Home is Hard to Find: Neighborhoods, Institutions, and the Residential Trajectories of Returning Prisoners

Poor urban communities experience high rates of incarceration and prisoner reentry. This paper examines the residences where former prisoners live after prison, focusing on returns to pre-prison social environments, residential mobility, and the role of intermediate sanctions. Drawing on a unique dataset that follows a cohort of Michigan parolees released in 2003 over time using administrative records, we examine returns to pre-prison environments, both immediately after prison and in the months and years after release. We then investigate the role of intermediate sanctions – punishments for parole violations that are less severe than returning to prison – in residential mobility among parolees. Our results show low rates of return to former neighborhoods and high rates of residential mobility after prison, a significant portion of which is driven by intermediate sanctions resulting from criminal justice system supervision. These results suggest that, through parole supervision, the criminal justice system generates significant residential mobility.