Recent events have shined a spotlight on America’s deeply rooted history of system racism, as demonstrated in policing practices. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd set in motion more than 4,700 demonstrations across the nation to date, the largest movement in US history calling for reform of the criminal legal system. While these murders may have ignited the spark for change, they are not exceptional: Every year, Africa American and LatinX communities disproportionately experience the threat or use of police force. Black, brown and poor people are also more likely to be stopped and arrested, largely due to historic residential segregation and hyper-surveillance of their communities. This, in turn, contributes not only to mass incarceration, but to its disproportionate impacts.
As this February 2021 community report highlights, Connecticut residents experience these impacts too. In the last five years, 21 people have been lost to police violence in Connecticut (1). This report summarizes findings from surveys and interviews with New Haven residents participating in JustHouHS about their experiences with policing and the criminal legal system. Findings explore: police violence and accountability, mistrust of the police, the impact of criminalizing substance use and mental health problems, and inequities in the use of police tools such as stops, searches, and warrants. All names in this report are pseudonyms to protect the identity of participants.
With this report, we aim to center the experience and perspectives of JustHouHS participants, bring attention to local problems in law enforcement, and contribute to a conversation on transforming the criminal legal system. The state of Connecticut has made efforts to address police violence and respond to national outcries for reform. Examples include Second Chance legislation that emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation as well as the 2020 police accountability bill. This report suggests a need for listening to residents and implementing additional major legislative changes to transform law enforcement in Connecticut.
The Fall 2020 community report shares findings from interviews with 39 JustHouHS participants in the spring of 2020, during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Not only did most participants know someone who had had coronavirus, most also knew someone that had died as a result of COVID.
- Participants described precautions they took to prevent infection: mask wearing, avoiding social interactions, and cleaning routines.
- JustHouHS participants who were essential workers, many of whom work in health care, did not have adequate protective gear in the workplace.
- Many participants indicated that quarantine measures had taken a toll on their mental health and community connections.
- Most had not received a stimulus check at the time of their interview; many cited arrears & child support as the reasons they did not receive it.
- Some JustHouHS participants were homeless, or residence was spread over multiple addresses complicating quarantine. Some JustHouHS participants provided housing to friends and loved ones during the pandemic to keep them safe.
- Participants expressed disapproval of the federal coronavirus response, calls for a slower state re-opening, and general approval of the local government response.
The Fall 2019 community report summarizes interim findings related to women’s health, housing after incarceration, housing policy, and eviction.
- JustHouHS data compels us to consider women as individuals with their own criminal justice histories, as partners and family members of those who have been incarcerated, and as residents of neighborhoods deeply affected by mass incarceration. We explore how women access housing, what role they play in providing housing others, and how their housing situations impact their health, relationships, and sexual risk.
- Rental assistance may improve health: JustHouHS participants who received rental assistance were less likely to report having poor or fair health, compared to those that didn’t. This wasn’t due to differences in the characteristics of people in the two groups.
- Most housing authority policies in the US are more restrictive toward people with a criminal justice history than is required by law. Policies differ from one housing authority to the next and employees at housing authorities can often exercise discretion in admissions decisions.
- People returning from incarceration were often homeless, resided in a halfway house or lived with a family or friend. Most participants reported a lack of privacy, feeling watched, and being burdened by punitive rules.
- Participants who said their neighborhood had a poor reputation were 4.5 times more likely to feel they don't trust or feel close with their neighbors compared to those who said their neighborhood had a good reputation.
The Fall 2018 community report participant characteristices from the first survey with JustHouHS participants: 400 low income individuals in New Haven, half with a recent incarceration experience.
- Many of the participants had a criminal justice involvement at some point in their lives. 85% of the participants were arrested, 77% were convicted, 75% had a previous incarceration, 64% were a convicted felon and 34% were placed in solitary confinement during their incarceration.
- The average number of incarcerations for participants who had been incarcerated was 7.23 and more than half of participants reported they had a family member who had been incarcerated.
- Of those with a criminal record, 60% of participants reported that “It’s harder to get a job.” Participants also reported being denied rentals, becoming homeless, losing income, and not having the freedom to live with the people they wanted to live with due to their incarceration or criminal record.
- 18% of participants were homeless at the time of their survey. 32% reported being homeless at some point during the last six months. 59% reported having been homeless at some point in their adult life. About 75% of participants reported being dissatisfied with their housing.
- In the six months prior to the survey, 7% of participants reported a sexually transmitted infection, 10% didn’t know their partner’s HIV status, 46% reported having unprotected sex, and 20% reported having sex with 1 or more partner during the same time.
- Most participants reported an HIV test in the last year, but for some, their last test was more than five years ago. Others reported never getting tested.