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Final Report on Ohio Prisoner Reentry Study

by G. A. Bowers

The Urban Institute?s Justice Policy Center released in April 2007 One Year Out, the final report of its Returning Home study of nearly 300 former prisoners living in Cleveland, Ohio, one year after their release from prison.

Among the study?s key findings were that, one year out, 79 percent of the released prisoners were living with family. This was not always an ideal situation as 49 percent said drug dealing was a major problem in their neighborhood and 23 percent lived with drug users or serious alcohol drinkers. Employment was problematic as 65 percent reported difficulties in finding a job and 56 percent reported difficulty earning enough to support themselves. Family and friends were vitally important to the released prisoners. The men identified family support as the most important factor in staying out of prison. On the other hand, 21 percent of those reincarcerated identified their failure to avoid certain people or situations as the reason for their reincarceration. Over half of the men reported chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, asthma, arthritis, or high cholesterol, yet only a third were receiving treatment. Additionally, 23 percent were depressed and 20 percent suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome related to their incarceration experiences. Drugs and alcohol continued to plague these men. Prior to incarceration, 72 percent used drugs and 60 percent drank to intoxication. One year after release, 35 percent reported drug use or alcohol intoxication during the prior month. Most men stayed crime-free after release, as only 24 percent self-reported committing a crime, usually drug possession (51 percent) or drug dealing (32 percent). Only 15 percent were returned to prison, 81 percent of those for a new crime.

The factors associated with success included employment, stable housing, family support, and sobriety. Employment posed a significant challenge to the men. One month after release, only 21 percent had full-time employment. After a year, 37 percent were working full-time, but their hourly wages had dropped from a preincarceration average of $12 to $10.
Networking was key to finding employment as 57 percent found jobs through friends or family. Employment is critical to successful reentry as 11 percent of the reincarcerated reported unemployment as the reason for their reincarceration and 17 percent cited not having enough money to support themselves.

Finding housing challenged these men. Nearly half returned to their old neighborhoods and a similar percentage reported drug dealing as a major problem in the neighborhood. This is problematic for people with a history of drug use. The men suffered unstable living arrangements as 63 percent moved at least once in the first year and 46 percent anticipated moving in the next few months.

Six months out, 30 percent mentioned family support as the most important factor in staying out. An additional 10 percent cited seeing their children as that critical factor. Those who had close attachments to their children, received substance abuse treatment upon release and had regular telephone contact with their parole officer were less likely to use drugs. Since 29 percent of the reincarcerated cited drug or alcohol use as the reason for their reincarceration, maintaining sobriety is critical to success.

The report underscores the importance of providing services to assist released prisoners in finding employment, housing, and substance abuse treatment. It is crucial that prison policies encourage family ties during imprisonment as family and spousal support are keys to successful reintegration. Such policies might include building future prisons near the urban areas where most families of prisoners reside rather than in rural areas, competitive telephone charges, family-friendly visiting regulations, and relationship support programs. The Urban Institute report is available at on the PLN website.

Additional Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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