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A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Maryland

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Document date: March 18, 2003
Released online: March 18, 2003

The Justice Policy Center (JPC) carries out nonpartisan research to inform the national dialogue on crime, justice, and community safety. For more information on JPC's reentry research, visit http://jpc.urban.org/reentry. To receive monthly email updates on JPC research, send an email to JPC@ui.urban.org.

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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Executive Summary

What is the Policy Context Surrounding Prisoner Reentry in Maryland?

How Are Prisoners Released in Maryland?

What Happens After Maryland Prisoners Are Released?
Experiments in PostRelease Supervision

CHAPTER 4 Who is Returning Home?

CHAPTER 5 How Are Prisoners Prepared for Reentry?
Education and Employment Readiness Programs
Substance Abuse Treatment Programs
Physical and Mental Health Treatment
Correctional Options Programs
Comprehensive Prerelease Programming Initiatives

CHAPTER 6 Where Are Released Prisoners Going?

Prisoner Reentry in Baltimore City
Southwest Baltimore
Greater Rosemont
Sandtown-Winchester / Harlem Park
Greenmount East
Southern Park Heights


Appendix A. Number and Rate of Prisoners Returning to Maryland Counties, 2001, and Demographic Information by County


Executive Summary

Reentry Defined

For the purposes of this report, "reentry" is defined as the process of leaving the adult state prison system and returning to society. The concept of reentry is applicable to a variety of contexts in which individuals transition from incarceration to freedom, including release from jails, federal institutions, and juvenile facilities. We have limited our scope to those sentenced to serve time in state prison in order to focus on individuals who have been convicted of the most serious offenses, who have been removed from communities for longer periods of time, who would be eligible for state prison programming while incarcerated, and who are managed by state correctional and parole systems.

This report describes the process of prisoner reentry by examining the policy context surrounding Maryland reentry, the characteristics of Maryland's returning inmates, the geographic distribution of returning prisoners, and the social and economic climates of the communities that are home to the highest concentrations of returning prisoners. This report does not attempt to evaluate a specific reentry program, nor does it empirically assess Maryland's reentry policies and practices. Rather, the report consolidates existing data on incarceration and release trends and presents a new analysis of data on Maryland prisoners released in 2001. The data used for this report were derived from several sources, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and census data compiled by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA). Highlights from the report are presented below.

Historical Incarceration and Release Trends. Maryland's incarceration and reentry trends are similar to those observed at the national level. Between 1980 and 2001, Maryland's prison population more than tripled, from 7,731 to 23,752 prisoners. The per capita rate of imprisonment in Maryland more than doubled over the same period, rising from 183 to 422 prisoners per 100,000 residents. The growth in Maryland's prison population is attributable to increased admissions rather than to longer lengths of stay in prison. Key factors influencing increased admissions include rising crime rates and arrests, more admissions of drug offenders, and more parole violators returning to prison. Maryland's release patterns reflect these rising admissions and population trends: 9,448 prisoners were released from Maryland prisons in 2001, nearly double the number released in 1980 (5,436).

How Maryland Prisoners Are Released. In 2001, nearly three-quarters of Maryland prisoners were released through nondiscretionary means (i.e., mandatory release or expiration of sentence). About one-fifth of prisoners were released by parole board decision, a discretionary approach. The number of prisoners released by parole board decision has decreased over the past decade.

Profile of Prisoners Released in 2001. The majority of released prisoners were male (91 percent) and black (76 percent). Three-quarters were between 20 and 40 years old at release; the median age at release was 34. One-third had been serving time for drug offenses. About half of the prisoners released in 2001 had served two years or less in prison; the largest share (37 percent) served between 40 and 60 percent of their sentences. Seventy percent had been in prison at least once before, and 22 percent had been parole violators at some point in their criminal careers.

How Prisoners are Prepared for Release. In 2001, about 17 percent of inmates were involved in educational or vocational programs offered by the Maryland Division of Correction (MD DOC), half had work assignments (e.g., sanitation, food service) within the correctional institutions, and an additional 7 percent participated in a work-release program. Nearly one-third of all Maryland state prisoners (31 percent) were classified as idle, which denotes a lack of participation in programming or work. In addition to traditional programming, comprehensive reentry efforts, such as the Reentry Partnership Initiative (REP), currently serve a very small fraction of returning prisoners. REP served 125 of the 4,411 who returned to Baltimore City in 2001, or 3 percent. The state plans to use a portion of its recently awarded Going Home funds to expand the REP program to serve 500 prisoners returning to the City of Baltimore each year.

Life on the Outside: Parole Supervision. In 2001, 89 percent of released prisoners were subject to some period of parole supervision after release. The number of people on parole in Maryland has more than doubled, from 6,436 in 1980 to 14,143 in 2000. Over the past decade, the number of parole violators, especially technical violators, also has increased. In 2002, 58 percent of parole revocations were for technical violations, while 42 percent were for new crimes.

Geographic Distribution of Released Prisoners. The vast majority (97 percent) of Maryland prisoners released in 2001 returned to Maryland; of those, 59 percent returned to Baltimore City (4,411 released prisoners). Within Baltimore City, releasees are even more concentrated in just a few communities, including Southwest Baltimore, Greater Rosemont, and Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park. Some of these communities received more than 200 released prisoners in 2001, more than the number that returned to some entire counties in Maryland. These communities also are characterized by high levels of poverty and crime.


This report examines the prisoner reentry phenomenon in the State of Maryland. Prisoner reentry—the process of leaving prison and returning to society—has become a pressing issue both in Maryland and nationwide, and with good reason. Rising incarceration rates over the past quarter century have resulted in more and more inmates being released from prison each year. Nationwide, an estimated 630,000 inmates were released from state and federal prisons in 2001, a fourfold increase over the past two decades.1 Thus, released prisoners, their families, and the communities to which they return must cope with the challenges of reentry on a much greater scale than ever before.

And the challenges of reentry are many. More prisoners nationwide are returning home having spent longer terms behind bars,2 exacerbating the already significant challenges of finding employment and reconnecting with family. Prisoners today are typically less prepared for reintegration, less connected to community-based social structures, and more likely to have health or substance abuse problems than in the past.3 In addition to these personal circumstances, limited availability of jobs, housing, and social services in a community may affect the returning prisoner's ability to successfully reintegrate.4

These challenges affect more than returning prisoners and their families; they can also have serious public safety implications for the communities to which prisoners return. Reentry concerns are most pressing in major metropolitan areas across the country, to which about two-thirds of the prisoners released in 1996 returned—up from 50 percent in 1984.5 Within central cities, released prisoners are often even more concentrated in a few neighborhoods.6 These high concentrations of returning prisoners generate great costs to those communities, including potential increases in costs associated with crime and public safety, greater public health risks, and high rates of unemployment and homelessness. Thus, developing a thorough understanding of the characteristics of returning prisoners and the challenges they face is an important first step in shaping public policy toward improving the safety and welfare of all citizens.

In many ways, the dimensions and challenges of prisoner reentry observed on the national level are mirrored in the State of Maryland. In 2001, 9,448 people were released from Maryland prisons—nearly twice the number released two decades ago (5,436 in 1980).7 During 2001, 97 percent of all men and women released from Maryland prisons returned to communities in Maryland.8 Of those prisoners who returned to Maryland, well over half (59 percent) returned to one jurisdiction in the state, Baltimore City, and the flow of prisoners was further concentrated in a small number of communities within Baltimore City. Thirty percent of the 4,411 released prisoners who returned to Baltimore City returned to just 6 of 55 communities: Southwest Baltimore, Greater Rosemont, Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park, Greenmount East, Clifton-Berea, and Southern Park Heights.9 These high-concentration community areas in Baltimore, which already face great social and economic disadvantages, may experience reentry costs to a magnified degree. In addition, while these numbers represent individuals released from Maryland prisons after serving sentences of one year or more, it is important to note that approximately 5,000 additional inmates are released to Baltimore City each year after having served jail time (typically less than a year). The sizable number of jail releasees makes the impact of reentry on Baltimore even greater. (For more information, see sidebar About the Data.)

Government leaders, corrections officials, local organizations, and service providers are keenly aware of the reentry challenges in Maryland, and they have begun to use both research and programmatic knowledge to address them. In July 2002, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services was awarded $2,000,000 over three years from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, as part of the federal government's Going Home program, which supports reentry initiatives nationwide. This recent grant provides the opportunity for Maryland to continue and expand upon current reentry initiatives in the state. Specifically, a share of the funds will be used to expand a collaborative reentry partnership formed in May 1999 among the Enterprise Foundation, the Maryland Division of Correction (MD DOC), and many partner organizations.10 This collaboration, entitled the Maryland Re-Entry Partnership Initiative, was established to create a network of transitional services for prisoners returning to Baltimore City. The partnership combines the efforts of state corrections agencies, local law enforcement, and community-based organizations to reduce recidivism and crime and improve the quality of life in Baltimore City.

Other organizations and agencies in Maryland have made reentry an important item on their agendas, including the Abell Foundation, the Baltimore Office of the Open Society Institute (OSI), and the City of Baltimore. In addition to being one of the funders of the Maryland Re-Entry Partnership Initiative, the Abell Foundation also funds a number of employment and substance abuse programs that serve returning prisoners, among others. OSI has made prisoner reentry one of the two main priorities of its criminal justice program by giving grants to nonprofit organizations, service providers, advocates, and government entities that focus on reforming policies and practices aimed at improving services to prisoners as they return to the community. OSI also convenes representatives from Baltimore area organizations for roundtable discussions on reentry issues and hosts a speakers' series on reentry. In addition, as a result of a proposal submitted by OSI in collaboration with the Baltimore City Mayor's Office of Economic Development and representatives from government agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and employers, Baltimore City was chosen in April 2002 to be one of 10 cities nationwide to participate in the National League of Cities' (NLC's) Transitional Jobs Project. This initiative provides technical assistance to help cities develop a transitional employment program for hard-to-employ individuals. In Baltimore City, the NLC resources will be used to create a Transitional Jobs Project that will help ex-offenders find permanent jobs with adequate living wages.11

These collaborative efforts in Maryland are positive steps toward improving reentry outcomes in Baltimore City, the most critical reentry location in the state. The premise of these programs is that a well-designed reentry system can enhance public safety, reduce returns to prison, control corrections expenditures, and help prisoners achieve successful long-term reintegration, potentially resulting in positive outcomes not only for returning prisoners but for their families and communities as well.

This report is designed to contribute to the efforts currently under way in Maryland to enhance public safety and improve the prospects for successful prisoner reintegration in the state. It is important to note that this report does not attempt to evaluate a specific reentry program, nor does it empirically assess Maryland's reentry policies and practices. Rather, the process and characteristics of prisoner reentry in Maryland are described by answering several questions that frame the organization of the report:

  • What is the policy context surrounding prisoner reentry in Maryland? How do state sentencing and postrelease supervision ractices affect the Maryland reentry picture?
  • What are the characteristics of Maryland's returning inmates?
  • How are Maryland prisoners prepared for reentry?
  • What are the Maryland communities with the greatest concentrations of returning inmates? What are the economic and social climates of those communities?

The report begins by describing the reentry process at the state level, followed by a description of the characteristics of inmates released from Maryland prisons in 2001.12 We next turn our attention to an analysis of reentry in Baltimore City, where the largest number and percentage of Maryland releasees return. The characteristics of Baltimore and the unique challenges the city faces with regard to the reintegration of prisoners are described and discussed. The report concludes with a spatial analysis of select neighborhoods in Baltimore to which a large percentage of prisoners return. It is our hope that this report will provide a useful, factual foundation for the individuals and organizations working to improve reentry outcomes for prisoners, their families and communities, and the general public in Maryland.

About the Data

The data used for this report were derived from several sources. Longitudinal data describing the policy context of incarceration and reentry trends in Maryland, for example, were derived from a mix of federal statistics, such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and statistics compiled by various agencies within the State of Maryland, such as the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Community-level data used to develop the maps of reentry and related demographic and socioeconomic status (SES) data by Baltimore neighborhood were derived from census data compiled by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA). BNIA also provided the files that enabled us to aggregate and map data according to the 55 Baltimore community areas.

The available data from each of these sources spanned different time periods—some had data for only a few years, while others had data for two decades or longer. Rather than truncating longitudinal data so that graphs and statistics from all sources cover a common time span, we chose to include all years for which we were able to obtain data points. As a result, readers will not always be able to make year-to-year comparisons across graphs. Much of our consecutive longitudinal data stops at calendar year 1998 or 1999. In some cases, we were able to obtain a single data point for a more recent year. In these instances, because of the gaps between data points, readers may see statistics presented in the text that are not included in the figures.

Data on the population of inmates released from Maryland prisons in calendar year 2001 were obtained from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and represent only those released inmates who received sentences of one year or more to ensure that these data represent those individuals who were sentenced to serve time in the state prison system. The reason for this distinction is that, as a result of acts of the 1991 General Assembly, the State of Maryland agreed to take over operation of the Baltimore City detention center complex, providing services and administering programs associated with processing, detaining, and managing Baltimore Region arrestees [An. Code 1957, art. 41, § 4-1403; 1999, ch. 54, § 2.]. We acknowledge in this report that the number of people being released from Maryland prisons is in fact much higher due to this jail population. However, jail inmates are housed for relatively short periods of time, are not eligible for most prison programming, and are not subject to postrelease supervision. Thus, the challenges of jail reentry are substantively different than those of prisoner reentry and are not addressed in this report.

About the Authors

Nancy G. La Vigne is a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute, where she directs several projects related to prisoner reentry, including Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry, a multi-state, longitudinal study of the reentry experience. Her other research interests include the geographic analysis of crime, situational crime prevention, and community policing. Dr. La Vigne has 12 years of experience conducting criminal justice research, and has previous experience in the areas of crime policy and the legislative process. Prior to her current position, she was founding director of the National Institute of Justice's Crime Mapping Research Center. Dr. La Vigne's other work experience includes consulting for the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and the National Development and Research Institute. She also served as Research Director for the Texas Punishment Standards Commission. Dr. La Vigne has authored articles in journals, chapters in edited volumes, and textbooks and monographs in the areas of crime prevention, policing, and spatial analysis. She holds a Ph.D. from Rutgers University and a Master's in Public Affairs from the University of Texas.

Vera Kachnowski is a Research Assistant in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute where she works primarily on prisoner reentry projects. She devotes most of her time to a multi-year, multi-state study entitled Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry. She has also worked on a reentry consulting project for the Center for Community Safety at Winston-Salem University and an evaluation of an intensive reentry program run by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Prior to joining the Urban Institute, Ms. Kachnowski worked as a Research Assistant at Goodman Research Group, Inc., an education research firm in Boston, MA. There, she worked on many evaluations of educational programs, materials, and facilities for clients such as public broadcasting station WGBH-TV, Lesley University, and the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute. Ms. Kachnowski holds a B.A. in Sociology (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Boston University.

Jeremy Travis is a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and is co-chair of the Reentry Roundtable—a group of prominent academics, practitioners, service providers, practitioners, service providers and community leaders working to advance policies and innovations on prisoner reentry that reflect solid research. Rebecca Naser is a Research Associate at the Urban Institute where she works on prisoner reentry and domestic violence projects. Christy Visher is a Principal Research Associate at the Urban Institute and is the Principal Investigator of the Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry study.

1 Office of Justice Programs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs. 2002. "Attorney General Ashcroft Announces Nationwide Effort to Reintegrate Offenders Back into Communities." Press release, July 15, 2002. Available at http://www.usnewswire.com/OJP/docs/OJP02214.html. (Accessed October 2002.)

2 Lynch, J., and W. Sabol. 2001. "Prisoner Reentry in Perspective." Crime Policy Report, vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.

3 Austin, J. 2001. "Prisoner Reentry: Current Trends, Practices, and Issues." Crime and Delinquency 47(3): 314-334; Hammett, T.M., C. Roberts, and S. Kennedy. 2001. "Health-Related Issues in Prisoner Reentry." Crime and Delinquency 47(3): 390-409; Lynch and Sabol. 2001. "Prisoner Reentry in Perspective."

4 For an in-depth discussion of prisoner reentry nationwide, see Travis, J., A. Solomon, and M. Waul. 2001. From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute.

5 Lynch and Sabol. 2001. "Prisoner Reentry in Perspective."

6 Ibid.

7 This statistic is based on released prisoners who had been sentenced to one year or more. Sources: 2001 Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Division of Correction data; Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)/Paige Harrison. 2000. Sentenced Prisoners Released from State or Federal Jurisdiction (corpop22.wk1). National Prisoner Statistics (NPS-1).

8 2001 Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Division of Correction data. Statistics on where released Maryland prisoners returned are based on cases for which address information was available (n=8,516). Of the 8,516 cases for which we had address data, 8,222 had addresses in Maryland. Of these 8,222 cases, 7,447 had viable addresses identified by our mapping software. We discuss geographic distributions within Maryland as shares of these 7,447 cases.

9 See footnote 117 for more information on these communities.

10 Partners in the Maryland Re-Entry Partnership Initiative (REP) include Maryland Division of Correction, Enterprise Foundation, Baltimore Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, Baltimore Police Department, Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, Baltimore City Health Department, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, Vision for Health Consortium, and the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition. See Baltimore City Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice at http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/government/mocj/reentry.html. (Accessed June 2002.)

11 National League of Cities. 2002. "10 Cities Receive Awards to Develop Programs that Prepare Hard-to-Employ Persons." Press release, April 17, 2002. Available at: http://www.nlc.org/nlc_org/site/newsroom/nations_cities_weekly/display.cfm?id=BA50454D-43EB-4A35-AABB71E64075B523. (Accessed July 2002.)

12 The statistics on released Maryland inmates presented in this report are based upon those individuals sentenced to one year or more. For more information, see sidebar entitled About the Data.


The authors would like to thank the many individuals and organizations who made valuable contributions to this report. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MD DPSCS), and specifically Tom Stough and Bob Gibson of the Office of Research and Statistics at the MD DPSCS, provided the data that serve as the backbone of the analysis in this report. We thank the Maryland Division of Correction, and specifically commissioner William Sondervan, former deputy commissioner Jack Kavanaugh, and former administrative officer Clif Burton, for providing information on prison programming and the overall policy context of reentry in Maryland. Nidhi Tomar of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) provided demographic data on Baltimore neighborhoods. Noah Sawyer of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center prepared the many maps included in this report. James Austin of George Washington University's Institute on Crime, Justice, and Corrections, and Amy Solomon, Sarah Lawrence, and Terry Dunworth from the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center provided valuable feedback and guidance on earlier drafts of this report. Dave Williams designed the layout and formatted the text and graphics of this report. Aurie Hall of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and Nicholas Demos, Hotspot Communities Initiatives specialist; Marce Scarbrough, Evaluation, Planning, and Information Systems manager; and Arnold Sherman, senior research associate, all with the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), provided comments on an earlier draft of this report. Finally, we thank our funders, without whom this report would not have been possible: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Abell Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry

This Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Maryland is part of a larger Urban Institute initiative on prisoner reentry in Maryland and three other sites across the country. With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Abell Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the State of Maryland's Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), the Urban Institute has launched a pilot project in Maryland to develop a deeper understanding of the reentry experiences of returning prisoners, their families, and their communities. This pilot study in Maryland, which provides the groundwork for a multistate study entitled Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry, involves interviews with prisoners before and after their release from prison; interviews with released prisoners' family members; focus groups with residents in communities to which many prisoners return; analysis of extant data on local indicators of community well-being; and interviews with community stakeholders. State laws and policies will also be reviewed to provide the overall political and policy context. The results of this research on prisoner reentry in Maryland will be published in 2003. This Maryland research, in turn, will provide the basis for a full-scale longitudinal study of prisoner reentry that the Urban Institute plans to carry out in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas.

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