The National Institute of Justice recently released a report on the impact of “prison cycling,”—the flow of inmates into and out of prison—on crime rates in communities.
The report found that prison releases have a negligible impact on crime in general, but prison reentries increased crime in disadvantaged neighborhoods but slightly decrease crime in neighborhoods that are not disadvantaged.
Researchers primarily focused on areas with high prison cycling rates in Boston, Massachusetts, and Trenton and Newark, New Jersey.
According to the report, researchers relied heavily on the theory of “coercive mobility,” which suggests that incarceration can increase crime, and that the removal and reentry of prisoners in and out of neighborhoods can destabilize the foundation for informal social control in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
After examining datasets on rates of incarceration and crime, researchers determined the coercive mobility theory was supported by findings in Boston and Trenton, but not supported by results in Newark. Researchers believe this might be a result of the city’s high degree of concentrated disadvantage, suggesting it is a point of saturation in which neighborhoods are already extremely destabilized.
The results of the study led researchers to suggest, among other discussion points, that there is a need for place-based correctional programming that takes into account the context of the neighborhood being served.