New report says nearly 1 in 5 Minnesota inmates walk out of prison homeless

18 July 2023

ST. PAUL About 4,500 people a year leave prison in Minnesota, and nearly 1,000 are released onto the street, with nowhere to go.

That’s according to the latest version of the Department of Corrections homelessness report, the second time the agency has taken a look at where people live once they’re released from state custody.

“When these folks walk out of prison, there’s a lot going on for them,” state corrections commissioner Paul Schnell said in an interview with MPR News. “A good many of these folks, when they come out, they know that they can’t go back to the way they were living before or even the levels of peer associations that they had before. And so housing becomes one of the things that becomes essential for them as a consideration along with a job that pays a wage that can support them.”

The report says that 875 of the 4,586 people released in calendar year 2022 were considered homeless, nearly 200 of them to locations unknown to state authorities. The figures include multiple releases for some inmates.

Schnell said that’s actually improved over 2021, by about 250 inmates, thanks in part to a new homeless mitigation plan at the DOC, as well as partnerships with other agencies, like the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Schnell says the numbers matter and not just for the people who are getting out.

“There’s a lot of people who take that approach that … this is part of the just desserts of criminal justice system involvement,” Schnell said. “We know that homelessness increases a person’s risk of ongoing involvement in the criminal justice system, and that really speaks to our public safety.”

Nearly half of those who were homeless when they got out were Black, Indigenous or people of color, highlighting racial disparities among those reentering society, according to the commissioner.

The Legislature took some additional steps this year by putting $4.3 million toward housing stability for inmates getting out from behind bars over the next biennium, Schnell said. That will pay for staff, supportive housing and rent assistance and other steps to help smooth the way to a new home when inmates leave state custody.


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