For many returning citizens, release from prison is just the first step in a lengthy, difficult journey. There are many barriers along the path that leads to successful reentry, and they take many forms: Family issues, legal restrictions, limited employment opportunities, lack of education. All of these factors make it easy for returning to citizens to become discouraged and disillusioned. They also contribute to high rates of recidivism, or “relapse into criminal behavior.”
In a study published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 400,000 state prisoners were monitored for several years after their release. The study found that “an estimated 68% of released prisoners were arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within 9 years.” In a society where recidivism is rampant, it’s important that we give returning citizens the tools they need to be successful.
One factor that makes a big difference in reducing recidivism is access to adequate housing. Having a safe, comfortable place to live gives returning citizens a sense of stability upon which they can build their new lives. As a member of Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center put it, housing “can serve as both the literal and figurative foundation for successful reentry and reintegration. Certainly, it can be argued that securing employment, maintaining sobriety, and staying out of prison…are difficult to achieve without stable housing.”
Unfortunately, it’s often challenging for returning citizens to find housing at all. Their income may be too small to accommodate rent, or they may struggle to find places that accept applicants with criminal records. In such situations, transitional housing can help bridge the gap from release to permanent housing. Returning citizens can apply to low-or-no-cost transitional facilities where they can make a temporary home while stabilizing other aspects of their lives. In many cases, a brief amount of time at such a facility is all it takes for an individual to regain their footing.
With this in mind, Arkansas Community Correction (ACC) has established a Transitional Housing Program that helps returning citizens get the resources they need. Through the program, ACC licenses housing providers throughout the state and helps individuals through the application process.
The ACC-Good Grid partnership initially launched as an integrated portal to deliver social services as well as improve collaboration between government agencies, faith communities, employers, community service providers and other entities involved in the successful reentry of those who have been incarcerated. Offenders have access to the Good Grid system before their release, allowing them to utilize its various tools to prepare for reentry. You can read more about our partnership with ACC in our blogpost Corrections and Connections.
During our partnership, we saw an opportunity to help them improve the way they handled housing applications. Our ultimate goal was to help the agency get people in homes more quickly and effectively. First, we sat down as a team and took stock of some of the issues the current system had.
Because the program was paper-based, it took a long time to process applications. On average, applicants for transitional housing were waiting over five weeks to get a response from the homes they applied to! Using paper applications also made the program dependent on USPS and prone to delays.
On top of this, ACC didn’t have a way to easily track application rates, placements, capacities, and other program requirements. If they could manage this information more efficiently, they would be able to streamline the application process.
Good Grid partnered with ACC in July of 2018 to build a custom platform that effectively resolved the issues created by the paper-based application process. The Transitional Housing Application Portal we created united all partners under one metaphorical roof. Applicants, transitional houses, and institutional release officers alike were able to complete necessary tasks using the same platform. By bringing all the players together, we were able to increase transparency and make the application process much more efficient.
The portal’s use of online tools reduces the bottlenecking effects ACC had experienced with its paper-based system. It also gives them a better way to track applications and measure the rates of acceptance and denial at different facilities. Finally, it allows them to monitor the program more effectively. The Good Grid provides the agency with real-time data they use to visualize successes and identify areas of concern. Using this data, they are able to respond to potential issues more quickly.
Workers at ACC were excited by the results they saw after implementing the new system. According to Jarrod Self, transitional housing manager at ACC, “The Transitional Housing app has been very beneficial…The system has increased transparency and decreased waiting time for applicants leaving prison. I cannot imagine returning to the pen and paper way of doing things.” Other ACC staff members agreed. The system had bolstered efficiency, reduced paperwork, and allowed inmates to find housing more quickly and easily.
Since July 2018, 2052 female applications have been processed using the Transitional Housing Application Portal. ACC has reported an 80% average house acceptance rate (a result they can now track). And the transitional housing application response time has been reduced by 78%.
All of those numbers boil down to one happy truth: At ACC, returning citizens are finding homes more quickly. They’re starting their journeys toward successful reentry from a place of comfort, safety, and peace.
At Good Grid, our aim is to connect people in need with services they need using web-based applications. The Transitional Housing Application Platform is just one way we are accomplishing that goal. If you know of an organization or program that could benefit from partnering with Good Grid or utilizing one of our online platforms, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 501-687-2346. To learn more about the services Good Grid provides, visit our website: https://goodgrid.com.