Housing is an essential component of the reentry process. Stable housing can give former inmates a safe base to secure employment, education and medical, mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment and can reduce recidivism for newly released individuals – all of which increase public safety. Despite these clear benefits, attaining stable housing can be a challenge for individuals with a criminal record. Housing bans, discriminatory screening processes or application requirements from landlord and long waiting lists for public housing coupled with the lack of affordable housing options can lead to homelessness. Counties are well positioned to assist with housing for justice-involved individuals as this issue intersects with justice, health and human services systems.
NACo and the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice partnered to host a conference that brought together county leaders and reentry and housing experts, and conversations from that roundtable informed a new report on Increasing Housing Opportunities for the Justice-Involved: County Policies and Programs for Success. This publication details how counties can help address the difficulty justice-involved individuals can have with securing housing, including by providing affordable housing programs, offering newly released individuals supportive and transitional housing that provides onsite support and enacting laws and policies that can decrease the barriers individuals face when looking for a home.
Counties can also act as coordinators of services to streamline reentry, leverage county resources and dedicate staff members and convene task forces or coordinating councils to mobilize community and government stakeholders to centralize reentry services centered around housing.
These actions can all position justice-involved individuals and the community at large to receive the best outcomes possible and save counties money by decreasing the usage of other county services by these individuals such as emergency room visits, homeless shelters and jail.
To learn more about the roles and opportunities counties have in assisting with reentry housing for justice-involved individuals, read the full report here.