Research has consistently shown a strong link between incarceration and homelessness. Our 2018 report found that formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public. Other national data shows 50,000 people enter shelters directly from correctional facilities per year.

And homelessness is a major predictor of involvement with the juvenile justice system, which means that for many youth, the cycle of incarceration and homelessness starts early.

To date, there has been no national data on how many people experiencing homelessness have had prior criminal justice involvement. New data from the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness helps fill this gap. The study was also able to parse how many people experienced homelessness before incarceration versus how many experienced homelessness after release – underscoring both the harms of criminalizing homelessness and the destabilizing effects of incarceration. Above all, the findings illustrate the importance of including stable housing in states’ public safety agendas.

The study’s main findings

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) matched data from the 450,000 people who have been admitted to the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC), the state’s joint prison and jail system, and the 17,226 people who used a shelter in their network between Jan. 2016 and Jan. 2019, finding that half of the people (8,187) who used homeless shelters were formerly incarcerated. Moreover, they found that 1 in 5 people who used homeless shelters had been released from prison in the past three years. The CCEH network includes 88% of all emergency shelters in the state.

The study found stark racial disparities among the population of formerly incarcerated people using homeless shelters. Of the 8,187 formerly incarcerated people experiencing homelessness, 35% were Black, compared to just 10% of the general population in Connecticut. This reflects the fact that Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by both incarceration and homelessness, and is in line with our national finding that Black formerly incarcerated people are significantly more likely to experience homelessness than white formerly incarcerated people.

Read the full article about homelessness and incarceration by Alexi Jones at Prison Policy Initiative.