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Disparate Impact is a multi-channel video installation designed to showcase the stories of individuals in the Cleveland area who have been denied public, subsidized and other types of housing because of their criminal backgrounds. These "look-back" periods deny individuals housing for 3, 5 and even 10 years or more after release--even after long-term sentences. Often there is not considering for the program, certificates and self-improvements made by individuals with criminal histories. These types of collateral consequences are discouraging to reintegration. How do we expect people to transition back into society under these circumstances?
Having a safe, secure and stable home is essential for anyone to live a comfortable, happy life. Those denied because of criminal history are forced to be displaced further, ending up becoming burdens on family, friends or, when they do not have that support, they resort to shelters and transitional housing--all of which are underfunded and temporary. Between 65 and 70 percent of people returning from prison do not have stable housing after one year out (1) ---the time during which an individual is most likely to recidivate. When does the door close on the past? How is someone expected to move forward with their life once marked and labeled a felon, a criminal, an offender? Are we encouraging, rather than preventing, recidivism by further barring people from the essential resources they need for a successful reentry?
This issue has been addressed by the federal government in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A recently released guidance addresses the disparate impact on African Americans by discrimination in housing based on criminal background checks. The background checks disproportionately effect African Americans in a similar way to the disparity in arrests, harshness of convictions and the prison population. W.E.B Dubois said, "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line," and we are still dealing with the problem today in the twenty-first century. You can download a .pdf of the recent HUD guidance here.
1. National Institute of Justice, link
Literature from Rooms to Let: CLE in Slavic Village
What Can You Do Now?
Visit the blog page of my site here to continue the conversation. Get involved by talking to your landlord about this effect in tenant selection. If you are a landlord, consider someone's full story, the debt they paid and the difference having a home will make to someone with a criminal history when they may have been denied several times. Talk to your employer about hiring practices. Having a stable place to live and gainful employment can significantly reduce a person's likelihood to commit another crime.
Contact your representatives:
For more information about reentry resources in Northeast Ohio visit:
North Star Reentry Center | Cuyahoga County Resource Center for Returning Citizens
For information about housing for those with criminal histories visit:
College for Ex-Offenders - https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/college-after-prison/