The Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Prisoner Reentry in Louisiana: A Natural Experiment
David Kirk, University of Maryland
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Because many of the neighborhoods where ex-prisoners normally reside are uninhabitable, it is unclear where newly released prisoners from Louisiana correctional facilities now reside. It also remains unclear whether this likely geographic displacement of returning prisoners because of Hurricane Katrina will have any adverse, or even beneficial, effects on returning prisoners. Through the use of a natural experiment, this study seeks to establish whether the dispersal of ex-prisoners away from their former neighborhoods will lead to lower levels of recidivism. The first part of the study describes the geographic pattern of prisoner reentry in Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina by mapping the addresses upon release for two separate cohorts of returning prisoners, one released prior to Hurricane Katrina and one released afterwards. I then estimate the causal effect of hurricane-induced geographic displacement on the likelihood of recidivism among ex-prisoners.