Thursday, May 18, 2006

ain't got no home

from all reports, the two most immediate challenges facing reentering prisoners involve employment and housing. with regard to the latter issue, the real cost of prisons blog points to an atlanta journal-constitution story on the problems of prisoners with nowhere to go.

in many states, one must list an address just to get out of prison. by necessity, however, these are often very temporary arrangements. for example, one's sister may allow her name to be listed in the pre-release plan, though she has absolutely zero intention of permitting more than an overnight stay. when parole boards or prison officials scrutinize such arrangements, they tend to think twice about releasing the inmate.

anyone studying homeless men in the united states quickly discovers the preponderance of former felons in their ranks. there's simply nowhere else for many of them to go. some politicians, such as john conyers of michigan, have proposed housing projects for former prisoners. this is a reasoned response to a real problem, but former prisoners tell me that halfway houses are often the worst place to go if one wishes to remain crime- or drug-free.

for example, a woman who was about to be released told me that a local halfway house was far scarier to her than the prospect of staying in prison ("I don't want to go there. Everyone is using. There's a crackhouse across the street! I DON'T want to go there!"). i'm sure that there are some better housing options both locally and nationally, but i'm not currently aware of any institutions that could be replicated on a scale that would accommodate over 600,000 releasees per year.

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