Opening Doors of Opportunity to Decrease Incarceration Rates

Expanding Affordable Housing Can Prevent Criminal Justice Interaction and Reduce Recidivism

In February, Monarch Housing published a series of blog posts focused on how outlawing the practice of landlords conducting criminal background checks opens the doors of housing opportunity.

Low-income households and individuals recently released from jails and prison need to have housing opportunities in safe and secure communities.  They also need affordable homes with access to jobs that pay living wages, educational and training opportunities for themselves and their families. Transportation and formal and information support systems can also support themselves.

Last week, Shelterforce published an article on the issue of housing and criminal justice. Author Kimberly Burrowes writes “Can Housing Interventions Reduce Incarceration and Recidivism?”

Burrowes writes,

“Because housing problems are often a key underlying factor for people’s involvement with the criminal justice system, there are ways housing interventions can help lessen criminal justice involvement.”

Housing First provides a first step the housing stability that someone needs, connects them with support services and then once they are stabilize, allows them to connect with education and training opportunities and find employment opportunities.

Individuals with access to educational and training opportunities and jobs may be less likely to turn to criminal acts as a means to support themselves and their households.

Burrowes presents access to housing as a “justice housing solution.”

Writes Burrowes,

“For instance, people commit fewer survival crimes (offenses like theft, robbery, trespassing, loitering, and prostitution), which are chief reasons people with low-level offenses are incarcerated.”

Nuisance laws and ordinances result in the unnecessary arrests of individuals experiencing homelessness. Burrowes tells us that youth experiencing homelessness, similar to adults experiencing homelessness, are at risk of interaction with both the juvenile justice system and adult criminal justice system.

Youth may violate an ordinance that allows sleeping outside, experience arrest and then interact with the criminal justice system. If more safe and secure affordable housing was available to the young adult population experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless, they would not be forced to resort to sleeping outside.

Criminal backgrounds that stem from low-level offenses or even from nuisance law violations still lock those who are incarcerated out of housing opportunities.  Landlords often require a criminal background check as part of a rental application.

There is a racial disparity in the homeless population in the United States and as reported in NJCounts 2019, in New Jersey.  If African American or black people disproportionately experiencing homelessness, they make up the majority of the people being arrested for infractions and are as a population, being locked out of housing. Opening the doors of affordable housing opportunity can be step in addressing the racial disparity in the homeless population. 

Click here for a post about Providing Housing For People With Criminal Backgrounds From Infraction Violations.

Click here for a post on Expanding Access to Housing to Ensure Opportunity.

Click here for a post on Granting Access to Housing for Individuals With Criminal Backgrounds.

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