Sometimes They Would Rather Go to Jail

For some people experiencing homelessness, jail offers a tempting choice during the cold, dark winter months. People on the streets who don’t like the local shelter atmosphere, or its prerequisites, sometimes say they would rather take advantage of the reliable meals, warmth, beds, and even private cells that jail provides to get through the worst months.

Various studies indicate that about 30 percent of unhoused people admit to intentionally committing a crime to get taken into custody. A recent UK-funded study on recidivism discovered that many people experiencing homelessness purposely got arrested to return to jail. According to national research from the Prison Policy Initiative, someone with a criminal history experiences homelessness 10 times more often than a member of the general public. Since living on the streets increases police contact, the chance of arrest also rises.

Opinions vary on the cost associated with providing stable housing for every needy person in the country, but an Urban Institute analysis of the federal housing voucher program claims that only one in five renters who qualify for assistance actually get it. The Institute estimates that reaching those additional 19.7 million people could cost the government around $62 billion a year. Comparatively, it costs just over $47,000 to jail a person for a year, and just over $33,000 to put a person in prison for a year, according to the nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice.

The 300+ organizations in Citygate Network membership seek to move people in desperate situations and destitute conditions (i.e., hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted) from human suffering to human flourishing through the process of gospel-powered life transformation. If you or someone you love is in need of Christ-centered compassion and care, please visit our member locator page today to find a mission near you.

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