Wednesday, March 27, 2013


According to The New York Times, a study shows that halfway houses, both state-run and those run by private companies, are a flop at rehabilitation.

A study by the Pennsylvania Corrections Department of 38 privately run and 14 state-run halfway houses found that 67 percent of inmates sent to halfway houses were rearrested or sent back to prison within three years, compared with 60 percent of inmates who were released to the streets.

According to The Times, Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary, John Wetzel, who oversaw the study, called the system “an abject failure.” He said researchers had not pinpointed the reasons, but he said he suspected that some halfway houses were not providing adequate services. “I did unannounced tours at every one,” Wetzel said. “Sometimes I felt there wasn’t enough structured activity, more idleness than I was comfortable with. We’re not paying to let inmates watch Jerry Springer.”

There is no reason to believe that if a study were done of federal halfway houses and the halfway houses of other states, the results would be any different from those in Pennsylvania.

Billions of dollars have been spent – and now it looks like wasted – by the states and the feds on halfway houses. I was a parole agent when the concept started in California. The original concept, as I remember it, was primarily to give parolees who had no adequate living arrangements a place to live while they worked or looked for work, and they were to leave as soon as they had enough funds to obtain living arrangements on their own. While in the halfway houses, the parolees had to attend daily group counseling sessions. If they had no job, they had to look for work and had to help maintain the premises and do KP work.

The concept changed over time to where prison inmates were released to halfway houses because it was cheaper to house them there than in prisons. And, naturally, that started a new cottage industry of privately-run halfway houses.

If they went back to the original concept of giving parolees a temporary place of shelter with counseling and supervision instead of filling them up with inmates to save money on prisons, we might see a recidivism rate of less than two-thirds.

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