Tens of thousands of people are released from Illinois Department of Corrections facilities and local jails each year. Ideally, every one of them would re-enter society and be equipped to restart their lives in a productive way. However, many face significant legal barriers and societal stigma in accessing housing and other needed support services. While they are not specifically banned from accessing public housing and housing vouchers, it is extremely difficult for them to obtain housing or reunite with family members who live in public housing. Additionally, landlords often reject applicants based on their criminal record and may consider arrests a part of a criminal record, even if no conviction was made.
A lack of stable housing makes it difficult for those who are formerly-incarcerated to hold steady employment, continue their education, access mental health or substance abuse treatment, and become contributing members of their communities. These obstacles lead some of them back to prison or jail. (Research shows that 47 percent of released prisoners are re-arrested within three years.)
This high recidivism rate doesn't just alter the lives of those who become reincarcerated, it costs their families and our communities. A 2015 report by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated the total cost of a single “recidivism event” at just over $118,000, including $41,000 of taxpayer cost, $57,000 of victimization costs, and $20,000 of indirect cost.
Permanent Supportive Housing
In 2015, MPC released a report—“Permanent Supportive Housing: An Analysis of Illinois, 2015 and Beyond”—that estimated the need for Permanent Supportive Housing units for the re-entry population and the potential cost savings by reducing the prison/jail population and expanding Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). MPC estimated that the State could save $15,000 to $20,000 per inmate and that Cook County could save nearly $10,000 per inmate. Total potential savings, assuming as many as 11,000 who could benefit, could exceed $135 million per year.
In the summer of 2017 a Supportive Housing Working Group, established by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, issued a lengthy report on Permanent Supportive Housing in Illinois drawing from MPC’s research. The report estimated that the unmet need for PSH in Illinois was 23,052 units. That estimate included the 7,934 PSH units that were needed by the state’s adult re-entry population, a population that represented 16% of the 49,590 people in prison or jail in Illinois. The Working Group recommended that a separate study of this population be conducted to more accurately determine the need, barriers, and cost savings.
Developing a Strategic Plan for Re-Entry Housing in Illinois
With funding from the Harris Family Foundation, MPC and the Illinois Justice Project (ILJP) conducted research to develop a specific, action-oriented proposal to improve the state's strategy for re-entry housing.
Through funding from the Chicago Community Trust, MPC and ILJP are developing a task force to further this work. It will be co-chaired by the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
The adoption of more effective re-entry housing strategies, the creation of additional housing for those currently or formerly under criminal justice supervision, and the improvement and additonal resourcing of re-entry housing programs will:
- Reduce recidivism
- Improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable community members
- Help dimish the burden on taxpayers in our state