Five Charts That Explain the Homelessness-Jail Cycle—and How to Break It
Homelessness and the criminal justice system are deeply intertwined. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to interact with the justice system because being forced to live outside can lead to citations or arrests for low-level offenses like loitering or sleeping in parks. And people currently or previously involved in the justice system, who are often disconnected from supports and face housing and job discrimination, are more likely to experience homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people are also overrepresented among both groups because of systemic and structural racism in housing, criminal justice, employment, and other systems.
It’s critical that local leaders understand this connection between homelessness and the criminal justice system to develop strategies that better address homelessness, reduce the use of jails, build stronger communities, and ensure everyone has access to safe and stable housing. We gathered evidence from Urban Institute research and other experts to explain the homelessness-jail cycle, and how to break it.