Location, Location, Location? Comparing Release Plan Quality, Community Experience, and Recidivism Rate of High-Risk Offenders Released to a Fresh Start or Returning to the Devil They Know
When offenders are released from prison, does it matter where they go? To answer this question, this study investigated the effects of residential relocation on 282 high-risk male offenders released from New Zealand prisons. Offenders were initially divided into those returning to their old neighbourhoods and those released to a new location. A second division created three groups: offenders released to a new location were further divided into those making a voluntary residential relocation, and those making a residential relocation non-voluntarily. Offender groups were compared on demographic and criminal history variables, release plan quality, experiences at two months in the community, and recidivism. Recidivism indices were breach of release condition, reconviction, violent reconviction, and reimprisonment over the first year post-release. Release destination and release plan quality coding protocols were developed. Results indicated that parolees returning to their old neighbourhoods and those released to a new location reoffended at approximately the same rate. However, parolees relocating under duress breached conditions and reoffended at a higher rate than both parolees making a voluntary residential relocation and those returning to their old neighbourhoods. Significant group differences in release plan quality and experience in the community were few, but suggested that making a voluntary residential relocation may lead to better parole experiences, and that making a residential relocation under duress may lead to worse parole experiences, than returning to a familiar location. Implications, applications, and limitations of the study are discussed, along with possible directions for future research.