Impacts of Housing Instability Among People Recently Released from Incarceration

April 1, 2024

As part of our core mission, the Reentry Coalition of New Jersey commissions evidence-based research to explore issues that impede successful reentry into society and provide new ideas to promote public safety and reduce recidivism.

Every individual deserves a place to call home. However, homelessness has become a national crisis that disproportionally impacts people of color, the unemployed, those with mental health or substance use disorders – and, interestingly enough, also individuals who are exiting the criminal justice system.

As the Coalition has highlighted in the past, individuals returning to society post incarceration face enormous barriers to success – but one of the top barriers to successful reintegration is unstable housing and homelessness. According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, it was estimated that of the 600,000+ individuals who left prison in 2019, more than 50,000 of those individuals entered shelters immediately upon release. This is a lose-lose situation for an individual that has served their time and is now looking for a second chance at life.

The Coalition asked the Center for Effective Public Policy (CEPP) to review research pertaining to incarceration and homelessness, summarize the prevailing issues and highlight best practices in addressing the impacts of housing instability among individual recently released from the criminal justice system.

Here are some key findings from their research:

  1. We must ensure that individuals exiting the criminal justice system have a stable place to sleep and stay.

Many individuals exiting the criminal justice system have lost family and social connections. We must increase access to supportive reentry programs, including halfway houses, community-based residential facilities and rental assistance in order to ensure successful reintegration.

  1. We need to stop putting people in jail just because they’re homeless.

An individual who is forced to sleep on the street still needs somewhere to sleep. We should be utilizing funds to help people, not arrest them.

  1. Adapt and utilize proven programs that support the development of safe, stable housing options for individuals exiting the criminal justice system.

Housing First is a model program from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that states that housing should not be conditional on an individual’s sobriety or drug treatment – an individual should be able to choose housing type/location, as long as they also receive supportive services to assist with their successful reintegration back into the community.

 

CLICK HERE to read the policy paper in full and learn more about the impacts of housing instability on individuals exiting the criminal justice system.

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