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Cityscape: Volume 25 Number 2 | Reentry Housing After Jail or Prison | Rental Assistance and a Fresh Start to Spur Criminal Desistance: Evidence From a Pilot Housing Experiment


The goal of Cityscape is to bring high-quality original research on housing and community development issues to scholars, government officials, and practitioners. Cityscape is open to all relevant disciplines, including architecture, consumer research, demography, economics, engineering, ethnography, finance, geography, law, planning, political science, public policy, regional science, sociology, statistics, and urban studies.

Cityscape is published three times a year by the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Reentry Housing After Jail or Prison

Volume 25 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder

Michelle P. Matuga

Rental Assistance and a Fresh Start to Spur Criminal Desistance: Evidence From a Pilot Housing Experiment

David S. Kirk
University of Oxford

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health supported the research reported in this article under award number R03HD081515, as did the Leverhulme Trust through the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Leverhulme Trust. Similarly, the findings in this article do not reflect the views of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services or its constituent agencies.

Much of the research literature on prisoner reentry focuses on the importance of individual determinants of reintegration of the formerly incarcerated back into society, such as education, job training, and addiction treatment. Less studied are the consequences of housing and neighborhood context. Still, research shows that the formerly incarcerated tend to have unstable residential patterns, and their places of residence are often in close proximity to the same locations where they got into trouble with the law in the past. This article argues that stable housing, particularly in an environment that provides an opportunity for a fresh start and a separation from past criminal associates, is a crucial foundation for successful prisoner reentry. Evidence in support of this argument is garnered from a pilot housing mobility program called the Maryland Opportunities through Vouchers Experiment, or MOVE, which aimed at lessening the risk of recidivism by using housing subsidies to provide participants with housing in geographic areas some distance from where they lived in the past. This article reports on the outcome of the pilot, including an assessment of the likelihood of rearrest and a qualitative comparison of the postrelease experiences of treatment and control group participants.

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