Defeating the Prison-Urban Neighborhood Cycle

Two-thirds of people who leave prison go back within three years, and many who leave prison go back to particular urban neighborhoods. New Orleans want to spend more smartly in areas whose community life is disrupted by such a cycle.
February 25, 2009, 11am PST | Judy Chang
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"Hurricane Katrina displaced hundreds of thousands of New Orleans residents; as they've returned, their struggles to remake their lives and communities have been well chronicled. But smaller waves of displacement, followed by straggling return, have been washing through the city, largely unremarked, for many years. In 2003, upwards of 12,000 New Orleans–area residents left the city for prison; more than half were expected to return home within three years. This destructive cycle, interrupted by the storm, is slowly reasserting itself.

Nationwide, an estimated two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within three years. A disproportionate number of them come from a few urban neighborhoods in big cities. Many states spend more than $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of single blocks or small neighborhoods.

One such 'million-dollar neighborhood' is shown-a half-square-mile portion of Central City, an impoverished district southwest of the French Quarter. In 2007, 55 people from this neighborhood entered prison; the cost of their incarceration will likely reach about $2 million."

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Published on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 in The Atlantic
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