The number of people incarcerated in the United States grew steadily for nearly 30 years. That number has been slowly decreasing since 2008, but as of 2012 there were still over 2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that since 1990 an average of 590,400 inmates have been released annually from state and federal prisons and almost 5 million ex-offenders are under some form of community-based supervision. And when these former inmates are released into the community, they will most likely have a difficult time finding housing for themselves and their families.
Metamora Films is currently in production of, “NOT FOR RENT!” (working title), a feature length documentary film that brings to light the challenges ex-felons face while trying to find housing. The film focuses heavily on Utah’s Good Landlord Program, enacted in 2004 in Ogden City. The goal of the program is to address aspects of property management that may encourage the elimination of code violations and public nuisances while controlling and preventing illegal activity on rental properties that affect the quality of life within our neighborhoods. But since 2004, Utah’s Good Landlord Program (which is currently in effect with about a dozen Utah cities) does not give ex-felons a fair chance, according to the program’s opponents.
“These programs, however, cannot be construed as “voluntary.” Cities effectively extort landlords into compliance by charging vastly different fees for participating and non-participating property owners. A landlord who agrees to all the stipulations in a city’s Good Landlord Program may be assessed as small a fee as $20 per rental unit, while a landlord who chooses not to participate may pay 10 to 20 times that amount.” – Josh Daniels, Policy Analyst at Libertas Institute.
According to Ogden City’s Website, the program states: “Program compliance is based on whether the conviction, or release from probation or parole, occurred within 4 years of the date of a rental application.” Again, opponents say the program is extremely counterproductive due to the fact that within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested. (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
Director, Matt Duhamel interviews a handful of key people that are currently looking at developing amendments to Ogden’s Good Landlord Program, or a possible “pilot program” that may go in effect during the spring of this year. Ogden City’s Chief Administrative Officer Mark L Johnson, talked with Matt a few weeks ago. He agrees that changes need to be made and hopes to present the pilot program to Ogden’s City Council by April. Duhamel says the film will focus on heartbreaking stories including former inmates who have, or are currently struggling with housing issues in Ogden and other Utah cities. Duhamel admits that he’s not sure how the film will be received when it’s released in the spring of 2017.
“We aren’t filming cute animals or talking about fun stuff here. The topic of ex-felons and housing is something that most people don’t want to talk about,” he says. Duhamel also mentions that he was speaking with someone who has a non-violent felony from 14-years ago and is currently unable to find appropriate and safe housing for her and her young son. “This issue not only effects the person with the felony, it also effects families and children of the formerly incarcerated,” adds Duhamel.
For more information on this film, or if you know of someone that has been turned down housing due to a felony conviction, contact Metamora Films. Your comments and information will remain 100% confidential.
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