Community Context and Recidivism: The Consequences of Residence in Disadvantaged Locales

Brian Kowalski, The Ohio State University

A large body of research addresses the determinants of recidivism. Generally, these empirical studies have been directed towards micro-level factors, such as offender charcteristics. An important shortcoming in this literature is that most studies do not examine the influence of the local context into which parolees are released. Recent work in criminology has focused on the effects of disadvantaged neighborhoods and poor labor marketing opportunity on criminal activity. Community characteristics may be extremely relevant in terms of recidivism because parolees released into areas of high disadvantage or few low-skill employment opportunities may be less likely to secure a job, and consequently return to prison. This paper uses a random sample of 1687 parolees and post-release control inmates released from Ohio state penal institutions in 1999. The analytic strategy utilizes a multi-level model, incorporating community data from census materials and individual-level data from offender records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. An event history analysis is employed to assess the relationship between community context and recidivism, while taking into acount the specific amount of time ex-offenders have spent between incarcerations. Results suggest that careful attention must be given to insure the placement of offenders into neighborhoods that offer sufficient resources and employment opportunities.

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Updated 05/20/2006