The State of Reentry

For Those Rejoining Society, a Multitude of Obstacles Persist

People who have criminal histories face a wide variety of challenges that impede their ability to get their lives on track after justice involvement. Because of collateral consequences that attach by state and federal statutes to certain offenses and last long after people have completed their sentences, many people who have criminal histories find themselves stripped of certain rights and locked out of opportunities for housing, education, employment, social services, and other necessities, such as substance use or mental health treatment.Council of State Governments Justice Center, “National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction.” Due in part to these types of obstacles, which prevent them from appropriately addressing proven risk factors for reoffending (mental illness, unemployment, substance use, housing instability, etc.), formerly incarcerated individuals are rearrested at high rates.For the relationship between mental illness and recidivism, see for example William D. Bales, Melissa Nadel, Chemika Reed, and Thomas G. Blomberg, “Recidivism and Inmate Mental Illness,” International Journal of Criminology and Sociology 6, no. 1 (2017), 40-51 (in study of cohort of people released from Florida prisons between 2004 and 2011, finding that incarcerated people with any type of mental illness—and especially those with a serious mental illness—were significantly more likely to recidivate than those without). For the relationship between housing stability, employment and recidivism, see Beth Huebner and Mark Berg, “Reentry and the Ties that Bind: An Examination of Social Ties, Employment, and Recidivism,” Justice Quarterly 28 no. 2 (2011), 382-410. For the relationship between drug use and recidivism, see Gerald J. Stahler, Jeremy Mennis, Steven Belenko, et al., “Predicting Recidivism for Released State Prison Offenders: Examining the Influence of Individual and Neighborhood Characteristics and Spatial Contagion on the Likelihood of Reincarceration,” Criminal Justice Behavior 40 no. 6 (2013), 690–711 (“One of the strongest dynamic predictors of recidivism is drug involvement and continued drug use”).

In recent years, however, there has been encouraging progress—supported by continuing research—in helping people to succeed after incarceration by providing opportunities for housing, education, and employment, as well as through policies that reduce barriers to accessing those important resources.For programs supporting housing on reentry, see for example Simon Montlake, “How Cities Are Helping Former Felons Get Stable Housing,” Christian Science Monitor, July 19, 2017; and John Bae, Margaret diZerega, Jacob Kang-Brown, Ryan Shanahan, and Ram Subramanian, Coming Home: An Evaluation of the New York City Housing Authority’s Family Reentry Pilot Program, (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2016, updated March 2017). Also see Angela A. Aidala, William McAllister, Maiko Yomogida, and Virginia Shubert, Frequent Users Service Enhancement ‘FUSE’ Initiative: New York City FUSE II Evaluation Report (New York: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, 2013); and Corporation for Supportive Housing, “Fuse Resource Center.” For an overview of programs giving people who are incarcerated access to education see Prison Studies Project, “National Directory of Higher Education Programs in Prison.” For a discussion of steps states are taking toward making employment accessible to the formerly incarcerated see The Rosenberg Foundation, Jobs For All: The Movement to Restore Employment Rights for Formerly Incarcerated People (San Francisco, CA: The Rosenberg Foundation, 2017), 18-26. In 2016–17, 20 state governors made reentry and reducing recidivism a priority in their State of the State addresses.National Reentry Resource Center and Council of State Governments Justice Center, Making People’s Transition from Prison and Jail to the Community Safe and Successful (Washington, DC: National Reentry Resource Center and Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2017).

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