- One Year Out: The Experiences of Male Returning Prisoners in Houston, Texas
- Women on the Outside: Understanding the Experiences of Female Prisoners Returning to Houston, Texas
- When Relatives Return: Interviews with Family Members of Returning Prisoners in Houston, Texas
In terms of supporting themselves financially, men left prison with thousands of dollars of debt, and many faced challenges in seeking employment due to lack of photo identification and the existence of a criminal record. Despite these challenges, three out of five men were employed by eight to ten months out, and most of them reported that their employer was aware of their criminal record.Overall, "the strongest predictor of employment success over time was avoidance of drug use early after release."
I was also interested to learn that, at least according this survey, most offenders were gainfully employed before they went in
The majority (69 percent) of men reported legal employment in the six months before entering prison or jail. Nevertheless, nearly a third (29 percent) reported receiving some income from illegal activity in the six months before incarceration, and 18 percent received most or all of their income from illegal activity during this time.The survey also found a marked disparity in recidivism rates between state jail felons and prisoners in TDCJ's institutional division:
An important thread that runs through all of these findings is that of the striking difference in the reentry challenges, experiences, and outcomes between men released from state prisons and those released from state jails. In Texas, convicted felons sentenced to two or more years in prison are housed in state prisons, while lower-level offenders serve time in state jails, which primarily house drug and property offenders and probation violators. Men exiting from state jails have more extensive histories of substance use, are less likely to have received programming of any kind either before or after release, and are more likely to engage in postrelease substance use. Despite these deficits, state jail releasees are less likely to be returned to confinement in a year’s time, possibly because unlike those exiting prison, they are not under any form of postrelease supervision that might serve to detect violations or new crimes.The first night out of prison can become a key stumbling block to successful reentry for prisoners without family support or a home to go to, particularly among returning state jail felons:
Unfortunately, the men interviewed for this study had few resources with which to navigate the challenges they faced during the first few hours after their release. Many men (73 percent) had only one set of street clothing, and fewer than two in five (37 percent) had a non-TDCJ photo identification at the time of release. Men exiting state prison left with $50 in gate money, while those exiting state jails were not provided with any cash assistance, relying instead on whatever funds they had in their prison accounts. The typical exiting prisoner had just $7 in account funds, and the average state jail inmate had $18 in account funds.Seldom heard in discussions about recidivism is how much money many inmates owe when they get out of the state lockup, and how that debt burden can hinder their ability to get back on their feet, particularly (if, to me, somewhat inexplicably) for state jail felons:
The first challenge faced by many men following their release was transportation. While exactly half of men had someone to meet them at the time of their release, the other half left the facility alone. Just over half (54 percent) reported that they had been given a bus ticket, voucher, or money for transportation on the day of their release, and roughly one in four (28 percent) traveled away from the facility by bus.
Another immediate challenge was finding a place to sleep. Figure 3 shows where former prisoners and state jail inmates slept on the first night after release. While the majority (60 percent) stayed in a family member’s home, about one in four stayed in their own home. Those exiting state jail, however, were much more likely to have spent their first night in some form of temporary housing, such as a motel, boarding house, shelter, halfway house, or treatment facility (13 percent of state jail releasees versus 4 percent of state prisoners).
The men in this study left prison with many financial obligations, both new and old. Most (62 percent) owed at least one form of debt at the time of release, and all faced challenges in meeting their basic needs—including housing, food, clothing, and transportation. On average, state prisoners owed about $643 and state jail inmates owed about $3,000 in the first few months after release. By eight to ten months out, the average debt had increased to $900 for state prisoners and $8,254 for state jail inmates. These debts included fines, restitution, court costs, supervision fees, and child support, with the latter two being the most common forms of debt owed.I don't understand why debts for state jail felons would be so much higher than those coming out of regular prisons. More must be going on there than meets they eye.
Finally, and quite remarkably, family support was identified the biggest factor predicting successful reentry, contrary to offenders' expectations when they left prison:
When asked shortly before release which factors would be important in keeping them out of prison, men cited employment and housing more frequently than family support. However, when asked at eight to ten months after release which factor had been most important in keeping them out of prison, men were more likely to choose family support than any other factorI think it's often assumed that inmates come from dysfunctional families and that returning to that environment may actually contribute to recidivism. But these data indicate that maintaining family ties offers the best chance for ex-prisoners to succeed, making inmates' families a key, under-appreciated and underutilized resource for preventing future crimes by former prisoners.