A Fresh Start or the Devil You Know? Examining Relationships Between Release Location Choices, Community Experiences, and Recidivism for High-Risk Parolees

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2020 May;64(6-7):635-653. doi: 10.1177/0306624X19877589. Epub 2019 Sep 20.


This study investigated the effects of residential relocation in a sample of 282 high-risk male offenders paroled from New Zealand prisons. Initially we compared those returning to their old neighborhoods (devil you know) and those released to a new location (fresh start). This second category was then further divided: those released to a new location voluntarily (fresh start-voluntary) versus those forced to start anew at the behest of the parole board that was releasing them (fresh start-duress). All three categories were then compared on the quality of their community experiences and recidivism. Results indicated that parolees returning by choice to either their old neighborhood or a new location each were reconvicted in the first year after release at approximately the same rate; however, parolees relocating to a new area at the direction of the parole board (under duress) were reconvicted at a higher rate than those in either of the voluntary location categories. Significant group differences in ratings of community life quality were few, but there were some indications that compared with those choosing to return to a familiar location, making a voluntary residential relocation may lead to better parole experiences, particularly in terms of avoiding criminal peers, and that making a residential relocation under duress may lead to poorer parole experiences than for those returning to a familiar location.

Keywords: high-risk offenders; parole; prisoner reentry; prisoner reentry planning; recidivism outcomes; residential relocation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Integration / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Recidivism / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Assessment / methods