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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration
new neighborhoods are generally similar to the old ones, disorganized and with low collective efficacy (Visher et al., 2004).
Moreover, when large numbers of former prisoners live close together in a community, they contribute to low collective efficacy because they are less likely to be employed, have lower incomes, and have fewer networks of people and institutions to support law-abiding behaviors (Clear et al., 2005). Ironically, the communities that may be the most accepting of releasees may also be the places that are the least likely to exercise social control. They are often communities with high rates of crime and substance use, which limit the possibilities for releasees’ successful reentry. Releasees who report living in neighborhoods in “unsafe” or disorganized communities or where drug dealing is common are more likely to report using drugs after release, are less likely to be employed, and are more likely to return to prison than other releasees (Visher and Farrell, 2005).
Most people—including parole agents and corrections officials—believe that releasees who are employed have a higher probability of successful reentry, and research shows that employment does reduce recidivism (Bushway and Reuter, 2002). Yet people with prison records are much less likely to be offered jobs (Pager, 2003; Pager and Quillian, 2005) and are more likely to live in neighborhoods where others are out of work (Clear, 2007). At the same time, communities with more unemployed or marginally employed people have lower collective efficacy than other communities (Crutchfield et al., 2006; Fagan et al., 2006) and higher crime rates (Crutchfield, 1989). There is also some evidence from research on restorative justice and the involvement of victims in mediation conferences and other participatory activities that the involvement of citizens in the criminal justice process has positive effects on participants and may be therapeutic for releasees. Given opportunities to interact positively with others in activities that benefit the community, former prisoners begin to see themselves as part of something, a community (Maruna, 2001).
Often overlooked in reentry policies and practices are the institutions—including police, business sector, and health and human services—that can play important roles in successful reentry. The business community is not often involved in local discussions about the problems of crime and reentry, yet business is the source of money and jobs that could contribute to supporting communitywide reentry programs. Through a communitywide strategic planning process, Baltimore and Chicago have brought the business community into these discussions, and business leaders have responded by offering jobs to former prisoners (see, e.g., http://www.oedworks.com/whatsnew/pr0912202.htm [accessed June 2007]).
Of particular concern is how these institutions coordinate hiring policies, on-the-job or other employment training, eligibility for services, and decision making about parole revocation. Often these institutions are un-