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Prisoner Reentry and Housing November 30, 2010

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When individuals are released from prison or jail, the ability to access safe and secure housing within the community is crucial to their successful reentry. According to Reentry Housing Options: The Policymakers’ Guide, studies have shown that the first month after release is a vulnerable period “during which the risk of becoming homeless and/or returning to criminal justice involvement is high.” Yet, in most jurisdictions to which individuals return after incarceration, accessible and affordable housing is in exceedingly short supply.

Additional challenges unique to people with a criminal history make it even more difficult for them to obtain suitable housing. For instance, private-market rental housing is closed to many individuals transitioning from prison or jail either because they lack sufficient funds for move-in costs or because landlords are unwilling to rent to people with criminal records. Likewise, public housing often keeps out those with a history of criminal activity, based on limited federal exclusions and the generally much broader local restrictions. Even when people who have been in prison or jail are not excluded systematically and receive financial assistance (for example, through housing choice vouchers), affordable units are frequently so scarce relative to need that the options are, effectively, unavailable. And although many people leaving prison or jail would like to live with family or friends, those households may be unable or unwilling to receive them. Therefore, as a last resort, many reentering individuals turn to homeless shelters.

Types of Housing Options for Reentering Individuals

Private-market Rental Housing
Features Benefits Limitations
Individual secures rental property in the private market. Most commonly available option in any community. Rental property owners may screen for, and refuse to rent to, people with criminal records.
May be partly or entirely paid for by public assistance. Public assistance to help pay for housing costs may be denied to individuals with criminal records.
Individuals may use a housing choice voucher (Section 8 voucher) to access rental property in the private market.
Allows individual freedom to choose housing near work, family, supervision, or treatment facility.
Public Housing
Features Benefits Limitations
Priority and eligibility for housing is decided locally. May include units specially designated for people with physical or mental disabilities or older people. More affordable than private-market rental housing.
Tenant typically pays 30 percent of adjusted income toward rent. More affordable than private-market rental housing. More affordable than private-market rental housing.
Affordable Housing (nonprofit or privately owned and managed)
Features Benefits Limitations
Subsidized using a variety of government (and limited private) sources. Generally, tenant pays 30 percent of income toward rent. Typically more affordable than private-market rental housing. Availability is limited, and waiting lists may be long.
Mission-driven to serve low-income or disadvantaged people. Depending on source(s) of funding, may not be bound by some of the statutory restrictions that govern public housing. Owners may exercise discretion to exclude people with criminal histories.
Often coordinated or run by community development corporations or neighborhood-based housing organizations. May provide support services on site.
Halfway House
Features Benefits Limitations
Provides housing for individuals close to or just after release, usually in a highly supervised environment. Offers transition between the fully secure, structured, monitored environment of incarceration and the community. May be available for limited duration only.
May be focused on behavior change, including addressing substance abuse. May enable individuals to work during their residency while keeping their expenses (if any) very low. Availability is limited, and waiting lists may be long.
Housing may be conditional on compliance with community-based service plans or other conditions. May have alternative funding streams, including Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which provide loans to help people with substance use disorders secure housing. May not be desirable to released individuals because of rigid structure, including possible limitations on visitation and freedom to come and go at will.
Does not address post-sentence, post-parole, or longer-term housing needs.
Supportive Housing
Features Benefits Limitations
Tenant pays 30 percent of income toward rent, often from public benefits (e.g., Supplemental Security Income). Offers on-site services that may include case management, assistance with household chores, and mental health and substance abuse counseling. Under federal law, public housing authorities or any federally assisted housing provider may refuse people who have been convicted of certain offenses. If privately operated, owners may exercise discretion to exclude people with criminal histories.
Mission-driven to serve low-income or disadvantaged people. Depending on funding source(s), eligibility may be limited to people who were homeless prior to short periods of incarceration and/or to people with disabilities. May offer permanent housing. Availability and funding may be limited from one jurisdiction to another.
Often coordinated or run by community development corporations or neighborhood-based housing organizations.
Specialized Reentry Housing
Features Benefits Limitations
Availability and funding may be limited from one jurisdiction to another. Addresses specific housing and service needs of formerly incarcerated people. Difficult to create due to lack of dedicated funding streams and because community opposition frequently arises when trying to secure a site for housing for individuals with criminal records.
Nonprofit staff are trained to interface with criminal justice personnel. Very limited availability.
Offers opportunity for peer-support and mentorship among releasees.

Without a stable residence, it is nearly impossible for newly released individuals to reconnect positively to a community. More often than not, when these individuals are not linked to the services and support that could facilitate their successful reintegration, they end up reincarcerated for either violating the conditions of release or for committing a new crime.


Support FAMM While You Shop November 22, 2010

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Here’s a message from Julie Stewart, FAMM President:

The holiday shopping season is upon us … and so is the perfect opportunity to support FAMM!! When you shop online at Amazon.com using FAMM’s unique Amazon link, FAMM will receive a percentage of the proceeds from everything you buy. It’s that simple!

Click here for FAMM’s Amazon page. The webpage will look just like the standard Amazon page, but trust me, every time you shop through this link, a portion of the proceeds will go to FAMM.

I suggest that you do what I’ve done and bookmark the link in your browser as “Amazon” so you remember to use it every time you shop. It’s an easy way to purchase great gifts and support FAMM at the same time.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!


Victims and Reentry Webinar November 18, 2010

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This free webinar will cover promising and replicable practices and program models for involving crime victims and victim services in offender reentry planning processes. Although reentry planning has long focused on the needs of offenders, there has often been a lack of attention paid to the needs of the crime victims, who are potentially re-traumatized when their offenders prepare to reenter their communities. This webinar will help participants identify ways to assess and address victims’ needs, invite and include victim services in reentry planning conversations, and develop victim-offender programming that focuses on offender accountability.

When: December 2, 2010, 2:00 p.m. ET

This webinar, facilitated by Leah Kane, policy analyst at the Council of State Governments Justice Center, will feature a presentation by Trudy M. Gregorie, Justice Solutions.

A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

Click here to register for this webinar.


Time Off For Good Behavior a Measure 11 Necessity November 17, 2010

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This is an opinion from the Statesman Journal

I am an inmate enrolled in an OSU sociology class taught inside the Oregon State Penitentiary.

The class, made up of half inmates/half university students, focuses on crime, communities, prisons and prevention.

I am serving a mandatory Measure 11 sentence and I can tell you from my personal experience that many of us are working toward becoming more productive members of society by participating in classes and job opportunities available at OSP. I strongly encourage concerned citizens and lawmakers to allow inmates to be able to receive “earned time” off their sentences in exchange for good behavior during incarceration.

Gov. Kulongoski’s Reset Cabinet recently recommended up to 15 percent earned time off for the majority of Measure 11 sentences. Offering earned time incentive promotes good behavior inside prison while, more importantly, promoting the changes necessary for true rehabilitation outside of prison.

Currently, Measure 11 doesn’t allow for judges’ discretion and expertise in sentencing. Furthermore, it costs the state excessive dollars that are spent on incarceration only, which provides the least amount of treatment and incentive necessary for rehabilitation.

Allowing Measure 11 offenders earned time incentive is a responsible solution to reduce the costs of corrections.

— Jeremy Jordan, Salem


Support The National Criminal Justice Commission Act November 16, 2010

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Unfortunately, I’m just now able to post this information

There are only a few weeks left before Congress leaves for the year. We have accomplished so much this year, but there is more to do!

Over the past two years, FAMM has written to you about S. 714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) and sponsored by 39 Republican and Democratic senators, creates a bipartisan federal commission to review criminal justice practices, identify effective policies and make recommendations for reform.  FAMM believes the commission will find that any comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system must include eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Because of your advocacy, the bill passed the U.S House of Representatives and was approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Now the full U.S. Senate must act. This is our last chance in 2010 to make this Commission a reality. We can’t do it without you.

Please call the following U.S. senators TODAY to ask them to prioritize and support Senate passage of the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, S. 714, as soon as possible:

These two U.S. senators are key to getting this bill passed in 2010.


I am calling to ask the senator to prioritize and support immediate Senate passage of S. 714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, because:


National Criminal Justice Commission Act November 13, 2010

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On Tuesday, November 16, FAMM members will join other national organizations and thousands of people across the country in a national call-in day to two key senators – Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell.  We’ll ask them to support public safety, make the criminal justice system more fair, and reduce costs to taxpayers by passing S. 714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act.

S. 714 would create a bipartisan commission to review current criminal justice policies and make recommendations for system-wide reform. We believe that any review of the criminal justice system will necessarily include a review (and rejection) of mandatory minimums.

The bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2010 and out of the full House of Representatives in late July. Now the full Senate must act. This is our last chance in 2010 to make this commission a reality. We can’t do it without you.

To participate, mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 16. This blog will post contact information for the two key senators as well as talking points on the morning of November 16. Together we can make reform happen. Please join us on November 16!


Prisoner Reentry Institute’s Occasional Series On Reentry Research November 8, 2010

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The National Reentry Resource Center will carry a live broadcast on the center’s website of The Occasional Series on Reentry Research, hosted by the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The event will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET, Friday, November 12, 2010. This installment of the series is titled: “Parole Release Decisions: Impact of Victim and Nonvictim Input on Parole-Eligible Inmates” and will feature Joel M. Caplan, assistant professor, School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University; Commissioner Christina Hernandez, New York State Board of Parole; and Yael Shy, director of development and Education, New York University’s Center on Violence and Recovery.

According to the Prisoner Reentry Institute:

“This study analyzed administrative data from the New Jersey State Parole Board to determine the extent to which victim and nonvictim input impacted parole release decisions. Positive and negative input, in both verbal and written forms, was studied for a representative sample of 820 parole-eligible adults. Results suggest it can no longer be assumed that victim rights laws and public participation at parole hearings guarantee victim-desired outcomes. Policy and practice implications will be discussed.”

To watch the live broadcast, please visit www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org on Friday morning and click on the link in the “What’s New” section, or click here: http://stream.jjay.cuny.edu:8971/liveevent/liveevent.html (this link will not be active until Friday morning). Event materials, including Power Point presentations, panelist biographies, and a list of relevant resources, will be available on the Prisoner Reentry Institute’s website: www.jjay.cuny.edu/centers/prisoner_reentry_institute/2704.htm.


Vote, It Matters! November 1, 2010

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Here’s a message from Mary Price, Vice President and General Counsel of FAMM:?

We’d like to join the chorus of voices urging you to vote on Tuesday, November 2. It’s going to be an important — perhaps historic — election.  The lawmakers you choose in November will be the ones responsible for reforming sentencing laws.
We can’t tell you how to vote, but we can urge you to get educated: call your candidates, read their literature, and go to the polls on Tuesday. You can get information on all of the candidates (state and federal) at FAMM’s website:  http://famm.capwiz.com/famm/election/home/
If you cannot vote, urge your family and friends to vote. Being involved is the best way to change the system.
Mary Price
Vice President and General Counsel
P.S. –  Another way to be involved is to donate to FAMM. Don’t forget FAMM’s Annual Match is going on now! Every dollar you donate to FAMM before the end of the year will be matched by a generous supporter. Don’t miss this chance to double your impact. Donate now!