I am at the 5th Conference on Empirical Legal Studies at Yale University, and have heard two interesting presentations on re-entry.

Amanda Geller and Marah Curtis’ paper A Sort of Homecoming: Incarceration and the Housing Security of Urban Men compares the housing status of previously incarcerated and non-incarcerated fathers in fragile, poor families. Using a database formed for studying fragile families, Geller and Curtis compare how fathers fare during their child’s infancy in terms of housing. As measures of housing, they use not only eviction, but also other measures mortgage default and living with others. They find that formerly incarcerated fathers have more trouble finding a stable housing situation, and while some of this difficulty is attributed to lack of income, it does not explain away all the difficulty.

Charles Loeffler’s paper The Effects of Imprisonment on Labor Market Participation: Evidence from a Natural Experiment compares the job status of convicted people who were sentenced by high-incarceration and low-incarceration judges. Suprisingly, Loeffler finds that the former tend to fare better in the job market–but only temporarily. This finding might be explained in three main ways: Parole agents do a better job than, say, probation officers in finding jobs for formerly incarcerated people (but not good enough to provide enduring employment); incarceration breaks inmates’ ties to their former environment and therefore requires them to shift to the “covered” economy; or, inmates simply age out of crime while in prison.

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  1. Ocean, some of these things are beginning to change on the state and local level with the success of Ban the Box initiatives, which is terrific. But it's still a long road toward full acceptance and reintegration.

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