Correlates of Serious Violent Crime for Recently Released Parolees with a History of Homelessness

By Nyamathi, Adeline; Marlow, Elizabeth et al. | Violence and Victims, September 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Correlates of Serious Violent Crime for Recently Released Parolees with a History of Homelessness


Nyamathi, Adeline, Marlow, Elizabeth, Zhang, Sheldon, Hall, Elizabeth, Farabee, David, Marfisee, Mary, Khalilifard, Farinaz, Faucette, Mark, Leake, Barbara, Violence and Victims


This study used baseline data on recently released paroled men who are homeless (N = 157), residing in a residential drug treatment program, and enrolled in a longitudinal study to examine personal, developmental, and social correlates of parolees who are homeless and who have committed serious violent offenses. Having experienced childhood sexual abuse, poor parental relationships, and early-onset incarceration (prior to 21 years of age) were important correlates of serious violent crimes. These findings highlight the need for interventions that address offenders' prior adult and childhood victimization and suggest that policies for reentering violent offenders should encompass an understanding of the broader family contexts in which these patterns of maltreatment often occur.

Keywords: violence; serious violent crimes; childhood history; paroled men

The State of California spends more on its correctional system than any other in the nation and houses more than 170,000 prisoners; another 123,000 parolees reside in the community (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR], 2009). Experts contend that effective community reintegration continues to remain elusive for the state; in particular, 96% of inmates will eventually be paroled back into the community (Petersilia, 2003; Travis & Waul, 2004). However, previously incarcerated populations are at heightened risk for homelessness (Greenberg & Rosenheck, 2008; McNiel, Binder, & Robinson, 2005; Rodriguez & Brown, 2003); in particular, up to 50% of those on parole supervision in San Francisco and Los Angeles have become homeless (Travis, Solomon, & Waul, 2001) because of challenges with locating appropriate housing (Roman & Travis, 2004; Travis et al., 2001), lack of employment opportunities (Zhang, Roberts, & Callanan, 2003), weakened family and community ties (Travis et al., 2001), as well as limited education and substance abuse (Roman & Travis, 2004). Being homeless is similarly a risk factor for involvement in the criminal justice system (Kushel, Hahn, Evans, Bangsberg, & Moss, 2005) and may be rooted in the need to survive on limited resources.

Currently, relatively few studies have assessed the personal, developmental, and social correlates of homeless parolees convicted of committing serious violent crimes. The purpose of this cross-sectional study is to describe characteristics associated with a history of committing serious violent offenses among a sample of male parolees enrolled in a residential drug treatment facility. Serious violent crime was defined by the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape or other sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. Knowledge to be gained from this study is critical as an understanding of correlates of violent behaviors may lead to improved interventions and treatment protocols designed to decrease violent crimes and the experience of incarceration.

HOMELESSNESS AND SERIOUS VIOLENT CRIME

Impoverished living conditions are a known risk factor for violent crimes (Smith, Ireland, & Thornberry, 2005; Turner, Hartman, & Bishop, 2007); however, the literature that ties homelessness to serious violent crimes is very limited. In one study, 88% of those ever imprisoned had been homeless, and 41% had been marginally housed in the last year (Kushel et al., 2005). While on the streets, many persons who are homelessbecome involved with prostitution, survival sex (Miller et al., 2011), as well as illicit drug use (Riley et al., 2007); and in one study of recently discharged inmates who are homeless, findings revealed that these ex-offenders who are homeless were less likely to receive public assistance than the more veteran parolees who are homeless(Hudson et al., 2009).

For homeless populations, data suggest that current drug use is predicted by less positive coping (Galaif, Nyamathi, & Stein, 1999), which may potentiate further violence (Fagan, 1993; Haggard-Grann, Hallqvist, Langstrom, & Moller, 2006). …

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