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Final Report on Former Prisoners in Ohio Details First Year Out, Offers Policy Implications

Document date: April 18, 2007
Released online: April 18, 2007

Contact: Thomas Mentzer, (202) 261-5627, tmentzer@ui.urban.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 18, 2007 -- The final report in an Urban Institute research series on men leaving Ohio prisons details the first year of their release, offering an overview of their postprison lives and a slate of policy options that could smooth reentry.

"One Year Out: Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland (pdf)," by Christy A. Visher and Shannon M.E. Courtney, affords a first-hand look at the challenges of prisoner reentry through interviews with nearly 300 former prisoners who returned to the Cleveland area.

Among the policy recommendations for ex-prisoners:
-- Services that enable former prisoners to secure positive and stable housing immediately after release.
-- Substantial assistance in finding and maintaining both employment and substance abuse treatment.
-- Programs that involve families in prisoners' reintegration.
-- Partner visitation during incarceration and marriage support services after release.

"The study's findings point to important policy opportunities for change—both in prison and in the community—that would reduce recidivism, reduce illegal drug use, and increase public safety in Cleveland's neighborhoods," said Visher."Many of these policy changes are not expensive."

Key findings among released prisoners:

-- Housing: 46 percent were living with a parent or sibling one year after release, and 33 percent with a spouse or intimate partner. Nearly half (46 percent) considered their current living arrangements temporary.
-- Employment: Fewer than half of ex-prisoners had a job after one year, with 37 percent working full-time and 11 percent part-time.
-- Relationships: 27 percent said support from family was the most important thing keeping them out of prison.
-- Health: 59 percent of former prisoners reported a physical illness 12 months after release, but only 33 percent were receiving treatment.
-- Substance use: 35 percent of ex-prisoners reported drug or alcohol use after one year, with 18 percent reporting more than weekly use.
-- Parole violations and recidivism: Prison records show 15 percent of interviewed prisoners had returned to prison, the majority (81 percent) for a new crime and the rest for parole violations. Twenty-nine percent reported having committed at least one crime since release, and 40 percent reported having been arrested.

Of the 424 initial participants in the study, 294 were interviewed in the Cleveland area for the final report, with 56 of those in jail or prison. Forty-six percent of the ex-prisoners were living in their pre-incarceration neighborhoods when interviewed, with 49 percent citing drug selling as a major problem in their communities. Sixty-three percent of the men reported living in more than one place since release.

"One year after release, the men in the study had little stability in their lives and desperately needed community services to help them succeed," Visher said."Most were living in temporary housing, were not working full-time, and had health problems that required medical attention."

"One Year Out: Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland," available in pdf format online at http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=311445, is the latest publication from "Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry." This multiyear research project in Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, and Texas seeks to deepen understanding of the reentry experiences of returning prisoners, their families, and their communities.

The Ohio research is funded by the George Gund Foundation, Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Cleveland Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. For more on this subject, go to http://urban.org/r/crime.cfm.

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice

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