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One Year Out:Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland

Christy Visher and Shannon M.E. Courtney

Urban Institute 

Posted to Web: April 18, 2007

For the full article go to:

AbstractThis research brief presents findings from the Returning Home study in Cleveland, Ohio. Returning Home is a longitudinal study of prisoner reentry in Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas based on personal interviews with prisoners before and after their release from prison. Previous reports from the Ohio project examined prisoners' expectations for life after prison and their experiences in the first few months after release. This final report—"One Year Out: Experiences of Prisoners Returning to Cleveland"—describes the lives of nearly 300 former prisoners at least 12 months after release, including their ability to find stable housing and reunite with family, and identifies factors associated with getting a job, and avoiding substance use and return to prison (recidivism).


Key Findings

  • Housing.  One year out, many men were living with family, yet in somewhat unstable housing situations and less-than-desirable neighborhoods.  A third were living with a spouse or intimate partner and over a third with a parent or sibling.  Almost half considered their living arrangements temporary, with nearly a third having moved several times during the year.  About half said that drug dealing was a major problem in their neighborhood, and almost a quarter were living with former prisoners, illicit drug users, or serious alcohol users.
  • Employment.  At one year, only 37 percent had a full-time job and another 11 percent were working part-time.  Employed men had close partner relationships and helpful families, and were in good mental and physical health.  Also, men who had held a job during their incarceration and those who had worked a greater number of months after release were more likely to be working one year out.
  • Family and Friends.  After release, most men reported high-quality relationships with their families and intimate partners.  When asked to name the most important thing keeping them out of prison, one in four men identified family support, and another 16 percent said avoiding certain people and situations.  Of those who had returned to prison, 21 percent said failing to avoid certain people and situations was the reason behind their re-incarceration.
  • Programs and Services.  Participation in certain programs and services improved prisoners’ chances for reentry success.
  • Health.  Over half of the men reported suffering from a chronic physical health condition after release, 29 percent showed symptoms of depression, and 20 percent showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Substance Use.  Drugs and alcohol were a problem for many men during the first year after release.  Over one-third reported drug use or alcohol intoxication in the 30 days prior to the one-year interview and about half of these men reported more than weekly use.  About a quarter of those who returned to prison said that drug use was the reason.
  • Parole Violations and Recidivism.  Over half of men on supervision reported violating a condition of release.

Predictors of Employment One Year after Release


Those who had

  • Earned their GED while in prison
  • Very close partner relationship after release
  • Families that were more helpful than expected
  • Jobs while in prison
  • More time employed since release
  • Supervision conditions requiring employment

…were more likely to be employed


Those who had

  • A physical health condition after release
  • Depression after release

…were less likely to be employed

Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.

Quran: 3:104
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