A Spatial Analysis of the Mobility of Released Prisoners in Chicago, Illinois

Barbara Parthasarathy, The Urban Institute
Nancy LaVigne, The Urban Institute

This paper will examine the extent of residential mobility among prisoners released to Chicago, Illinois, neighborhoods within the first 45 days after release. This analysis is designed to measure the location, range, and frequency of residential movement of released prisoners, as well as the accuracy of Department of Corrections records. Having the correct address (or an accurate proxy) for returning prisoners has important policy implications for both improving the supervision and surveillance of returning prisoners, as well as for guiding resource allocation decisions made by organizations that provide employment, treatment, housing assistance, and other types of services for released prisoners. This analysis is conducted on a sample of 400 prisoners released from Illinois prisons to Chicago neighborhoods during 2002 and 2003. A comparison of DOC release address versus actual release address using Pearson Correlation Coefficients will be examined, as well as the measurement of spatial distance between DOC and actual release address through the use of GIS tools. Frequences of numbers of address changes and means for the sample will be calculated. In addition, distances between addresses and measurement of the extent to which inmates move within or across neighborhoods and jurisidctions will also be explored. Address data is supplied by the Illinois Department of Corrections and survey results from the "Returning Home: Understanding the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry" research project at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C.

The major research questions include:

1) Is DOC release address data an accurate proxy for the actual locations in which ex-prisoners end up living after release? 2) How transient are ex-prisoners? Does residential mobility typically occur within neighborhoods, throughout a city, or across larger jurisdictions? 3) Is the residential mobility of released prisoners influenced by socio-economic and/or contextual factors, such as employment status, substance abuse history, and strength of family ties? 4) How might observed patterns of residential mobility among released prisoners guide correctional programming and supervision, as well as the provision of community services?

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Updated 05/20/2006