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Child Support, Debt, and Prisoner Reentry: Examining the Influences of Prisoners' Legal and Financial Obligations on Reentry

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2015
84 pages
This is the final report on a study of the impact on the employment and recidivism of released prisoners of having legal child support (CS) obligations, using data from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI).
The study found that ex-prisoners with CS obligations were less likely to be rearrested than ex-prisoners who had no CS obligations upon release. Having legal CS obligations before incarceration was associated with a marginally significant 43-percent reduction in the odds of re-arrest at the 3-month interview compared to ex-prisoners who reported having no CS obligations. In terms of legitimate employment, having a CS obligation did not apparently have any effect. Future research might identify potential mechanisms that connect child support debt and reduced re-offending. The authors suggest focusing on increased social attachments and involvement with family. They note that the current work focused on only one type of ex-prisoner debt; however, ex-prisoners may be burdened with many other types of debt, including fines, user fees, and restitution. Their impact on several policy-related outcomes of interest could be variable. This study involved 1,011 adult men with children under 18 years old. They were part of the evaluation of the multi-site, longitudinal Serious and Violent Offender Reenry Initiative. All of the men had extensive criminal histories, substance abuse problems, low involvement in the legitimate labor market, and generally high levels of needs across a range of domains. Respondents were interviewed approximately 30 days prior to their release from prison. Follow-up interviews were conducted at 3, 9, and 15 months after release. 15 tables, 2 figures, approximately 60 references, and appended supplementary data

Date Published: February 1, 2015