Starting Over: Boise State provides housing opportunities for felons

Starting Over: Boise State provides housing opportunities for felons

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Being a felon does not necessarily disqualify individuals from living in on-campus housing at Boise State, but the presence of a felony on one’s record certainly makes the process of finding and renting an apartment or a house more
difficult.

“I was homeless for six months, and when you’re on probation, having a place to live, it’s like part of your agreement,” junior communication major Connie Grainger said.

According to Grainger, she has two felonies on her record: injury to a child and intimidating a state witness.

“It was for failing to protect my children from a volatile gentleman that I was seeing,” Grainger said. “The gentleman I was with threatened to kill us if I got the police involved in one of our domestic violence situations.”

Grainger was arrested and spent ten months in the Ada County Jail awaiting trial after her daughter reported a domestic violence instance to her caseworker. Grainger eventually decided to plead guilty in order to leave incarceration and start to piece her life back together.

“I gave up. I should have pled not guilty. I regret it every day,” Grainger said.

During her incarceration, Grainger lost custody of her children, who were all physically unharmed. After her release, Grainger searched for months for a place to live, but was rejected because she could not find a job and had felonies on her record.

“I applied at so many places,” Grainger said. “I know I’m not a violent person, and I know I’m a nice person and it was hard to find somebody who would give me a chance.”

In the state of Idaho, companies are permitted to deny housing to prospective tenants if they do not pass a background test. Often, this means that an individual with a felony on their record may be unable to rent based solely on that felony, regardless of the time that has passed since the felony was committed.

The process of finding and applying for an apartment for anybody with a felony on his or her record is further complicated when considering the Fair Housing Act’s protection for individuals struggling with addiction.

According to City of Edmonds v. Oxford House, drug and alcohol dependency qualify as addiction.

“Many felons, if not most felons, have drug and alcohol problems.  As a consequence, they qualify for Fair Housing protection,” Jeffrey Ray, public information officer for the Idaho Department of Correction, said.

A few apartment complexes, as well as Boise State,  take into consideration the severity of the felony and allow the individual to appeal a background test.

Boise State  requires that a student inquiring about housing who has a felony on their record prior to residency on campus write a statement detailing the situation surrounding the felony. University Security, Housing and Residence Life, and University Legal Council will take into consideration this detailed explanation of the crime as well as its nature and timing before making a final decision.

Finding and renting an apartment with a felony can be an extremely difficult and disheartening task. However, if it can be successfully accomplished, Ray believes it can lead to a decrease in recidivism.

“We find that if an offender has a job, positive social connections and a place to live, the likelihood that they will re-offend goes way down,” Ray said.