2015 Runner Up: The Returning Home Ohio Pilot Project

Re-integrating into society as an ex-offender is challenging—but, how much more problematic is it for ex-offenders with a mental illness? A recent Council of State Governments report found that length of jail time for offenders with a mental illness in Franklin County/Columbus, OH was 32 days compared to just 17 days for the general population. Likewise, it was found that 60% of ex-offenders with a mental illness returned to jail within 3 years, compared to 46% of prisoners without a mental illness. Restrictions in public housing requirements for those with a criminal background further limit the housing options available to parolees. Simply put, formerly incarcerated individuals with cognitive health issues are prone to higher risks of recidivism and require much more comprehensive services and support systems than the general prison population.

Returning Home Ohio has identified that permanent supportive housing (PSH) combined with personalized support services is vital to re-integration for ex-offenders with mental health issues. Through funding from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), the program is able to offer many benefits to ex-offenders with mental illnesses. A rental subsidy provided through the program requires one to pay no more than 30% of their income and the housing is neither time-limited nor transitional. The program also mandates that participants complete an individualized service plan (ISP), which outlines personalized and measurable goals for tenants and ensures that they receive support services tailored to their needs. In addition, the program utilizes a tool called the Tenant Status Evaluation (TSE) to assess when tenants are mentally and physically ready to begin “moving-on” from the program.

The Returning Home Ohio pilot has demonstrated that participants in the program were 60% less likely to be re-incarcerated and 40% less likely to be re-arrested for any crime compared to offenders outside of the program. Building on its initial success in providing supportive housing to combat homelessness, the initiative has made developing a comprehensive employment strategy a future goal. In partnership with community organizations that focus on employing ex-offenders, Returning Home will be able to provide support in all the complex areas instrumental to successful re-integration.

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