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Homelessness in the State and Federal Prison Population

NCJ Number
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health Volume: 18 Issue: 2 Dated: 2008 Pages: 88-103
Greg A. Greenberg; Robert A. Rosenheck
Date Published
16 pages
This study examined the rates and associated factors for homelessness (living on the street or in a homeless shelter) among U.S. adult State and Federal prison inmates (ASFPIs) prior to their incarceration.
Nine percent of ASFPIs in the study (n=17,565) reported an episode of homelessness in the year prior to their arrest. This was four to six times the estimated rate of homelessness in the general U.S. adult population after allowing for age, race/ethnicity, and gender. Compared to inmates who had not been homeless in the year prior to their arrest leading to incarceration, the homeless inmates were more likely to be currently incarcerated for a property crime, and they were also more likely to have had previous involvement with the criminal justice system for both property and violent crimes, to have mental health and/or substance abuse problems, and to have been unemployed and with a low income. A better understanding of what contributes to homelessness and the criminal behaviors associated with it will inform improved designs for programs that can prevent homelessness and the cycle that leads to certain crimes whose sentences involve incarceration. Supported housing, case management, and substance abuse services for homeless people have proven effective. The inmates who participated in the study were derived from a random sampling of adult State and Federal inmates across the Nation through the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. 3 tables and 42 references