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The Link between Incarceration and Public Housing


Using public housing developments as a strategic site, our research documents a distinct pathway linking disadvantaged context to incarceration—the public-housing-to-prison pipeline. Focusing on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing developments as a case study, we find that incarceration rates in NYCHA tracts are 4.6 times higher than those in non-NYCHA tracts. More strikingly, 94% of NYCHA tracts report rates above the median value for non-NYCHA tracts. Moreover, 17% of New York State’s incarcerated population originated from just 372 NYCHA tracts. Compared with non-NYCHA tracts, NYCHA tracts had higher shares of Black residents and were significantly more disadvantaged. This NYCHA disadvantage in concentrated incarceration is also robust at different spatial scales. Our findings have implications for policies and programs to disrupt community-based pipelines to prison.

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