A few days ago, I heard about an amendment to the “correctional housing” ordinance that required all facilities to be more than 1,000 feet from a school, park, or other correctional housing facility.
Correctional housing facilities are where people on parole can live with other people on parole. They provide re-entry services and a support structure as ex-offenders adjust to their new life.
1,000 feet doesn’t sound like a lot. But it is. With a little bit of Google help, I found datasets of all the schools, parks, and correctional housing facilities in Houston. So I built a map covering that area, complete with a 1,000 foot buffer. Then I tossed out some thoughts into a tweet storm:
I do not think city policy should be punitive. We shouldn’t be making laws that punish ex-offenders just to placate other people in the same neighborhood.
We need to build more correctional housing. Even the back of the envelope math shows a stark picture:
- 13,000 new ex-offender arrivals in Houston each year
- 104 total registered correctional homes, with a max capacity of 75 people each (7,800 total beds)
Here’s what I think we should do:
- Remove all distance requirements from parks and schools. Not every ex-offender is a sex offender. Keep stricter distance requirements in place for sex offenders.
- Increase distance requirements between correctional houses from 500 feet to 1,000 feet. If the neighborhood residents are complaining about too many correctional houses popping up in their neighborhood, then this type of distance requirement will ensure some geographic distribution.
- Create new incentives for the private sector to build and operate quality correctional homes. We need to increase our city’s capacity to serve the ex-offenders that arrive here.
- Stop Houston City Council from passing this ordinance as written. They vote next week.
Because if we’re going to create a map of allowable correctional housing that looks like this:
…we’re setting ourselves up for failure.