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Breaking the Cycle: How Washington State’s Housing Specialists are Reducing Recidivism

May 15, 2024

By Brendan Baptiste Communications Office

(Brendan Baptiste, Communications Office)

In Washington state, the Department of Corrections (DOC) is making strides to reduce recidivism through housing assistance programs facilitated by housing specialists. To help reduce incarcerated individuals’ chances to reoffend, DOC is providing more programs to those returning to their communities. After recognizing that stable housing is a critical factor in helping to prevent this, housing specialists are sent in to lead the charge.

Housing specialists work to secure stable and affordable housing for individuals releasing from incarceration. Taking away the stress of finding a safe place to call home can open other opportunities like finding gainful employment. The specialist reaches out to private landlords in counties across the state to create pathways for individuals to find housing. They do have their own choice as to where they live, but criminal history can provide some difficulty in placement in certain situations.

Incarcerated individuals can apply to receive housing assistance up to $700 a month that can go towards their rent for up to six months at an approved transitional house. This is one less thing to worry about as they acclimate to their new surroundings. The hope is in six months they have found gainful employment and can now afford their own way. Some who are coming out of incarceration have never held the responsibility of paying rent or bills. This time is also used as a learning tool to become self-sufficient.

Housing specialists also make sure the housing meets certain criteria . By regularly visiting properties, specialists build and maintain relationships with landlords. If the property needs work, they will express the needs for repairs with the landlord. If they cannot bring the property up to standard, then that property may lose eligibility for the program. This ensures that newly released individuals can be placed in a home that is safe.

“I advise that anybody coming out of prison to take advantage of this situation because you have six months to get on your feet,” says Aaron Gentry, House Manager. “And if you really want to change, this is a program that is designed for change. If I could do it, anybody could do it.”

Housing specialists play a crucial role in breaking cycle of crime and incarceration. By prioritizing stable housing, the state is reducing recidivism rates and reinforcing the principle that rehabilitation is a cornerstone of justice. Through their work, DOC is not only helping individuals rebuild their lives but are also contributing to safer and more vibrant communities.