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Housing for the Justice-Involved: The Case for County Action

Report by: John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the National Association of Counties

Counties operate 91 percent of America’s jails, through which nearly 11 million individuals pass each year. The vast majority of those who have been incarcerated – some 95 percent – will return to their communities on release. Where will they go? One of their first needs will be to secure safe, stable and affordable housing. They’ll need a place to call home.

Housing is arguably the most important piece in the reentry puzzle, providing people returning to their communities with a base from which to launch into all of life – from employment, to education, to medical and mental health treatment, to substance abuse treatment and to reengaging with family and in civic activities. Stable housing reduces the risk that people will commit new crimes and cycle back into jail. In fact, the right kind of housing accomplishes the opposite: It sets people up for success. Such successful reentry not only increases public safety and saves taxpayers money by reducing the number of costly jail stays, it also offers second chances to people who have paid their debt to society, helping justice-involved individuals to reach their full potential as valuable contributors to the fabric of their communities.

The nation’s 3,069 counties spend more than $70 billion annually on criminal justice, which is often their largest single line item budget expense. Counties also fund and operate programs offering housing, nutrition, education, workforce development, medical care, behavioral health interventions and substance abuse treatment, expending more than $69 billion annually on the types of health and human services that so many people returning from jail require.

Counties thus stand at the intersection of public safety, public health and community welfare. This position on the front line offers counties both a unique perspective and an unparalleled opportunity to impact reentry housing practice and policy. Counties can bring together agency partners, see the big picture, allocate resources creatively and offer integrated solutions to problems that for too long have lived in separate departmental siloes.

Why is coordination so important? Find out by reading the full report here!

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