Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Guy Johnson, Professor, Urban Housing and Homelessness, RMIT University
Ex-prisoners are more likely to become homeless but the reverse isn't true

On the night the 2016 census was taken, more than 116,000 Australians were homeless. This was a 30% increase from the decade before.

What has driven this increase is difficult to pin down, but research points to a lack of affordable housing, poverty and personal vulnerabilities such as trauma, mental illness and substance misuse as key factors.

Read more: Ghost-hunting: will the census reveal the true scale of homelessness in Australia?

We recently published a paper in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, exploiting a rich dataset derived from tracking 1,600 disadvantaged respondents over approximately three years.

And we found people who have been incarcerated are at a greater risk of becoming homeless. But interestingly, the reverse isn’t true – homeless people are not at greater risk of incarceration.

Identifying similarities

Like the homeless population, Australia’s prison population has increased by 56% in the past decade, from 25,968 to 40,577 people.

Social researchers and policymakers have long been aware of a strong association between incarceration and homelessness. Local and international studies consistently report the homeless are over-represented in prison and ex-prisoners are over-represented among the homeless.

Read more: Youth homelessness efforts get a lowly 2 stars from national report card

That such a strong association exists should come as no surprise.

Both populations share many similar characteristics – lower education levels, high rates of mental and physical illness and substance misuse, as well as high rates of economic disadvantage.

Yet, despite numerous studies, the question of whether this association reflects causal relationships has proven surprisingly difficult to answer.

One reason for this is that researchers have had to rely on samples of either prisoners or the homeless, and these samples are not suited to addressing questions of causality.

Are homeless people more likely to be imprisoned?

Our paper used data from Journeys Home, a study uniquely suited to shedding light on the relationship between incarceration and homelessness. Launched in 2011, Journeys Home not only tracks people exposed to homelessness and housing insecurity over time, but also it captures important information on their housing circumstances and contact with the justice system.

There is no universally agreed definition of homelessness, so we tested two different approaches – broad and literal.

Read more: What’s in the name 'homeless'? How people see themselves and the labels we apply matter

Our broad definition included people sleeping rough, people in emergency accommodation, in boarding houses, couch surfing and people staying temporarily in a hotel or caravan park. This aligns with the way homelessness is commonly defined in Australia.

We found that homelessness, broadly defined, does not increase the risk of incarceration.

Being “literally” homeless is a more limited definition commonly used in the USA. It restricts the definition to those who were on the streets, in squats or staying in emergency or crisis accommodation.

Based on previous research, we expected this form of homelessness would be linked to a higher risk of incarceration.

To our surprise, it wasn’t. Being literally homeless also has no effect.

Why might this be the case?

When we examined forms of contact with the justice system, we found being homeless does not increase the risk of being apprehended or held overnight by the police or sent to court.

This suggests homelessness does not lead to incarceration because it does not increase any type of contact with the justice system usually preceding incarceration.

Are ex-prisoners more likely to become homeless?

The answer is yes, but the immediate effect is modest.

Our research shows the risk of ex-prisoners becoming homeless increases significantly six months after release, and this increased risk persists for nearly another year.

Responding to the delayed and persistent effect of incarceration is important.

Policy interventions such as Reconnect, a transition and post-release support program, provide assistance for a short period (up to 12 weeks) following discharge. While this is clearly warranted, our results suggest the need to broaden and extend existing interventions.

Many ex-prisoners rely on family and friends in the immediate period following release. Many appear to enjoy a “honeymoon” period of six months or so.

At that point, ex-prisoners’ housing starts to breakdown. Many start to couch surf or live in boarding houses, where there is limited housing security and they are exposed to poor living conditions.

Read more: Homelessness: Australia's shameful story of policy complacency and failure continues

Clearly, families provide important social support to ex-prisoners, but they often have limited resources. Based on our research, we feel that policy initiatives should consider ways of engaging and supporting ex-prisoners’ families, as well as funding extended settlement support programs delivered through a range of supported housing arrangements.

A focus on assisting families and extending settlement support programs is the next step in developing policy approaches. These would more effectively mitigate the extended risk of homelessness and housing instability that our research shows ex-prisoners experience.

Authors: Guy Johnson, Professor, Urban Housing and Homelessness, RMIT University

Read more http://theconversation.com/ex-prisoners-are-more-likely-to-become-homeless-but-the-reverse-isnt-true-113570

Writers Wanted

The big barriers to global vaccination: patent rights, national self-interest and the wealth gap

arrow_forward

After riots, Donald Trump leaves office with under 40% approval

arrow_forward

Five ways Australians can save the planet without lifting a finger (well, almost!)

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion