One in ten men reported trouble finding housing because of their criminal record, with a similar percentage residing in public or Section 8 housing.
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