Barriers to Housing for Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People 

The United States is the world’s largest jailer, imprisoning around 2 million people in state and local jails and prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, immigrant detention facilities, and prisons and jails on tribal or territorial lands. The FBI estimates as many as one in three Americans has some type of criminal record, including convictions for minor offenses, or arrests that never resulted in a conviction.

Bias inherent to the criminal-legal system has caused people of color – and particularly Black, Latino, and Native people – as well as people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community, to be disproportionately impacted by the criminal-legal system. Nationally, Black men are five times more likely to experience incarceration than white men, while Black women are incarcerated at double the rate of white women.

After decades of imprisoning people with punitive and destructive mandatory minimum sentences, lawmakers and criminal-legal system reform advocates are making progress in the decarceration of prison inmates across the country. Since reaching its peak in 2009, the state and federal prison population decreased 11% by the end of 2019; between February 2020 and February 2021, the number of people incarcerated in state, federal, and private prisons dropped by 16%.

However, as more formerly incarcerated people return to their communities, there is a growing concern about how they will fare upon reentry. Formerly incarcerated people typically return to low-income communities where resources, particularly affordable, accessible housing, are scarce. In addition to facing a national shortage of 7.3 million rental units affordable and available to extremely low-income households, a conviction or arrest record poses an additional barrier to accessing affordable, accessible housing. These barriers place people impacted by the criminal-legal system at risk of housing instability, homelessness, and reincarceration.

HUD and Congress must work to reduce barriers to affordable, accessible housing for formerly incarcerated and convicted people, their families, and communities -- everyone is safer when we all have a place to call home. 

The Partnership for Just Housing 

In partnership with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM), VOICE of the Experienced, and National Housing Law Project (NHLP), NLIHC convenes the Partnership for Just Housing (PJH). PJH is a national collaborative of directly impacted leaders and other advocates working to end housing discrimination against people impacted by the criminal legal system.

Questions, comments, or interested in getting involved in the Partnership for Just Housing? Contact Kim Johnson, policy manager at NLIHC ([email protected]), and Eric Sirota, director of housing justice at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law ([email protected]). 

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