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September 27, 2019

"Housing and Recidivism: The Critical Link to Reducing Louisiana’s Bulging Prisons"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Angela Decoteau recently posted to SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Louisiana has one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States in part because it has a high recidivism rate.  One of the reasons ex-offenders return to jail is that they cannot find adequate housing after serving their time.  As an inexperienced property manager of a mobile home park in rural Louisiana, the author gained an awareness of the re-entry hurdles ex-offenders face, in a most unexpected way.  The park refused any potential resident who had a criminal background.  One day a small unassuming man walked into the office, crumbled criminal background check in hand.  His rejection certain, he nevertheless pulled out a large three-ring binder. “I know I’ve messed up in my life, but I’ve turned it around, and here’s my proof.”  The author sat in silence as he paged through numerous certificates and glowing letters from prison guards, employers, and teachers both during and after his incarceration.  The author was able to secure a waiver of the policy, and he became one of the best tenants the park ever had.

This Article explores housing problems faced by the formerly incarcerated.  It continues with a discussion of the problems faced by property managers in considering ex-offenders’ applications. Louisiana’s antiquated criminal system denies the formally incarcerated any easy means to prove the extent of their rehabilitation.  To further complicate matters, property managers are denied access to the very information they most need to assess applicants’ qualifications.

The Article recommends a three-pronged approach: (1) expand the criminal record to include communication about the ex-offender’s behavior while incarcerated; (2) allow web access to property managers regarding justice of the peace housing judgments; (3) and enact legislative changes that would protect the formerly incarcerated from discrimination.

September 27, 2019 at 03:03 PM | Permalink


I always cringe when confronted with solutions that are systemic and universal. They usually involve legislation, litigation and regulation that does not provide a clear path to the solution. If you believe half way houses facilitate re-entry you need to visit some.

I love the story about the man who brought the three ringed binder. I always tell marijuana offenders with life sentences and defacto life sentences to build a prison resume. They know what it is. Recently one was released whose sentence had been reduced from life to 30 years by Clemency Project 2014. He had served 25 years in prison for a nonviolent marijuana offense. This southern California "boy" was taken to a half way house in a northern Midwestern state to adjust to the outside world and be ready for re-entry.

He was allowed to leave for an hour to buy some needed personal items. He bought a white shirt and tie to wear to "team". Team is where the staff decides what level of freedom you may have. For him - it would be a 6 month confinement. He wore the shirt and tie to team and they decided that he could go out daily to a law library on a local college campus. He had no family or friends in the city and knew he needed someone. Not being a religious man, none the less, he decided to attend a Unitarian Church on Sunday. They loved him and gave him part time employment helping with the grounds. He had been a biology major and loved working outside. They would give him references.

The next hurdle was an application at the humane society. This was a formal application with a question - have you ever been convicted of a felony? He asked "does it matter." "indeed it does". Well "I have just been released from federal prison after serving 25 years of a life sentence" He told them it was for a nonviolent marijuana offense and was told - "That doesn't matter"

Last month he was given permission to rent a room away from the facility. He now had references. Again the felony question came up and he was told they would overlook it and rent the room. This week he was told that he would be released from supervision two week early. I hope to see him again the middle of October.

These decisions were all made by individuals who decided to ignore policy and procedure. I wonder if policy, procedure, legislation and regulation are stumbling blocks on a more humane path.

I did not intend to write this story - it just happened.

Posted by: beth curtis | Sep 27, 2019 6:28:16 PM

I always cringe when I start to read nonsense idiocy comment like this one. They are not grounded in reality. Only in emotion. It is really despicable that these idiots continue to post spewing their utter idiocy into the public squre.

Posted by: restlelss94110 | Sep 28, 2019 9:14:27 PM

You're right. It's emotional idiocy and has nothing to do with reality - very cringe worthy. It does involve breaking the rules.

This paper by Angela Decoteau is important and documents the many barriers and hazards faced by the formerly incarcerated. Louisiana is not unique in it's barriers to housing and re-entry. Just the fees for documents needed to get into a homeless shelter can be daunting and the process and procedure to get them requires the assistance of various regulatory agencies. Living on the street can become the only option.

There is no room for those in charge to make an independent decision about jobs and housing. I wish there were more decisions that disregarded the rules.

Posted by: beth curtis | Sep 29, 2019 10:22:48 AM

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