By Matthew Johnson, multimedia manager, Urban Institute
In the dark of night, on the west side of Chicago, a group of young men jumped onto a moving Union Pacific cargo train, pried a door open, and attempted to steal what was inside. But this was not their night. They were detected, police rushed to the scene, and the young men were arrested.
Thus began a long cycle of incarceration, release, and re-offense for then 18-year-old Timothy Smith. Not far from Smith’s childhood home sits Garfield Park, a neighborhood on the west side of Chicago plagued by concentrated poverty, high unemployment, substance abuse, and crime.
Indeed, nearly a third of Garfield Park’s residents have been to prison at one point or another, and some have been more than once. The reason is simple: coming home after serving time in prison is hard.
This story is based on prisoner reentry research by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center and exclusive interviews with program participants, administrators, case managers, and mentors from the Safer Return demonstration project.