Articles Posted in Halfway Houses

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On Monday, via a video message posted on the Department of Justice’s Web site, Attorney General Holder announced changes to the Bureau of Prisons’ halfway house practices. As set forth in the accompanying press release:

Among the most significant changes Holder announced is the requirement for standardized Cognitive Behavioral Programming (CBP) to be offered at all federal halfway houses. This treatment will address behavior that places formerly incarcerated individuals at higher risk of recidivism. As part of this treatment requirement, BOP is setting guidelines for instructor qualifications, class size and length, and training for all staff at the halfway houses.

Several other modifications are being made to the standard contracts that apply to federal halfway houses in order to provide greater support to returning citizens. Examples include requiring halfway houses to provide public transportation vouchers or transportation assistance to help residents secure employment, requiring all federal halfway houses to allow residents to have cell phones to facilitate communication with potential employers and family, and improving and expanding home confinement by increasing the use of GPS monitoring.

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Yesterday’s Seattle Times included an AP story concerning former Illinois Governor George Ryan’s anticipated transfer to a federal halfway house today, offering a “what life is like for a typical resident”:

-Residents in work-release programs are expected to get a job or look for a job, unless they’re enrolled in a training program.
-Instead of a prison jumpsuit, inmates get to wear their own clothes. They’ll be able to have visitors and have access to cellphones, but any travel outside work requires permission.
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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.
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In a story that highlights one of the media’s regular misconceptions (or mischaracterizations) about how the federal Bureau of Prisons operates, Cleveland’s NewsChannel5 reports that is investigators:

[…]have uncovered former Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty has been living in a halfway house in Cleveland since June.
McCafferty was released to Oriana House after serving nine months of a 14-month prison sentence in an Alderson, West Virginia, prison.
The BOP has not released McCafferty. It transferred McCafferty from the Alderson prison camp to a Residential Reentry Center (RRC or halfway house) closer to her release residence in anticipation of her scheduled release from federal custody next month. The BOP recognizes, as it must, that:
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Continuing with the theme of the Bureau of Prisons’ seeming disregard for prisoners’ proximity to family and loved ones, as well as the ongoing problem of overcrowding, is this New York Times editorial concerning the new women’s facility in Aliceville, Alabama.

But for many of the prisoners, the rural isolation of this expensive facility will hurt their chances of returning permanently to their families and communities after doing their time. Though it is the newest federal prison for women, Aliceville does not reflect the latest thinking about criminal justice policy for incarceration of women.
Experts have long argued that prisoners should be located within a reasonable distance of their families so they can keep connections with their children. Encouraging those connections benefits the criminal justice system by reducing the odds that a prisoner will end up back in prison after she is released. The location of the Aliceville prison works against these goals.[…]