More than 700,000 prisoners are released from U.S. prisons each year, and estimates suggest that half of these individuals will be back in prison within just three years. The public health consequences of high levels of criminal recidivism are dire. Recidivists tend to be high rate criminal offenders who contribute substantially to the total volume of crime in a community. In turn, neighborhood crime, particularly violence, is a stressful condition that has a variety of detrimental health consequences. One reason for high rates of recidivism in the United States is the fact that many former prisoners return home to the same residential environment, with the same criminal peers and same criminal opportunities, where they resided before incarceration. Through a randomized controlled trial, this study aims to examine the counterfactual situation-that is, the effects on criminal recidivism of residential migration far away from former neighborhoods that is made possible by greater access to housing assistance. Working in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, project researchers will randomly assign voluntary parolee participants to treatment groups that are distinguished by the location of a housing subsidy equivalent to the fair market rent: 1) The experimental group of movers will receive a housing subsidy for use only in a designated geographic area. Offenders who resided in Baltimore City prior to incarceration will be provided a subsidy for housing in Prince George's County, which is located more than 25 miles from Baltimore. Offenders who resided in Prince George's County will be provided a subsidy for use in Baltimore City. 2) The housing comparison group of stayers will receive a housing subsidy for use in the jurisdiction where they resided immediately prior to incarceration. Before undertaking full implementation with a projected 125 participants per group, the project team will conduct a pilot test of 40 cases. This pilot will allow the project tem to verify enrollment of a sufficient number of participants into the project, and to assess the extent to which these participants comply with their randomly assigned treatments. If the likelihood of criminal recidivism is lower when parolees reside in a geographic area different from where they resided prior to incarceration, then removing the institutional barriers to residential relocation may enhance public safety in aggregate and lower incarceration costs at the same time. In particular, it may be fruitful for public housing authorities to provide more housing opportunities for ex- offenders, especially in locations some distance from where the offender resided in the past. Moreover, if residential relocation reduces the likelihood of recidivism, then changes to the parole policies in many states that restrict (or at least discourage) residential mobility may be worth pursuing.

Public Health Relevance

More than 700,000 prisoners are released from U.S. prisons each year, and estimates suggest that two-thirds of these individuals will be rearrested within three years and half incarcerated. A likely contributor to this vicious cycle of recidivism, and th resulting damage to community health and safety, is the fact that many released prisoners return home to the same criminogenic environment with the same criminal opportunities and criminal peers that proved so detrimental to their behavior prior to incarceration. Through a randomized controlled trial, this study aims to examine the counterfactual situation-that is, whether residential migration, incentivized through a housing subsidy, lowers the likelihood of recidivism.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
1R03HD081515-01
Application #
8772119
Study Section
Developmental Biology Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
Bures, Regina M
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Texas Austin
Department
Miscellaneous
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
City
Austin
State
TX
Country
United States
Zip Code
78712