A Portrait of Reentry in Maryland

Vera Kachnowski, The Urban Institute
Rebecca Naser, The Urban Institute

In 2001, The Urban Institute embarked upon a multi-year, multi-state study of prisoner reentry entitled, Returning Home:Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry. The pilot was launched in March of 2002 in the State of Maryland, where over half of released prisoners who were sentenced to greater than one year return to the City of Baltimore. The dense concentration of released prisoners in Baltimore City reflects a nationwide trend of released prisoners being increasingly concentrated in a few geographic areas. In 1998, almost 50 percent of released prisoners returned to just five states. Within states, more and more prisoners are returning to counties that contain the central city of a metropolitan area. In 1996, about two-thirds of the 500,000 released prisoners returned to these "core counties"- up from 50 percent of the 220,000 releases in 1984 (Lynch and Sabol 2001). This trend suggests that a greater number and higher concentration of prisoners are returning to metropolitan areas like Baltimore City. The reentry process may be affected not only by individual characteristics, but also by the characteristics of the place to which released prisoners return, particularly in neighborhoods to which a large number of prisoners return. As part of Returning Home, we will examine the importance of place in prisoner reentry by looking at state-level, city-level and neighborhood-level data for each of our study states. The results will be compiled into a monograph for each state. We propose to present the monograph from our pilot study state, entitled A Portrait of Reentry in Maryland, at the 2002 American Society of Criminology Conference in November. The Maryland portrait is due to be completed by June 2002. A Portrait of Reentry in Maryland will complement the other data collected as part of our full research strategy. Primary data collection for Returning Home includes interviews with prisoners before and after they are released, interviews with family members of prisoners once before and once after the inmate's release, focus groups in neighborhoods to which large numbers of prisoners return, and interviews with key community stakeholders and local and state policymakers. The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS) will provide administrative records and additional data for the sample. The portrait paper will supplement the largely predictive focus of these data collection strategies with a descriptive picture of reentry in Maryland. The portrait paper will describe the what, why, who and where of reentry in Maryland, beginning with background information on the State of Maryland's sentencing statutes, philosophies, and practices -- including incarceration and release policies and practices. Using data provided by MDPSCS, we will provide an overview of all prisoners (who were sentenced to greater than one year) released from Maryland State prisons during the 2001 calendar year and returned to Maryland. As well as describing demographics and conditions of release, we will describe where in Maryland these prisoners return. Neighborhood maps will be included in these portraits to reflect the flow of prisoners leaving prison and returning home to specific areas within the City of Baltimore. In addition to providing a general overview of the reentry phenomenon in Maryland, the portrait paper is an opportunity to explore the neighborhood to which a prisoner returns and how the characteristics of the neighborhood may affect his or her reentry process. As mentioned above, the majority of released prisoners in Maryland return to Baltimore City. A preliminary look at the MDPSCS data suggests that releasees may be even more concentrated in a small number of neighborhoods within Baltimore. We will look at the economic and social conditions of Baltimore City as a whole, as well as those in neighborhoods that are absorbing a large number of released prisoners. A detailed list of indicators to be used and data sources follows.

References Lynch, J., Sabol, W. 2001. Prisoner Reentry in Perspective. Crime Policy Report, vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.

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Updated 05/20/2006