Spotlight

A Direction Home

In Recognition of National Reentry Week

For millions of Americans who have been in prison or jail, the legal and life-restricting consequences of a criminal conviction continue even after they get out. These can include restrictions on voting, housing, jobs, education, and a raft of social services that vastly limit their ability to provide for their families and successfully reenter society. This can lead to a dangerous cycle of reincarceration – indeed, almost 70% of those who leave prison end up rearrested within three years. But research has shown that this cycle can be disrupted when, for example, corrections agencies allow increased and improved contact with families; when more housing opportunities become available through informed policies from local housing authorities, and when people are allowed to develop vocational skills or pursue higher education while still incarcerated.

In recognition of National Reentry Week, we’ve put a spotlight on the work Vera has done and is doing to better prepare incarcerated people to come home and live healthier, productive lives with the people they love.

Relief in Sight?

States Rethink the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction, 2009 - 2014

For millions of Americans, the legal and life-restricting consequences of a criminal conviction continue even after they’ve repaid their debt to society as barriers to voting, housing, jobs, education, and a raft of social services limit their ability to provide for their families and successfully reenter society. In recognition of the damaging eff...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Rebecka Moreno, Sophia Gebreselassie
December 22, 2014
Publication
For millions of Americans, the legal and life-restricting consequences of a criminal conviction continue even after they’ve repaid their debt to society as barriers to voting, housing, jobs, education, and a raft of social services limit their ability to provide for their families and successfully reenter society. In recognition of the damaging effects these collateral consequences can have, 41 states have enacted legislation since 2009 that allows certain individuals to move beyond their convictions. This report reviews that legislative activity, discusses the limitations of current approaches, and offers recommendations to states and localities considering similar reforms.
Nationwide, more than 600,000 people return from prison each year and try to rebuild their lives. The only viable option for many of them is public housing. But local housing authorities across the country routinely bar applicants with criminal convictions—and often people with mere arrest records. That means these policies can affect the nearly one in three Americans who have some kind of criminal record.
For thousands of men and women returning home from incarceration each year, the question of where to live presents an immediate, and at times desperate, concern. Our 2014 Homeward Bound blog series explores this issue and the strategies being tested across cities in the United States to broaden access to public housing.

Coming Home

An Evaluation of the New York City Housing Authority’s Family Reentry Pilot Program

Public housing authorities across the nation historically have barred many with criminal records from public housing residency. However, given evidence of the critical role stable housing and family reunification plays for people coming back to their communities from incarceration, some housing authorities are rethinking their practices. This repor...

Publication
  • John Bae, Margaret diZerega, Jacob Kang-Brown, Ryan Shanahan, Ram Subramanian
November 14, 2016
Publication
Given evidence of the critical role stable housing and family reunification plays for people coming back to their communities from incarceration, some housing authorities are rethinking practices that previously barred them from residency. This report evaluates the Family Reentry Pilot Program, which reunites formerly incarcerated men and women with their families in public housing and partners with community organizations to offer participants reentry services.

In New Orleans, the housing authority is helping people with criminal convictions rejoin families

Think about a particularly trying time in your life. Now think about not having a place to stay or family to support you during this time of hardship. Would you have made it?  For people recently convicted of a crime, having a place to stay and the support of family are often the most influential factors in their success. But for decades, housi...

Blog Post
  • Mathilde  Laisne
    Mathilde Laisne
March 30, 2016
Blog Post
New Orleans sends more people to jail and prison than almost any other place in the country per capita, meaning that thousands of New Orleanians have criminal convictions and struggle to find employment and housing. Now, the Housing Authority of New Orleans is using a set of criteria based on the severity of one's crime and the time since their conviction to determine an applicant's eligibility for housing. As a result, no applicant will be denied housing because of her criminal record without consideration of individual and present circumstances.

Making the Grade

Developing Quality Postsecondary Education Programs in Prison

With its July 2015 announcement of the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, the U.S. Department of Education ushered in what could be a new era of expanded opportunities for postsecondary education in our nation’s prisons. The Second Chance Pell Pilot makes students incarcerated in state and federal prisons eligible for need-based financial aid in a l...

Publication
  • Ruth Delaney, Ram Subramanian, Fred Patrick
July 18, 2016
Publication
To improve the lives of incarcerated people and decrease the collateral consequences of incarceration, Vera is working in several states to provide postsecondary education opportunities for incarcerated people. This report offers lessons from the field on the implementation of these programs in corrections settings across the country.
Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) is partnering with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) to revise and promote more targeted services for aftercare, including parole and probation. Types of support provided include education, mental health, youth workforce development, life skills, and placement. The project focuses on enhanced aftercare and data-driven, evidence-based case management to promote greater support and better outcomes for youth.

Piloting a Tool for Reentry

A Promising Approach to Engaging Family Members

Research shows that incarcerated individuals who maintain contact with supportive family members have better outcomes—such as stable housing and employment—when they return to the community. Yet many people who work in corrections do not know how to help individuals on their caseload draw on these social supports. This report describes the Family J...

Publication
  • Margaret diZerega, Sandra Villalobos Agudelo
February 28, 2011
Publication
Despite research demonstrating that, when incarcerated people maintain contact with supportive family members, they fare better during reentry, many corrections officials do not know how to help those on their caseload draw on these social supports. This report describes the Family Justice Program’s Reentry is Relational project, which implemented the Relational Inquiry Tool (RIT)—a series of questions designed to prompt conversations with incarcerated men and women about the supportive people in their lives—in prisons in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Families

A Charge for Juvenile Justice Agencies

From arrest to probation, placement, and reentry, youth in the juvenile justice system deserve to have their families involved in their care. Studies show that kids in the system are much more likely to succeed long-term when they have frequent contact with their families. Unfortunately, juvenile justice agencies often have difficulty working with ...

Publication
  • Ryan Shanahan, Margaret diZerega
February 26, 2016
Publication
Youth in the juvenile justice system deserve to have their families involved in their care. Studies show that kids in the system are much more likely to succeed long-term when they have frequent contact with their families. Unfortunately, juvenile justice agencies often have difficulty working with families and involving them in the decision-making process. This report offers steps agencies can take to improve their engagement efforts.
Most research and programming about incarcerated people and their family support systems focus on prison settings. Because jail is substantially different from prison—most notably, time served there is usually shorter—it is not clear that policies and practices that work in prisons can be applied successfully in jails. This report describes the Family Justice Program’s Close to Home project, which implemented the Relational Inquiry Tool (RIT) in three jails in Maryland and Wisconsin.

Making the Transition

Rethinking Jail Reentry in Los Angeles County

Jail and prison reentry services are designed to help people who are released into the community and are associated with lower rates of repeat criminal activity and reincarceration as well as improved public safety. However, providing reentry programs in corrections settings is challenging—particularly in jails, where stays are typically short and ...

Publication
  • Talia Sandwick, Karen Tamis, Jim Parsons, Cesar Arauz-Cuadra
February 01, 2013
Publication
Providing reentry programs in corrections settings is challenging—particularly in jails, where stays are typically short and turnover is high. In 2010, with support from The California Endowment, the Vera Institute of Justice partnered with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and community-based organizations to assess reentry services for people leaving the L.A. County Jail. This report details that assessment.