Age-and Dementia Friendly Springfield Release Study on Healthy Aging with a Criminal Record

Dec 16, 2021

Led by the Public Health Institute of Western Mass., with an expert advisory group and supported by the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the Massachusetts Community Health and Healthy Aging Funds, a new study reveals the barriers to housing and healthy aging for older adults with a criminal history.

The research builds off the Springfield Age Friendly City housing assessment in 2019, which found that older Black men in Springfield had a shared experience of not being able to secure affordable housing because of CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) checks.

The new report, “Healthy Aging with a Criminal Record in Hampden County, MA,” reveals barriers to affordable housing based on crimes committed up to 40 years prior. People age 50 and older with a record are at high risk for homelessness & housing instability but at low risk for committing crime/getting rearrested.

The impacts on physical and mental health stem from the barrier to housing, which is an essential and primary social determinant of health.

The report makes a series of recommendations based on their health impact assessment focused on older adults with a CORI, which leads with public policy and budget support. Those recommendation around policy and partnerships are centered on six key themes to address housing access:

  1. Establish formal partnerships between housing & service providers: People with supportive housing succeed at staying housed, commit less crime, and stay healthier.
  2. Use only federal exclusion criteria in housing admissions decisions: Limiting tenant selection criteria may lead to fewer denials.
  3. Allow applicants to submit evidence of mitigating circumstances before denial: Consideration of mitigating circumstances may lead to fewer denial and local housing authorities should consider age (50+) a mitigating factor.
  4. Create explicit criteria for denial that is available publicly: With more explicit criteria, applicants will have more knowledge going into the process, which might result in more applications & appeals.
  5. Share data about denials: Systematic tracking of denials is very limited.
  6. Permit family members to house people with a CORI except federal exclusion criteria: Allowing family members to house relatives with a CORI would arguably
    address one of the largest needs for people returning from prison and jail.

MHAC encourages anyone interested to view the Public Health Institute of Western Mass.’ webpage on this health impact assessment for older adults with a criminal record. While the data and focus is Hampden County and the Springfield area, the lessons, data and recommendations are applicable across the state.