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A natural experiment of the consequences of concentrating former prisoners in the same neighborhoods

Kirk, David S.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.22 pp. 6943-6948
issues and policy, markets, social factors, urban areas, United States
More than 600,000 prisoners are released from incarceration each year in the United States, and most end up residing in metropolitan areas, clustered within a select few neighborhoods. Likely consequences of this concentration of returning prisoners include higher rates of subsequent crime and recidivism. In fact, one-half of released prisoners return to prison within only 3 y of release. The routine exposure to criminogenic influences and criminal opportunities portends a bleak future for individuals who reside in neighborhoods with numerous other ex-prisoners. Through a natural experiment focused on post-Hurricane Katrina Louisiana, I examine a counterfactual scenario: If instead of concentrating ex-prisoners in geographic space, what would happen to recidivism rates if ex-prisoners were dispersed across space? Findings reveal that a decrease in the concentration of parolees in a neighborhood leads to a significant decrease in the reincarceration rate of former prisoners.