Creating Home after Incarceration
Recent news has paid significant attention to Milwaukee's concentrated incarceration, particularly geographic areas on the north side of the city that have extremely high populations of individuals exiting and re-entering the city after being in jail or prison. Interspersed with stories about neighborhood safety and disorder were stories about incarceration and its impact on resident life and the neighborhood's physical environment, including its housing stock.
How the neighborhood is affected by mass incarceration
Neighborhood Life: Residents talked about day-to-day neighborhood life. A summary of their comments follows:
If you're interested in talking more about the relationship between incarceration and neighborhoods, contact Nicole Robinson, UWM Social Work Doctoral Student at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-232-9687.
The challenges of re-entry and creating a home after incarceration are many. Those re-entering society are often stigmatized for being an offender; a stigma that is compounded based on the type and severity of the crime(s) committed and if the individual is low-income and a person of color. Finding a home is challenging too. Support from family and friends may help but essentially without a job or source of income and a successful history of paying rent, it is difficult to find a place to call home. Yet, Washington Park residents' suggest a home is essential to successful re-integration into society. It is essential to healing and creating a new life.
But, what is it that makes home essential? Local residents gave us some answers: It gives you stability. It's one less basic (and daily) need that you have to worry about. You feel supported by your housemates, neighbors, and society. You have a chance.
If home is important, residents' descriptions of the typical housing stock available to them as ex-offenders seem antithetical. The offenders we spoke with described the homes usually available to them as:
To learn about an innovative business and faith-based project in Washington Park to create home after incarceration, addiction, and homelessness see Reverend Joann Baumann's work. In these homes, fine craftsmanship and ample, clean spaces support recovery and balance, and reduce re-offending. Housemates and neighbors are supportive. Neighborhood life is supportive. It's a place where they have lived there long enough to shovel their neighbors' sidewalk or trim their bushes when needed. It's a place where they look outside to make sure a housemate gets out of the car and into the house safely. It's a place for a new life that contradicts the labels given to formerly incarcerated individuals.
The demand for housing for formerly incarcerated persons is high. One resident commented on the number of boarded up homes and said it was sad given the demand of new homes in this neighborhood.
Incarceration has many impacts on the neighborhood. Gregory Stanford talks about one he sees every day.
To learn about Wisconsin's mass incarceration of African American males, see a report by John Pawarsarat and Lois Quinn at the UWM Employment and Training Institute (UWM).
The statewide faith-based initiative 11x15 campaign seeks to halve the prison population from 22,000 to 11,000 by the year 2015. The Milwaukee group, MICAH is leading the local effort along with the state entity, WISDOM and its other affiliates.
How One Milwaukee Zip Code Explains America’s Mass Incarceration Problem, an article by ThinkProgress.
Source: Jason Killinger, Q.E.D. Foundation
Page by Nicole Robinson with support from Milan Outlaw and Godson Mollel.