Former prisoners are increasingly facing the burden of financial debt associated with legal and criminal justice obligations in the U.S., yet little research has pursued how— theoretically or empirically—the burden of debt might affect key outcomes in prisoner reentry. To address the limited research, we examine the impact that having legal child support (CS) obligations has on employment and recidivism using data from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI). In this report we describe the characteristics of adult male returning prisoners with child support orders and debt, and examine whether participation in SVORI was associated with greater services receipt than those in the comparison groups (for relevant services such as child-support services, employment preparation, and financial and legal assistance).
We also examine the lagged impacts that child support obligations, legal employment and rearrest have on each other. Results from the crossed lagged panel model using GSEM in STATA indicate that while having child support debt does not appear to influence employment significantly, it does show a marginally significant protective effect—former prisoners who have child support obligations are less likely to be arrested after release from prison than those who do not have obligations. We discuss the findings within the framework of past and emerging theoretical work on desistance from crime. We also discuss the implications for prisoner reentry policy and practice. (Author abstract)