Prison to Streets and back to Prison:

Study Reveals a “Revolving Door” Scenario for Half of Baltimore’s Homeless

More individuals became homeless after they were released from prison than were homeless prior to incarceration.
The findings of a study conducted by the Center for Poverty Solutions in Baltimore shows that the city’s homeless are trapped in a “revolving door” that sends them from prison to the streets and then back to prison again, due to the lack of rehabilitative and social services.

The report, funded by the the Open Society Institute of Baltimore, surveyed more than 700 homeless at 18 drop-ins and soup kitchens across Baltimore.

Of the surveyed individuals, nearly half had been incarcerated for crimes linked to being homeless, such as public urination, loitering, sleeping outdoors and other nonviolent crimes. While 60 percent reported a physical illness or disability and 33 percent reported a mental condition, most had not received any rehabilitation during or after incarceration.

“The study showed that incarceration leads to greater instability in the lives of these very poor people,” said Sarah Grace Zambon, a Center for Poverty Solutions researcher who conducted the survey. “It’s troubling that, of the people we surveyed, a greater number became homeless after they were released from prison than were homeless prior to incarceration. In our opinion, that’s poor public policy, because it’s an outcome that doesn’t serve anyone—neither the individual nor the community.”

Established in 1998, The Center for Poverty Solutions is a statewide, nonprofit organization that is committed to working with low-income and minority communities to lift people towards economic self-sufficiency. The Center aims to eradicate poverty in Maryland through advocacy, community mobilization, and technical assistance and through work in collaboration with faith-based and other community-serving organizations.

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This story was published on January 8, 2003.