Volume 31

Misunderstanding Criminal Recidivism: DCHA’s Public Housing Policies on Sex Offenders and Substance Abuse Do Not Foster Safer Communities

by Erin Fullerton

Experts on criminal recidivism are in consensus that housing instability is a risk factor for reoffending. Academic studies and common sense find that justice-involved individuals are more likely to suffer from financial stressors that would allow them to qualify for and need public housing assistance. To curb the cyclical nature of recidivism and housing instability, local and federal governments should promote policies that support housing for criminal offenders. DCHA, and more broadly, HUD, have public housing admission policies that are inconsistent with best practices described by scholars and thus should be updated to foster reintegration of offenders, divert people from the criminal legal system, and create a safer community for all. Current DCHA policies include strict rules proscribing admission to sex offenders and those with a history of illegal drug use, with the goal of promoting a safe environment for residents. This Note argues that by creating admissions policies that are more inclusive of sex and drug offenses, DCHA could participate in disrupting the cyclical nature of housing instability and the criminal legal system and better promote public safety for all District of Columbia residents.

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