People Involved with Criminal Justice

Every year, over 650,000 people are released from prisons and more than 7 million individuals are released from jails in the United States. Many persons with mental health and substance use issues cycle between homelessness and incarceration for months or years at great public expense and with tragic human outcomes. Across the country:

  • 26% of people in jail report that they were homeless in the year prior to incarceration.
  • At least 16% of people in jail and prison suffer from mental illness.
  • 80% of people in jail and prison have a history of substance use.
  • Individuals who do not have housing are seven times more likely to violate parole.

There is a small but significant subset of people—often referred to as “frequent flyers” —who are typically homeless, transient, and have complex health and behavioral health issues. They cycle in and out of incarceration, homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, detox and drug treatment programs, and other emergency service systems at immense public expense and with bad outcomes.

Experts observe that, of all the issues facing these individuals, none is more immediate — or arguably more important — than the need to secure housing. Without access to safe and affordable housing, people re-entering the community have little or no chance at success; and without housing the success of other supports like employment services, mentoring, and substance abuse counseling is extremely limited.

Supportive housing has been documented to reduce criminal justice involvement for homeless people with severe mental illnesses, reducing jail and prison incarceration rates. CSH is working with supportive housing and criminal justice professionals to assure that these men and women receive the best intervention possible for their success. Our Returning Home Initiative is our flagship program.

LEARN ABOUT CSH's Federal POLICY work on People involved with Criminal Justice.

See all of CSH's Criminal Justice Resources.




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