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CLEVELAND PRISONERS’ EXPERIENCES
RETURNING HOME
KEY FINDINGS
Ⅲ Sixty-four percent of men in the

study participated in prerelease
programming and 87 percent
participated in other ODRC programs while in prison. Men who
received general counseling in
prison reported drug or alcohol
intoxication less often in the
first few months following
release.
Ⅲ Prior to release, most pris-

oners expressed the desire
and willingness to change their
criminal behaviors, although 64
percent recognized they would
need help in dealing with their
problems once released.
(Continued on page 2)

SEPTEMBER 2006

i

n 2001, the Urban Institute launched a four-state, longitudinal
study entitled Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of
Prisoner Reentry to examine the experiences of released prisoners
returning to communities in Maryland, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas.
This research brief presents findings from the Returning Home study
in Ohio, focusing on Cleveland and the surrounding area. The first
phase of the study involved analyzing preexisting data maintained by
the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to describe
incarceration and reentry characteristics (see sidebar “A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Cleveland”). The second phase involved interviewing male
prisoners returning to the Cleveland area, once before and three times after
their release (see sidebar “Profile of Study Participants” for a description of
the men interviewed). In addition, researchers held focus groups with residents of three Cleveland communities home to the highest concentrations
of returning prisoners, and interviews with Cleveland policymakers and
practitioners are under way (see sidebar “Returning Home Study Methodology” for more details about the data collection and analysis).
This research brief documents preliminary findings from phase two, the original data collection effort, and describes the experiences of prisoners returning
to the Cleveland area in the first few months after release. A previous research
brief entitled Ohio Prisoners’ Reflections on Returning Home described the prerelease experiences and expectations of prisoners in our sample (Visher, Baer,
and Naser 2006). This research brief expands on that information by comparing the prerelease experiences of those prisoners with their experiences after
release. We present key findings on a range of reentry challenges and describe
factors likely related to postrelease success or failure, such as employment,
substance use, attitudes and beliefs, health challenges, criminal histories, and
family and community environments. This research brief is intended to serve

CHRISTY A. VISHER
SHANNON M.E. COURTNEY
REENTRY DEFINED

URBAN
INSTITUTE
2100 M STREET, N.W.
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20037

For this report, “reentry” is defined as the process of leaving an adult correctional institution and returning to society. The report’s scope is limited to those
sentenced to serve time in state correctional institutions in order to focus on
individuals who have been convicted of serious offenses, are eligible for state
correctional programs, and may be managed by state correctional, parole, and
felony probation systems after release.

2

KEY FINDINGS
(Continued from page 1)
Ⅲ Prisoners’ attitudes toward themselves and the legal

system affected their short-term reentry outcomes. The
men in the study who were confident that staying out of
prison would be easy after release were less likely to
report committing a crime, being arrested, or violating a
condition of supervision in the first few months following
release. Likewise, the more cynical men were about the
legal system, the more they reported substance use or
intoxication after release.

returning home. Postrelease employment was significantly higher for men who held jobs during prison and
who were required to maintain employment as a supervision condition.
Ⅲ Over half (59 percent) reported suffering from a chronic

physical health condition; 23 percent showed symptoms
of depression and 14 percent exhibited signs for posttraumatic stress disorder. After release, 84 percent had
no health care coverage.
Ⅲ A significant share of prisoners returned to a small num-

Ⅲ Families were an important source of emotional and

financial support: after release, 78 percent of former
prisoners received support from families and 80 percent
lived with a relative. Family support was identified as the
most important thing that had kept them out of prison.
Ⅲ Prisoners reported extensive involvement in drug and

alcohol use prior to incarceration: 72 percent used
drugs and 60 percent reported alcohol intoxication. Following release, these percentages dropped to 13 and
17 percent, respectively. Men who abused drugs and
alcohol before incarceration and who were not subject
to random drug testing as a supervision condition were
more likely to report substance use after release.
Ⅲ Men had limited success in finding employment after re-

ber of Cleveland neighborhoods characterized by high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Many described
these neighborhoods as plagued with drug trafficking
(48 percent) and limited in employment opportunities
(59 percent). Community residents also reported a lack of
adequate support and resources for returning prisoners.
Ⅲ Although most released prisoners returned to disadvan-

taged Cleveland neighborhoods, these were not necessarily the same communities in which they had lived
before prison. In fact, over half (54 percent) of the men
interviewed after release did not return to the same
neighborhood, primarily because they wanted to avoid
trouble, they had lost their previous housing, or their
families or friends had moved.

lease: 39 percent had worked at some point since

as a foundation for policy discussions about how released prisoners can successfully reintegrate into their
communities, whether in Cleveland or in similar cities
around the country.
PREPARATION FOR REENTRY
Prisoners who participate in programs and services
while incarcerated may be better prepared for the
transition back to their communities after release than
prisoners who do not participate in such programs.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) offers prisoners a variety of treatment
options while incarcerated, including adult education,
counseling, and substance abuse treatment, as well as
training in life skills, employment readiness, parenting skills, and anger management.

ODRC’s Release Preparation Program, which starts
six months prior to release, provides a variety of
workshops and services to prepare prisoners for their
return to the community. The program also provides
referrals to community service providers so released
prisoners can continue services after release. Nearly
two-thirds (64 percent) of the men in our study
reported participating in the prerelease programming
ODRC offers. Specific topics covered during these
prerelease classes included obtaining photo identification, finding employment, obtaining substance abuse
treatment, continuing education, getting financial
assistance, renewing personal relationships, and finding legal assistance, health care, housing, transportation, and child care (figure 1). Over half (58 percent)
of those who received prerelease services were required to do so by ODRC. The majority of prerelease

3

Figure 1. Topics of Prerelease Programs (N = 226)
Obtaining photo ID

69

Finding a job

67

Substance abuse treatment

61

Continuing education

53

Financial assistance

49

Counseling

45

Personal relationships

40

Legal assistance

39

Accessing health care

39

Place to live

37

Transportation

28

Child care

24

Other

17
0

10

20

30

40
50
Percent

60

70

80

90

Note: Data are based on the postrelease respondents who reported receiving prerelease programming.
Cases with missing information are not included.

INTERPRETING THIS REPORT
A number of caveats about interpreting and generalizing
findings often accompany research projects of this complexity, and this study is no different. The intent of the
Returning Home study is to present the released prisoner’s point of view—a perspective not often represented
in criminal justice research. This view is derived from selfreported data—a time-honored method of gathering sensitive information from a variety of respondents and one that
enables rigorous analyses that cannot be achieved through
ethnographic studies, focus groups, or journalism. The perspective on the experience of reentry presented here is
both distinctive, because it is richer than official data, and
representative, because it tells the story of all prisoners
reentering society rather than just those who use social
services or are rearrested. Thus, the findings in this report
draw from the perspectives of those who have had firsthand experience with the challenges of prisoner reentry.
However, as with all self-reported data sources, findings
may include factual inaccuracies resulting from lapses in
memory and respondents overreporting or underreporting
certain experiences and behaviors (e.g., crime and substance use). Nonetheless, the findings presented here are
valid and as accurate as those collected through comparable studies that rely on self-reported data.

Readers may view some findings in this report as new, different, or at odds with other descriptions of the reentry
experience. This observation can be explained in part by
the fact that former prisoners’ perspectives of the experience may differ from the assumptions many researchers,
practitioners, and policymakers share. In addition, the
experience of working with certain subpopulations rather
than with all returning prisoners likely shapes some commonly held views of them. Again, this research is based on
a sample of male prisoners being released rather than a
sample of former prisoners who sought services in the
community. Recognizing that our respondents represent a
reentry cohort rather than a sample of the current “stock”
population of Ohio prisoners is also important.
When reviewing the sections of this report on the factors
predictive of former prisoners’ reintegration successes and
failures, it is important to remember that the findings are
preliminary. The short-term outcomes used for this report
were based on men’s self-report of their own behaviors
one to three months following release. Future analyses
using longer follow-up periods and augmenting self-report
measures with official recidivism data will allow for a more
thorough examination of the factors that affect prisoners’
reintegration experiences.

4

Figure 2. Participation in Prison Programs and Services (N = 357)
Substance abuse

44

GED/basic education

38

Anger management

34

Employment readiness

32

RSAT

28

Counseling

27

Job training

26

Other

24

Life skills

17

Parenting skills

13

ESL

3
0

10

20

30
Percent

40

50

60

Note: Cases with missing information are not included.

program participants (73 percent) began receiving
these services at least one month prior to release. In
general, most participants (60 percent) found the prerelease classes helpful for their transition back into the
community. After attending classes, 39 percent were
referred to a service provider within their community,
and of those respondents, about half (52 percent)
accessed the services to which they were referred. The
reason they most often gave for not following through
with referrals was that they did not think they needed
the service (40 percent).
Beyond prerelease classes, prisoners may also paricipate
in a variety of other programs and services ODRC
offers. Nearly all the men in our study (87 percent)
participated in at least one of the programs offered
during their prison term. Attendance at employmentrelated classes, such as job training and employment
readiness courses, were most common, followed by
substance abuse treatment or counseling (including
Alcoholics Anonymous [AA], Narcotics Anonymous
[NA], and Residential Substance Abuse Treatment

[RSAT]), adult basic education,1 anger management
and violence prevention courses, and general counseling (figure 2). Approximately one-quarter (23 percent)
earned their General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
while serving their current prison term.
Considering how often Ohio inmates used in-prison
programs and services, we further examined whether
men who participated in these programs have better
short-term outcomes after release.2 Among the men
in this study, participation in prison-based programs
appears to help reintegration. Men receiving general
counseling in prison reported less drug use and intoxication, and those who had any job during incarceration were more likely to be employed after release.
ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS
Prisoners’ attitudes and beliefs about themselves and
the world around them can affect their ability to reconnect with their family, friends, and community
after release. Recently, researchers have found that

5

A PORTRAIT OF PRISONER REENTRY IN CLEVELAND
This research brief stems from an earlier research inquiry
into incarceration and release trends in Ohio over the past
two decades and an examination of the cohort of Ohio
prisoners released in 2001. Results were published in a
research monograph entitled A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry
in Ohio (La Vigne and Thompson 2003). Some key findings
from the Portrait include the following:
Ⅲ Between 1982 and 1998, Ohio’s prison population

nearly tripled in size from 17,147 to 48,171, mirroring
the national trend in prison population growth. By 2004,
Ohio had the 7th largest prison population in the United
States and the 25th highest incarceration rate. The
increases in the Ohio prison population were due to
more admissions and longer lengths of stay resulting
from the rise in new commitments for drug offenses and
increases in serious violent crime.
Ⅲ With Ohio’s rising prison population came a significant

increase in the number of prisoners released annually.
In 2004, 28,117 inmates were released from Ohio prisons, three times the number of inmates released two
decades earlier.
Ⅲ Excluding technical violators, nearly two-thirds (62 per-

cent) of the release cohort in 2001 served one year or

motivation to change can increase prisoners’ likelihood of successful reintegration (Maruna 2001). To
assess the attitudes and beliefs of the men in our study,
we asked a series of questions about their readiness to
change, self-esteem, perceived control over their lives,
feelings about the legal system and the police, and
spirituality.
Most men in our study expressed readiness to change
their criminal behavior. Just prior to release, 82 percent reported that they were tired of the problems
their crimes cause, and almost all wanted to get their
lives straightened out (97 percent). Nearly two-thirds
(64 percent) expressed a need for help in dealing with
their problems once released, and 89 percent claimed
that they would give up friends and hangouts that
often led them into trouble.
Prisoners’ self-esteem and perceptions of control over
their lives can influence their willingness and ability
to change. Once the men in our study were released,

less in prison, and 82 percent served three years or
less; the average time served was two years.
Ⅲ The majority of Ohio prisoners released in 2001 were

released through mandatory release (70 percent), and
60 percent were placed on supervision.
Ⅲ Forty-four percent of the prisoners released in 2001

had been incarcerated in an Ohio prison at least once
before. Of those released in 2001, 17 percent were
returned to an Ohio prison within one year.
Since 2002, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction (ODRC) has been developing a more holistic
and systematic approach to prisoner reentry in which the
concept of reentry underlies the assessments and programming a prisoner receives while in prison as well as
after release. While much of the postrelease reentry strategy is focused on “reentry-intensive” inmates (those with
the most serious criminal histories) who are released to
supervision, the ODRC has launched a release preparation
program for all inmates, regardless of their risk assessment level or whether they will exit to supervision. The
Release Preparation Program, which starts six months
prior to an inmate’s release, includes employment readiness and other workshops and seeks to provide transitional linkages so that the inmate will continue to receive
needed services after release.

their self-esteem increased significantly. While about
half (57 percent) rated highly on measures of selfesteem at the end of their prison term, a greater percentage (75 percent) reported high self-esteem after
they had been out in the community a few months.
The same improvement over time, however, was not
found for control over life, with respondents reporting no change in control over their lives before and
after release (63 percent and 64 percent, respectively).
As evidence that positive attitudes and a willingness to
change can influence behavior, those men who
thought staying out of prison would be easy were less
likely to report criminal behavior after release.3
Attitudes toward the police and the legal system may
influence behavior and willingness to abide by the law
after release from prison. When surveyed during
incarceration, although the majority (76 percent)
expressed dissatisfaction with the police, few (9 percent) were cynical toward the legal system itself.
Multivariate analysis did find, however, that the more

6

painted a more positive picture of the first few hours of
the reentry experience (Nelson, Deess, and Allen 1999;
Visher, Kachnowski, La Vigne, and Travis 2004). Of the
men in our study, almost all (99 percent) were released
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and were therefore able to access
social and other services as needed. About half were
released wearing prison-issued street clothes (48 percent), and another 21 percent wore clothes friends or
family provided. Only one-third (33 percent) had a
non-ODRC photo ID at the time of their release.

cynical men were about the legal system, the more
likely they were to report substance use or intoxication in the few months following release.
We asked about prisoners’ spiritual beliefs as they
could influence motivation to make positive life
changes. While in prison, most men (63 percent)
were considered to be highly spiritual. Over half
(56 percent) prayed or meditated, and one-quarter
(27 percent) read the Bible or other religious literature, on a daily basis. Following release, most believed
their religiosity was about the same as when they were
incarcerated (73 percent). A similar percentage prayed
daily (59 percent), but fewer (16 percent) reported
reading religious literature on a daily basis. Only
28 percent of men in our study belonged to a religious
organization after their release.

Once released, the majority of released prisoners in
our study had someone pick them up at the prison
gates (60 percent) or took the bus (31 percent). Only
18 percent had received tickets or money for transportation. The first night away from prison was usually
spent at the house of a relative or friend or in their own
home. Of those who went to a transitional or residential treatment facility, two-thirds were court ordered to
do so, and the rest went voluntarily. The remaining
men spent their first night at a motel, shelter, or back in
jail. Only one person reported sleeping on the street
(figure 3).

MOMENT OF RELEASE
Few studies have focused on prisoners’ reentry experiences immediately following release. Although anecdotal accounts have often portrayed prisoners as being
released to the street at any hour without money or a
place to go, evidence from this and other recent samples of released prisoners in other major cities has

Few men in our study had sizable financial resources
available upon release. Typically, released prisoners

Figure 3. Where Respondents Slept the First Night Out (N = 357)
Family member’s home

48

Own home

25

Friend’s home

11

Transitional facility

8

Hotel/motel

4

Shelter

2

Residential treatment facility

1

Other

1
0

10

20

30
40
Percent

Note: Percentages do not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

50

60

70

7

were given $75 in gate money and had another $134
available from other means, most often from family
or a prison account. Only six men reported that no
financial resources were available to them at the time
of their release.
FAMILY AND PEERS
Prior to entering prison, about two-thirds of the men
in the study were single (63 percent), with 23 percent
married or living with an intimate partner. Over half
(58 percent) had at least one child under age 18. Of
those parents, 57 percent lived with at least one of
their minor children, 86 percent supported their children financially, and 20 percent were required to pay
child support.
Research on prisoner reentry and family experiences
has often focused on the effects of incarceration on
the family, particularly the effects on the children of
incarcerated parents. Less is known, however, about
the effects of family relationships on prisoners’ reintegration successes and failures. In general, the men in
our study felt they were close with their families.
Many reported having close relationships with four or
more family members before (43 percent), during (42
percent), and after (59 percent) prison. Mothers and
stepmothers were most frequently mentioned as the
people to whom they felt closest.
Contact from family and friends while in prison may
influence these relationships after release. Nearly all of
the prisoners in our study reported some contact with
family or friends during their last three months in
prison. While almost all corresponded with at least
one person through mail (95 percent) or over the
phone (89 percent), friends or family personally visited about one-third (38 percent) in the three months
prior to release. Spouses and intimate partners, mothers, and children were the most likely to visit.
Most prisoners expected to receive emotional and
financial support from family and friends after
release, and the amount and duration of support they
received often met or exceeded their expectations.
While only half (50 percent) of the men in our study
expected family members to provide financial support

after release, 78 percent received at least one month of
support and 52 percent reported that the amount of
financial assistance their family provided was more
helpful than they had anticipated.
Families were also an important source of housing.
Four out of five men in our study (80 percent) lived
with a relative after release, which matched their expectations (78 percent expected to live with family). A few
months following release, 35 percent were living with
their mother, 26 percent with a sibling, and 23 percent
with a spouse or intimate partner. Only 6 percent were
living with friends, and 8 percent were living alone.
The men in our study had high expectations for their
relationships with family and the support they would
receive from family. While incarcerated, they
acknowledged how important family is to staying out
of prison, although they did not fully recognize this
importance until after they had been in the community a few months. When asked before release what
things would be important to keep them from returning to prison, men in our study mentioned support
from family (63 percent) and spending time with children (46 percent), although these were not indicated
as frequently as obtaining employment (90 percent),
finding a place to live (84 percent), and abstaining
from substance use (72 percent). However, when
asked a similar question a few months after release,
the largest percentage (26 percent) identified support
from family as the most important thing that had kept
them out of prison, and an additional 9 percent
named seeing their children. The things they had
anticipated as being the most influential, such as
employment, housing, and drug use, were viewed as
much less important (8, 7, and 4 percent, respectively).
Although family and friends can have a significant
influence on a recently released prisoner’s reintegration process, their impact is not always positive.
Family members often have their own problems with
substance abuse and the law. A large portion of the
men in our study had family members with a history
of conviction (64 percent) and incarceration (62 percent), and 30 percent had relatives serving time. Family members of nearly two-thirds (64 percent) had
problems with drugs and alcohol.

8

PROFILE OF STUDY PARTICIPANTS
Ⅲ The prerelease sample consisted of 424 men. Eighty-four

percent, or 358 men, participated in the first postrelease
interview conducted one to three months after release.
Ⅲ The median age of respondents was 36 years, with ages

Ⅲ Most (83 percent) had at least one prior conviction, and

31 percent reported four or more. Sixty-five percent had
previously served time in prison, and 44 percent had
spent time in a juvenile correctional facility. Over half of
the men (54 percent) had their first arrest before they
turned 18.

ranging from 19 to 73 years.
Ⅲ Seventy-four percent were African American, 18 percent

were white, and the remaining 8 percent were identified as
other racial groups, including multiracial. Across all racial
groups, 5 percent categorized themselves as Hispanic.5
Ⅲ Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were single and had never

been married, while 23 percent were married. Sixtyseven percent had children, and approximately one-third
(31 percent) of all respondents had lived with at least
one minor child before entering prison.
Ⅲ Fifty-five percent had high school diplomas when they

entered prison. Almost three-quarters (70 percent) had
worked prior to entering prison, and 58 percent had
worked 40 or more hours per week in the six months
prior to incarceration.

The friends of released prisoners in our study also had
histories of extensive criminal involvement, which
could potentially impact their reintegration success.
The majority had at least one friend who had committed theft (76 percent) or assault (71 percent), abused
drugs (88 percent), or sold drugs (77 percent).
Approximately three-quarters (74 percent) had a
friend who had been to prison. About one-third
(33 percent) reported having only positive peer influences in their lives after release.
SUBSTANCE USE
Much research has documented a link between substance use and criminal activity, and rates of substance
use are particularly high among incarcerated populations. Nationwide, more than half of state prisoners
reported being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
at the time they committed their imprisonment offense
(Mumola 1999) and three-quarters of soon-to-bereleased prisoners had histories of drug and/or alcohol
use (Beck 2001). The substance use histories of the men
in our study mirror these national data, with a signifi-

Ⅲ At the time of the prerelease interview, the self-reported

median time served for the current offense was two
years.6
Ⅲ Forty-seven percent were currently incarcerated for a vio-

lent crime. Other conviction charges included property
crimes (e.g., burglary, theft) and technical violations (15
and 13 percent, respectively).
Ⅲ Approximately one-quarter (24 percent) were currently

incarcerated due primarily to a drug charge. Seventy-two
percent of all respondents had used controlled substances, and 60 percent reported recent alcohol intoxication before entering prison. Marijuana and cocaine
were the most prevalent substances used prior to
incarceration.

cant share reporting extensive and serious prior
involvement with drugs and alcohol. Nearly threequarters (72 percent) reported some drug use, with
marijuana and cocaine topping the list of drugs, and
60 percent reported alcohol intoxication in the six
months prior to prison. When asked about the frequency of substance use during the six months preceding incarceration, over half (52 percent) reported daily
drug use or intoxication, with 27 percent using marijuana and 14 percent using cocaine on a daily basis.
Not surprisingly, pre-prison drug and alcohol use
caused problems for many men in our study. When
presented with an array of family, relationship,
employment, financial, and legal problems they might
have experienced, 48 percent indicated experiencing
one or more problems as a result of their drug use,
most commonly relationship problems and arguments at home. One-quarter (25 percent) reported
that their drug use resulted in an arrest during the sixmonths prior to incarceration, including charges for
driving under the influence. The share of men who
reported problems caused by drinking was slightly
lower (42 percent of all men) than for problems stem-

9

ming from drug use. As was the case with drug users,
drinkers were most likely to report problems with
relationships and arguments at home, and nearly onequarter (22 percent) had been arrested due to their
alcohol use (figure 4).
In this study, the men who used drugs or were intoxicated in the six months prior to incarceration were
significantly more likely to participate in a substance
abuse program during their prison stay than those who
did not. Overall, 49 percent of respondents participated
in a drug or alcohol treatment program while in prison,
including AA and NA. Nearly one-third (28 percent)
participated in the intensive RSAT program while
incarcerated, with a completion rate of 65 percent.
When interviewed one to three months after release,
fewer than one-quarter of the men in the study (23
percent) reported drug use or intoxication (figure 5).
The majority of men (71 percent) were subject to random drug testing as a condition of their supervision,
and nearly two-thirds of men on supervision (60 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that being under parole
supervision will help them stay drug free. However,

men may also have been less than forthcoming about
their substance use because of their postrelease supervision status.
Rates of participation in substance abuse programs
were much lower after release than they had been in
prison, with 22 percent participating in some type of
program since release, and 18 percent reporting they
had attended AA or NA in the past 30 days. Of those
who attended AA or NA, the average number of days
attended in the previous month was 10.
In an effort to better understand what factors influence released prisoners’ ability to avoid drug use and
intoxication after release, we examined how a variety
of factors affected postrelease drug use. Analyses indicated that men who participated in counseling while
in prison, held less negative views of the legal system,
and were subject to random drug testing as a supervision condition, were less likely to use drugs or be
intoxicated after release. Not surprisingly, a history of
substance use before incarceration increased the likelihood of reported use after release.

Figure 4. Percentage of Drug and Alcohol Users Reporting Problems Related to Use
(Ns = 387 and 321)
60
50

Problems caused by drug use
Problems caused by drinking

47
39

Percent

40

32
28

30
25

30

22

20
19

20

14

20

19
12

13

10

Work/school

Physical health
/injuries

Physical
fights/property
damage

Arrests

Arguments
about use

Arguments at
home

Relationship
problems

0

Note: Categories are not mutually exclusive (i.e., a respondent may indicate more than one problem related
to substance use).

10

Figure 5. Substance Use at One to Three Months Postrelease (N = 357)
30
23

20
Percent

17
13

10

0
Any substance use
last 30 days
(incl. intoxication)

FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS
AND SUPPORT
Men left prison with many financial obligations and
relied on financial support from sources other than
legal employment after their release. When interviewed one to three months after release, 80 percent
of the men in our study reported owing money
(including debts associated with child support,
fines/restitution/court costs, supervision fees, and
other costs), and 59 percent said paying off these
debts had been hard. Overall, 58 percent of men
reported being worried about surviving financially,
and 66 percent said it would be pretty hard or very
hard to make enough money to support themselves.
Over one-third (38 percent) of released prisoners felt
they could benefit from financial support services.
Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of unemployed
men in the study relied on income from spouses, family, and friends, and about one-third (29 percent)
received public assistance, compared with 15 percent
of their employed counterparts (table 1). Employed
men also relied on other sources of financial assistance in addition to the income earned through their
jobs, although to a lesser degree than unemployed
respondents.

Any intoxication
last 30 days

Any drug use
last 30 days

EMPLOYMENT
Finding and maintaining a legal job after release can
help reduce the chances that an ex-prisoner will reoffend (Harer 1994; Sampson and Laub 1997; Uggen
2000), yet many prisoners face serious challenges
when seeking employment after release (Holzer,

Table 1. Sources of Income in the Past Month (percent)

Type

Spouse, family, or friends
Public assistance
Legal employment
SSDI or SSI
Illegal activity
“Under the table”
Other source

Unemployed

Employed

respondents

respondents

(n = 251)

(n = 107)

74
29
5
4
6
25
4

47
15
90
0
0
21
0

SSDI = Social Security Disability Insurance; SSI = Supplemental
Security Income.
Note: Respondents were interviewed one to three months after
release. Sources of income for less than 2 percent of the population
(i.e., unemployment, workers compensation, Social Security retirement, and veteran’s/military disability payments) are not included in
the table.

11

Raphael, and Stoll 2003). During the six months
before entering prison, over two-thirds (70 percent)
of respondents were employed, typically in construction/landscaping, factory work, and food service.
However, one-third (33 percent) reported receiving
some of their income from illegal activity. Just over
half (53 percent) had been fired from at least one job.
During their incarceration, some respondents participated in programs aimed at improving job skills and
preparing them for postrelease employment. About
one-third (32 percent) participated in employment
readiness programs, 26 percent received job-training,
and 86 percent held prison jobs at some point during
their prison term. While nearly all men (90 percent)
agreed that finding a job after release was important
for them to stay out of prison, only about half
(51 percent) expected that finding a job would be
easy. Most (89 percent) reported that they would like
some help or a lot of help finding a job after release.
Men who were interviewed a few months after release
had limited success in finding employment. Thirtynine percent had worked at some point since their
release, and fewer than one-third (30 percent) were
employed at the time of the interview, though most
(72 percent) of those employed worked 40 or more
hours per week. Of those who were employed, 28 percent had talked to friends, 16 percent had talked to
relatives, and 24 percent had used a temporary
employment agency to find their job.
For those who were employed at the postrelease interview, most reported overall satisfaction with their
jobs. A large majority got along well with their
coworkers (92 percent) and felt they were treated
fairly (92 percent). About three-quarters reported
thinking that their current job would give them better
opportunities in the future (77 percent) and that they
would be happy at their job one year later (70 percent). Despite these positive findings, nearly half of
employed respondents (42 percent) reported general
dissatisfaction with their wages. The median income
for employed men in our study was $640 per month.
To better understand why some men are more successful in obtaining employment upon release than
others, factors related to postrelease employment were

studied, focusing on whether men obtained employment at any point after release, even if they were no
longer employed at the time of the postrelease interview. The preliminary analyses indicated that the men
in our study who had any job during prison were more
likely to report employment after release. Postrelease
employment was also higher for men who were required to work as a condition of supervision.
HEALTH
Despite a recent study documenting higher rates of
chronic and infectious diseases and mental illness
among prisoners than in the general population
(National Commission on Correctional Health Care
2002), most men in our study expressed positive
opinions about their physical health. Eighty percent
assessed their own health as good or excellent during
prison, while the remaining men felt that it was fair or
poor (15 percent and 5 percent, respectively). Similarly,
most men (79 percent) rated their health as excellent or
good when interviewed one to three months after
release. In spite of these positive self-assessments, over
half (54 percent) reported being diagnosed with a
chronic physical health condition, such as high blood
pressure (20 percent), asthma (16 percent), arthritis
(11 percent), and high cholesterol (11 percent). These
self-reported rates probably underestimate the actual
share of prisoners with such diseases.7
A smaller but important share of the men in our study
exhibited a need for mental health services. While one
in five released prisoners (19 percent) reported having
problems with depression and other mental illnesses,
responses to standard mental-health screening questions indicate that a higher proportion (23 percent)
were likely to be depressed8 and that 14 percent had
symptoms consistent with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to their incarceration experiences.9
Problems with mental and physical health were often
intertwined: nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of
respondents with a mental health condition reported a
physical health condition, compared with 49 percent
of those without.
Prison health resources did not appear to fully meet
prisoners’ needs for services. Of the 59 percent of the

12

men in our study diagnosed with a physical or mental
health condition, only half (28 percent of all men)
reported having taken medications on a regular basis
while in prison. Those who reported having a health
condition were, however, much more likely than other
prisoners to report having taken medications during
prison (47 percent versus 4 percent, respectively). Furthermore, respondents taking medication were less
likely to report violating a law, being arrested, or violating a condition of supervision after release.
Despite the high prevalence of physical and mental
health conditions, the men in our study generally had
optimistic expectations about staying in good health
after release, with 89 percent reporting that it would be
pretty easy or very easy to do so. Understandably, prisoners who felt their health was fair or poor were more
cautious: only 68 percent thought staying in good
health would be easy after release. Regardless of their
expectations, many acknowledged that they would
need help accessing health services after release, including assistance getting health care (86 percent), obtaining counseling (51 percent), and receiving mental
health treatment (28 percent). The men in our study
remained optimistic about maintaining good health
one to three months after release, with 88 percent
reporting that it would be pretty easy or very easy to do
so—but few had the means to access health services.
Most released prisoners (84 percent) were without
any type of insurance coverage. Of the small share
who had insurance, half were covered under Medicare
or Medicaid and the rest through private insurance,
Veterans’ benefits, or other insurance types (figure 6).
Full-time employment slightly increased the likelihood of health coverage: 21 percent of the men working full-time when interviewed after release had
health insurance, compared with only 15 percent of
those either not working or working fewer than 40
hours per week. Although few of the men in the study
(13 percent) reported difficulties getting prescription
medications, uninsured men were more likely to have
problems. Despite these increased difficulties, the men
in our study without health insurance were divided
on the importance of health coverage: fewer than half
(42 percent) felt that it would be useful to them.

Figure 6. Insurance Coverage among Released Prisoners
(N = 353)

Medicaid
7%
Uninsured
84%

Medicare
1%
Veterans
2%
Private insurance
4%
Other
2%

POSTRELEASE SUPERVISION
The majority of Ohio prisoners sentenced to a year or
more in prison are released to a period of community
supervision during which they are expected to follow a
number of parole conditions enforced by the Adult
Parole Authority (APA) unit of the ODRC. Consistent
with this policy, over three-quarters (76 percent) of the
men in our study reported being on supervision when
interviewed one to three months after release. Among
these men, the majority reported meeting monthly
(42 percent) or a few times per month (48 percent)
with their parole officers (PO), with the average visit
lasting 5 to 30 minutes. Additionally, over half (58 percent) had spoken with their PO on the phone at least
once in the past 30 days, and one-quarter (28 percent)
received a visit at their home from their PO.
The men in our study had generally positive feelings
towards their POs: most believed their PO treated
them with respect (96 percent), acted professionally
(95 percent), and was trustworthy (86 percent).
Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) reported that their
POs were helpful with their transition home. The
released prisoners in the study felt POs were most
helpful by understanding their situation (28 percent)
and providing encouragement (24 percent).
The ODRC maintains a variety of special conditions
that can be required of a released prisoner. The men in

13

our study reported an average of 10 conditions, with a
minimum of 0 and a maximum of 16. The majority
(87 percent) of the men reported complying with their
conditions of supervision, and 89 percent said it had
been easy to avoid a violation after release. The most
commonly cited violations were associating with other
parolees without written permission and frequenting
places where controlled substances are used. According to the men in our study, employment was the most
difficult condition to comply with, followed by sex
offender registration and face-to-face contact with
their PO, although over half (52 percent) said that
none of their conditions were particularly difficult to
comply with. Many reported positive views of the
impact of supervision on their potential for recidivism.
Three out of every five men agreed or strongly agreed
that supervision would help them stay crime free and
drug free (60 percent each). Sixty percent also believed
that being under supervision would help them stay out
of prison after release. Preliminary analyses lend support to these notions that supervision conditions,
such as random drug testing and employment requirements, can increase the likelihood of reintegration success (as previously reported).

CRIMINAL INVOLVEMENT
According to previous studies by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, most prisoners have long criminal records
and exhibit high rates of recidivism. Nationwide,
more than 60 percent of state prisoners surveyed in
1991 had been previously incarcerated (Beck et al.
1993), and over half of state and federal prisoners
released in 1994 were rearrested for a new crime (68
percent) or returned to prison (52 percent) within
three years (Langan and Levin 2002). Such repeat
involvement with the criminal justice system was
strongly evident in our study. Criminal histories of
the men surveyed were extensive and began early in
life: most (83 percent) had at least one prior conviction and nearly half (45 percent) reported four or
more prior convictions. Two-thirds (65 percent) had
served time in prison before, and 44 percent had
spent time in a juvenile correctional facility. More
than half (54 percent) had been arrested before they
reached age 18. Despite these extensive criminal histo-

ries and high levels of familial criminal involvement
(discussed previously), 77 percent of the men in our
study expected it would be pretty easy or very easy to
stay out of prison following release.
To assess their success at avoiding recidivism, the men
in our study were asked to self-report any criminal
involvement since their release. Six percent of those
interviewed one to three months after release reported
committing a new crime, and another 6 percent
reported being rearrested. Future reports will include
official reincarceration data available from the ODRC.
The men in our study who reported avoiding criminal
behavior (i.e., new crimes, arrests, and violations of
supervision) after release differed from those who did
not. Men who were not arrested and who did not violate any law or conditions of supervision within the
first few months after release were older and had less
extensive criminal histories (i.e., fewer prior convictions and prison terms). They were also less likely to
have been incarcerated for a technical violation, less
likely to report relying on illegal sources of financial
support before prison, and were confident that it
would be easy to stay out of prison after release. Additionally, those taking medication for a health condition while in prison were more likely to refrain from
criminal behavior once released.
COMMUNITY
Findings from A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Ohio, as
well as other studies, indicate that a large share of former prisoners live in disadvantaged communities with
high levels of poverty and unemployment (Clear, Rose,
and Ryder 2001; La Vigne and Kachnowski 2003; La
Vigne and Thompson 2003; La Vigne et al. 2003). Prisoners who return to communities with higher concentrations of social and economic disadvantage also have
higher rates of recidivism (Visher and Farrell 2005),
and communities affected by high levels of incarceration and reentry experience higher crime rates than
otherwise expected (Clear et al. 2003). In our study,
75 percent of the released prisoners were residing in
Cleveland at the time of the postrelease interview.
Additionally, over one-third (34 percent) returned to
one of just eight of Cleveland’s 36 communities—

14

because they wanted to avoid trouble in their old
neighborhoods (28 percent), they lost their previous
housing (22 percent), or because their family or
friends had moved (18 percent). This perhaps
explains why the men had favorable impressions of
the neighborhoods they lived in after release, with 77
percent reporting that they lived in a safe neighborhood and 70 percent reporting that their neighborhood was a good place to live. Despite overall
satisfaction with their neighborhoods, nearly half (48
percent) reported that drug dealing was a major problem in their community, and only 41 percent agreed
or strongly agreed that the neighborhood in which
they resided at the time of the postrelease interview
was a good place to find a job.

Glenville, Hough, Mt. Pleasant, Union–Miles Park,
South Broadway/Slavic Village, Downtown, Detroit
Shoreway, and St. Clair–Superior (figure 7). Many of
these eight neighborhoods exceeded the citywide average rates in unemployment and the percentage of individuals living below the federal poverty level. However,
it is important to note that distinct variations in disadvantage may exist within each community.
The men’s reports of pre- and postprison residences
contradict the commonly held belief that prisoners
return to their old neighborhoods upon release. In
fact, over half (54 percent) did not return to the
neighborhoods in which they lived before prison.
These men lived in new neighborhoods primarily

Figure 7. Distribution of Released Prisoners Who Returned to Cuyahoga County by Town
and/or Cleveland Neighborhood (N = 316)

Number of
Prisoners

Glenville

0
1– 5

St. Clair-Superior

Lake Erie

6 – 10

Hough

11 – 15
16 – 20
Cleveland
Water Body

Central
Detroit
Shoreway

Downtown

East Cleveland

Mt. Pleasant

Union-Miles Park
South Broadway/
Slavic Village
Parma

Miles
0

1

2

3

4

5

Note: Divisions within Cleveland are neighborhood borders based on the City of Cleveland’s designations. Divisions outside Cleveland are town boundaries.

15

We were also interested in exploring how released
prisoners affect the communities in which they reside.
Toward this end, we conducted two focus groups in
each of three Cleveland neighborhoods—Central,
Hough, and Mt. Pleasant—that are home to the highest concentrations of released prisoners within the
City of Cleveland.10 A combined total of 69 residents
participated in the focus groups. At least three participants in each group spoke of close friends or family
members who had served time in prison, and at least
one person in four of the groups reported serving
prison time. Focus group participants were generally
sympathetic toward released prisoners in their communities, believing that they faced many obstacles,
such as finding employment and housing and providing for their basic needs. They mentioned that the
unhealthy community environment to which they
return—plagued by dissolving family units, eroding
community values, and a failing economy—makes
reentry even more challenging.
Participants felt that prisoners returning to these
communities do not receive adequate support and
suggested that resources within the families be
enhanced and that the capacity of agencies that provide services and supervision be strengthened and
expanded. Specific recommendations for improving
service provision and support included instituting
earlier reentry planning in prison, increasing the collaboration between prison programs and community
agencies, making program participation mandatory,
providing economic incentives to employers that hire
former prisoners, and involving families and community members in reentry programming.
When focus group participants were asked how
returning prisoners affect their communities, positive
effects were most often mentioned, such as the potential for prisoners to mentor youth in danger of entering the juvenile justice system and other prisoners
dealing with reentry. Many participants even provided examples of former prisoners as role models
who had started programs, become leaders, or otherwise made positive contributions to the community.
Only a few participants discussed negative effects of
returning prisoners, such as the burden placed on
families—particularly parenting and child care

responsibilities—during prisoners’ incarceration and
subsequent return. For a detailed description of the
focus group participants and findings, see Brooks,
Visher, and Naser (2006).
HOUSING
Finding a place to live is one of the first obstacles that
returning prisoners must overcome as they are released from prison. Recent research has shown that
released prisoners who do not find stable housing are
significantly more likely to end up back in prison
(Metraux and Culhane 2004). In our study, the men
generally recognized the significance of postrelease
living arrangements, with 84 percent of prerelease
respondents anticipating that having a place to live
would be an important factor in staying out of prison.
At the time of their prerelease interviews, 70 percent
of the men reported that they already had a place to
live upon release. Of those who did not have housing
arrangements lined up, nearly all (80 percent)
reported they would need some help or a lot of help
finding a place to live. The most common housing
search methods the men planned to use were contacting a family member (39 percent) and using a referral
service or housing program (35 percent).
Over three-quarters (78 percent) of the men in the
study expected to live with family after release from
prison. The largest percentage expected to live with
their mother (40 percent), followed by an intimate partner or a sibling. These expectations were largely realized, with over three-quarters (80 percent) living with a
family member or intimate partner one to three months
after release (figure 8). Despite restrictions barring certain convicted felons from residing in public housing,
only 7 percent reported having trouble finding housing
due to their criminal record. Just 4 percent lived in public housing at the postrelease follow-up interview, and
an additional 3 percent lived in Section 8 housing. Most
notably, every man had secured some form of housing
after release.
The men in our study were generally satisfied with
their postrelease living arrangements. Almost all
(97 percent) reported that they felt safe where they

16

Figure 8. Living Arrangements after Release: Prerelease Expectations and Postrelease Realities
(N = 358)
60
50

Prerelease expectations
Postrelease reality

45
38

Percent

40
30

24 23

26
22

21
16

20

6

10

6

8
4

0
Parent

Spouse/intimate
partner

Sibling

Other family
member

Friend

Nobody

Note: Categories are not mutually exclusive (i.e., a respondent may reside with both a parent and another
family member).

lived and that their current living situation met
(52 percent) or exceeded (41 percent) their expectations. Despite this satisfaction, many considered their
living arrangements temporary. At the postrelease
interview, over half (53 percent) expected to remain
at their current location for less than a few months
longer, and only one-third (33 percent) hoped to live at
the same place one year later. To some extent, these
housing arrangements also provided respondents with
financial relief, as 61 percent were not paying for housing. However, some indicated that they resided with
individuals since release who could jeopardize their
prospects for successful reintegration: 21 percent lived
with someone who had been in prison, 15 percent with
someone who often drank to the point of intoxication,
and 10 percent with someone who used illegal drugs.

SUMMARY
This report is the fourth product of the Returning
Home study in Ohio. The first, A Portrait of Prisoner
Reentry in Ohio, documented incarceration and
release trends in the state over the past two decades,
while the second, Ohio Prisoners’ Reflections on

Returning Home, described the experiences and expectations of 424 soon-to-be-released prisoners. In the
third report, Community Residents’ Perceptions of Prisoner Reentry in Selected Cleveland Neighborhoods, local
Cleveland residents commented on the experiences
and impacts of returning prisoners. This fourth report
presented preliminary findings on a range of reentry
challenges released prisoners faced as they left prison
and returned to Cleveland communities. A number of
factors related to prisoners’ short-term successes and
failures at finding employment, refraining from substance use, and avoiding recidivism after release were
described.
In some respects, our findings confirm conventional
wisdom. For example, prisoners typically come to
prison with significant prior involvement in crime
and extensive histories of drug and alcohol use. They
tend to have family members who are incarcerated or
who use illegal drugs and alcohol. They also have low
levels of education and work histories that are often
sporadic. Moreover, released prisoners present complicated health challenges, suggesting the need for
coordinating health care provision both within and
beyond prison walls.

17

This report also presents new insights that can help
inform reentry planning efforts. Preliminary analysis
of the survey responses highlights factors that could
improve short-term reentry outcomes. First, participation in prison-based programs and services,
including general counseling and prison jobs,
appeared to reduce the likelihood of substance use
and/or improve men’s chances of obtaining employment after release. Men’s attitudes toward themselves
and the legal system also affected their transition
home. Those who were confident that it would be
easy to stay out of prison after release were less likely
to report committing a new crime, being arrested, or
violating a condition of supervision, while men with
positive views of the legal system were less likely to
abuse substances during the few months following
release. Additionally, preprison factors identified a
high-risk group of men who were likely to get into
trouble soon after release. Men were more likely to
report violating a law or a condition of supervision if
they were younger, had extensive criminal histories,
were recently incarcerated for a technical violation,
and relied on illegal sources of income before entering prison.

avoiding trouble as the reason they did not return to
their old neighborhoods. In regard to supervision,
most men provided positive feedback on their supervision officers as well as on the role of supervision in
encouraging them to abide by the law. Although this
view of POs as helpful and supportive is surprising
given their role and level of authority over the men’s
lives, preliminary analyses suggest that supervision
conditions, including random drug testing and
employment requirements, do increase the likelihood
of reentry short-term success. These findings also
highlight a potential avenue by which released prisoners can find some support to change their criminal
behavior.

Families appeared to play a large role in the reentry
process. After release, many men recognized the
importance of their families for providing emotional
and financial support. In fact, the largest percentage
of men identified support from families as the most
important thing in keeping them out of prison. Families can also, however, negatively impact reintegration
since they often have their own problems with crime
and substance abuse. To incorporate families effectively into the reentry process, both the positive and
negative aspects of family involvement should be factored into reentry programming.

Many of the preliminary factors that predicted postrelease substance use, employment, and recidivism in
the first few months after release were unchangeable
characteristics, including age, criminal history,
prerelease attitudes, and preprison employment status.
Most of these static factors appeared to predispose
men to unsuccessful experiences after release. Less
was discovered about the dynamic factors that may
increase the likelihood of a successful transition back
into the community. However, the short-term outcomes used to measure success for this report were
based on men’s self-report of their own behaviors
one to three months following release. Further analyses using longer follow-up periods and augmenting
self-report measures with official recidivism data from
ODRC will highlight additional factors, both static
and dynamic, that affect prisoners’ reintegration success. Ideally, identification of the dynamic factors will
advise practitioners and policymakers about those
characteristics of prisoners and their surroundings
that can be altered to increase their chances for successful reentry upon release.

Additional factors also affected former prisoners’
experiences in the first few months after release.
Health seemed to play a significant role in the transition home, although the nature of the relationship is
not well understood. For instance, those who were
taking prescription medications were less likely to
recidivate. Another surprising finding was that the
majority of men did not return to the neighborhood
they lived in prior to incarceration. Most mentioned

This report is intended to provide a foundation for
politicians and practitioners as they consider the various options for improving reintegration among
released prisoners returning to Cleveland and similar
communities. Listening to the experiences of these
prisoners—and members of the communities to
which they returned—should point the way to policy
innovations that are empirically grounded, pragmatic,
and reflective of the realities of reentry.

18

ENDNOTES
1

ORC 5145.06 mandates inmates who do not possess a high
school diploma or GED participate in a minimum of six
months of education programming (or completion of GED/
high school degree) during their incarceration. Omnibus bill
HB 510 allows ODRC the capability to exclude special populations from mandatory enrollment in education. According to
ODRC policy, Special Population Status includes segregation
status, death row, infirmary, crisis stabilization unit, residential
treatment unit, and other special classifications. However, any
inmate in Special Population Status who requests education
will receive programming. Of those men in the study who
entered prison without a high school degree or GED, 67 percent reported participating in adult education. It should be
noted that lack of available data on Special Population Status
prevents the identification of men who would have been
excluded from mandatory enrollment in education.

7

Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and
HIV/AIDS can go unnoticed for years without causing overt
problems, and their prevalence among prisoners is estimated
to be at least twice as high as the survey responses indicate
(National Commission on Correctional Health Care 2002).
8

Scores of 16 and above on the Center for Epidemiologic
Studies depression scale were considered to indicate a high
likelihood of depression (see Radloff 1991).
9

Adapted from the 17-item PTSD Symptom Scale as described
in Foa et al. (1993). Scale items correspond to the DSM-III-R
diagnostic criteria for PTSD.
10

These neighborhoods were selected based on the geographic
analysis of released prisoners conducted for La Vigne and
Thompson (2003).

11
2

Preliminary multivariate regression analyses were run to predict self-reported, short-term outcomes. Further analyses using
official data and self-report measures from the second and
third postrelease interviews will assess the factors that predict
long-term outcomes. See the Returning Home Study Methodology box for control measures and additional analysis details.

In the recidivism model, general supervision status was used
as a control measure. For the postrelease substance use and
employment models, the general supervision controls were
replaced with random drug testing and employment as conditions of supervision, respectively.

REFERENCES
3

Results based on a multivariate regression analysis. See the
Returning Home Study Methodology box for additional analysis details.
4

Based on median values. Reported amount of gate money
given at release ranged from $0 to $375 and the other sum of
money prisoners had available to them was between $0 and
$10,000.
5

The racial composition of men in the study is consistent with
the composition of all prisoners released to Cuyahoga County
as reported in LaVigne and Thompson (2003).
6 Median time served excludes the 17 men who we determined
should not have been surveyed because they were not approaching release. To be consistent with data collection in
other Returning Home states, our selection criteria also included men who had been sentenced to at least one year in
state prison. Due to sentencing reforms enacted in 1996, many
individuals in Ohio prisons are serving sentences of less than
one year.

Beck, Allen. 2001. “State and Federal Prisoners Returning to
the Community: Findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.” Paper presented at the First Reentry Courts Initiative
Cluster Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 13. http://www.
ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/sfrc.pdf.
Beck, Allen, Darrell Gilliard, Lawrence Greenfeld, Caroline
Harlow, Thomas Hester, Louis Jankowski, Tracy Snell, James
Stephan, and Danielle Morton. 1993. “Survey of State Prison
Inmates, 1991.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report NCJ
136949. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Brooks, Lisa E., Christy A. Visher, and Rebecca L. Naser. 2006.
“Community Residents’ Perceptions of Prisoner Reentry in
Selected Cleveland Neighborhoods.” Washington, DC: The
Urban Institute.
Clear, Todd, Dina Rose, and Judith Ryder. 2001. “Incarceration and the Community: The Problem of Removing and
Returning Offenders.” Crime and Delinquency 47: 335–51.

19

Clear, Todd, Dina Rose, Elin Waring, and Kristen Scully. 2003.
“Coercive Mobility and Crime: A Preliminary Examination of
Concentrated Incarceration and Social Disorganization.” Justice Quarterly 20(1): 33–64.
Foa, Edna B., David S. Riggs, Constance V. Dancu, and Barbara
O. Rothbaum. 1993. “Reliability and Validity of a Brief Instrument for Assessing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Journal of
Traumatic Stress 6(4): 459–73.
Harer, Miles. 1994. “Recidivism of Federal Prisoners Released
in 1987.” Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Prisons, Office
of Research and Evaluation.
Holzer, Harry, Steven Raphael, and Michael Stoll. 2003.
“Employment Barriers Facing Ex-Prisoners.” Washington,
DC: The Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?
ID=410855.
La Vigne, Nancy G., and Vera Kachnowski. 2003. “A Portrait
of Prisoner Reentry in Maryland.” Washington, DC: The
Urban Institute.
La Vigne, Nancy G., and Gillian Thompson. 2003. “A Portrait
of Prisoner Reentry in Ohio.” Washington, DC: The Urban
Institute.

Mumola, Christopher. 1999. “Substance Abuse Treatment,
State and Federal Prisoners, 1997.” Bureau of Justice Statistics
Special Report NCJ 172871. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
National Commission on Correctional Health Care. 2002.
“Prevalence of Communicable Disease, Chronic Disease, and
Mental Illness.” In The Health Status of Soon-to-be-Released
Inmates: A Report to Congress, Vol. 1 (15–26). http://www.
ncchc.org/stbr/Volume1/Health%20Status%20(vol%201).
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Nelson, Marta, Perry Deess, and Charlotte Allen. 1999. “The
First Month Out: Post-Incarceration Experiences in New York
City.” New York: Vera Institute of Justice.
Radloff, Lenore S. 1991. “The Use of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale in Adolescents and Young
Adults.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 20(2): 149–66.
Sampson, Robert, and John Laub. 1997. “A Life-Course Theory
of Cumulative Disadvantage and the Stability of Delinquency.”
Advances in Criminological Theory 7: 133–61.

La Vigne, Nancy G., Cynthia A. Mamalian, Jeremy Travis, and
Christy Visher. 2003. “A Portrait of Prisoner Reentry in Illinois.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

Uggen, Christopher. 2000. “Work as a Turning Point in the
Life Course of Criminals: A Duration Model of Age, Employment, and Recidivism.” American Sociological Review 65:
529–46.

Langan, Patrick, and David Levin. 2002. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994.” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special
Report NCJ 193427. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Justice.

Visher, Christy, and Jill Farrell. 2005. “Chicago Communities
and Prisoner Reentry.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

Maruna, Shadd. 2001. Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform
and Rebuild Their Lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Metraux, Stephen, and Dennis P. Culhane. 2004. “Homeless
Shelter Use and Reincarceration Following Prison Release:
Assessing the Risk.” Criminology & Public Policy 3: 139–60.

Visher, Christy, Demelza Baer, and Rebecca Naser. 2006.
“Ohio Prisoners’ Reflections on Returning Home.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
Visher, Christy, Vera Kachnowski, Nancy La Vigne, and
Jeremy Travis. 2004. “Baltimore Prisoners’ Experiences
Returning Home.” Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

20

RETURNING HOME STUDY METHODOLOGY
The Returning Home study is being implemented in four
states, including a pilot study in Maryland and full research
studies in Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. The goal in each state
is to collect information on the life circumstances of
respondents immediately prior to and following their
release from prison, as well as up to a year into their reintegration in the community. Each study involves surveys
and interviews that explore various reentry expectations,
needs, and experiences, such as those related to prerelease preparation, postrelease housing and employment,
and the renewal of personal relationships.
The study design in Ohio is composed of several data collection efforts. The first effort involves 424 male prisoners sentenced to at least one year in prison who are returning to
Cuyahoga County and entails (1) a self-administered survey
given to groups of prisoners about one month prior to release
and (2) three one-on-one interviews with sample members
conducted approximately 1 to 3 months, 4 to 6 months, and
12 to 16 months after release. The second effort consists
of a series of focus groups with community residents in the
Cleveland neighborhoods that receive the highest proportion
of returning prisoners, as well as one-on-one interviews with
reentry policymakers and practitioners in Cleveland. Data in
this research brief come from the self-administered prerelease surveys of 424 prisoners (administered from May
2004 through March 2005), the first postrelease interview
with 358 released prisoners one to three months after
release, and the community focus group findings.
Locating respondents for the postrelease interviews was
difficult, time-intensive, and costly. Although interviews
were scheduled to be conducted one to three months after

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We would like to thank many individuals for their major contributions to this research project. The Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction, especially Edward Rhine and
Steven Van Dine, generously provided time and valuable
information. Special thanks also go to Research Support
Services, under the direction of Dr. Alisu Schoua-Glusberk,
for conducting the pre- and postrelease interviews and
facilitating the neighborhood focus groups. Production of
this report was also made possible through the team

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Christy A. Visher, Ph.D., is a principal research associate
in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute. She is
principal investigator of the multistate Returning Home
project and is also coprincipal investigator of a national
evaluation of prisoner reentry programs.

release, the availability of respondents during the time
frame varied greatly: some could not be located until nine
months after release, while others completed the follow-up
interviews within the first month of release. Ultimately, we
were able to interview 358 of the 424 men in our prerelease sample for the first postrelease wave, achieving an
84 percent follow-up rate.
To present a snapshot of prisoners’ experiences returning
to the Cleveland area, our descriptive analyses included
the entire sample of 424 respondents where data were
available. To predict preliminary reintegration successes
and failures in regard to employment, substance use, and
recidivism, we focused our analyses on the 358 men who
completed both the prerelease and first postrelease interviews. All predictive analyses used multivariate regression
techniques to statistically control for respondents’ age,
race, criminal history, and supervision status,11 as well as
other variables significant in logistic regression equations.
Predictive analyses also statistically controlled for the
number of months after release that an interview was conducted. Relationships reported as significant are those
found to be statistically significant in multivariate models
at a probability equal to or less than 0.10.
To ensure that our sample of postrelease interview participants is representative of the larger group of all prerelease
participants, we compared the 358 prisoners who participated in the study with those 66 who did not and found no
significant differences along several factors, including age,
race/ethnicity, education, marital status, prior employment, number of prior convictions, time served, conviction
offense, substance abuse history, prerelease family support, and family criminal history, when these factors were
tested simultaneously in a regression model.

efforts of a number of researchers in the Urban Institute’s
Justice Policy Center, including Rebecca Naser, the project
director for the Returning Home study in Ohio, and Jennifer
Castro and Lisa Brooks, who assisted with data analysis
and the focus groups. The Returning Home study in Ohio is
funded by the generous support of the George Gund Foundation, Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Cleveland
Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Annie E. Casey
Foundation, Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, and
the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Shannon M.E. Courtney, M.A., is a research associate in
the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center. Her primary
research interests include juvenile delinquency and the
evaluation of programs and strategies for preventing and
reducing crime.

The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

 

 

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