Today’s New York Times includes a fairly damning article about Community First Services, a nonprofit group awarded a $29M contract to take over operation (from GEO Group) of a federal halfway house (a.k.a., Residential Reentry Center) in Brooklyn. The article begins:
[…]Community First promoted its extensive experience doing work for government agencies, including New York City’s Department of Juvenile Justice and the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Community First hailed the vision of its founder, Jack A. Brown III, whom it portrayed as a veteran of gulf war combat with deep expertise in air-defense artillery. And the group declared that, as its name suggested, it had consulted closely with leading community organizations about setting up the federal halfway house in Brooklyn.
But none of these claims are true, an investigation by The New York Times showed.
Among the more alarming aspects of the halfway house operation are the apparent lack of stability, supervision or services, and the exposing of residents, the vast majority of whom are transitioning back into the community from prison, to criminal activity:
Even though the federal government is paying Community First Services $98 a day for each inmate [Ed.’s note: Or $35,770 per year for each of the 161 reported residents], one of the three locations was in the basement of a rundown hotel crammed between a junkyard and a homeless shelter. Inmates entering and leaving the building on work-release programs had to run a gantlet of drug dealers on the street.
At its present location, a neighbor has noticed suspicious activity, saying she had twice seen people smuggling packages into the building by lowering ropes from the second floor to the sidewalk.
Inside the halfway house, inmates often have little to do and receive few services, according to interviews with defense lawyers and five inmates.
Some of them pass the time playing cards, ordering takeout food and watching videos, including pornographic ones. At night, they talk on cellphones, which are supposed to be banned; drink alcohol hidden in water bottles; and smoke synthetic marijuana, called K2, the five inmates said.
Notably, but not surprisingly, where “[l]awyers and social workers at the Federal Defenders of New York […] said services were so threadbare that they tried to keep their clients away from the Brooklyn halfway house when possible,” a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson countered: “we believe that the facility is operating in accordance with its contract requirements.”