I just read an interesting article by the New York Times, posted by Fairness Works, titled “Halfway Houses don’t Reduce Recidivism. I find this to be a very interesting article and insightful as well. What I would have liked to have seen or read is the perspective of the people that have to go to them.
The halfway house, from the perspective of inmates, is a bargaining tool that is used to manage behavior while in prison. One of the things that all federal prisoners look forward to is at least 6 months in the halfway house. Why? Because this is the closest that they are going to get to early release. So although halfway houses may not reduce recidivism it does a hell of a job in managing institutional behavior. I use the word manage and not change as the order of the day in prison has everything to do with management and control and nothing to do with change and transformation.
The tool is very effective while the inmates are still incarcerated but what gets lost in translation and explanation is that the halfway house is not the same as being released. There are different levels of security within the federal system, as within other state systems, with ADX (the supermax in Colorado) being the highest and the halfway house being the lowest. The levels in the federal system range from ADX which is underground, USP ( United States Penitentiaries) which are behind walls, FCI (Federal Correctional Institutions) which are your medium security institutions behind two fences, Low security (where there is one fence), and Camp facilities that have no fences. The halfway houses are community correction facilities and are just outside extensions of the other institutions.
What is unique about these halfway houses is that no matter what your in-house custody is, when it is time for one to go to the halfway house they leave from whatever institution that they were in. What makes this ironic is that in order to go from one security level to the next, within the institutions, there are certain steps, guidelines and procedures that one has to go through. So in contrast it is not foreign to have within a halfway house guys that have done time at various levels of institutions where the mentality to exist is different in every way you can imagine.
I have a friend that did 5 years in ADX, where he spent 24 hours a day locked in a cell and slept on a concrete bed, who when he finally was able to leave ADX came to a USP that I was in and for one week I literally didn’t recognize him. This is someone who I knew and grew up with on the outside. So imagine a person leaving this institution and going to a halfway house. So out of touch with reality.
There have been reports of guys that have said that, for whatever reasons, they don’t want to go to the halfway house and when they refuse they are written up for refusing programs. With this write up they lose good days and half to spend more time in prison. Every time that they refuse they lose good days. So guys are forced to go to places that they don’t want to go or be at. One of the things that most guys get confused is that the halfway house is another extension of the other institutions and therefore they are not on parole. So when they do commit any infractions they are dealt with as if they are still incarcerated. Which often means being sent back to prison to serve out the penalty for that infraction and not for a new case. So with that being said it seems that the halfway houses don’t work.
Another thing about the halfway houses is that if an inmate wants to release to another state, to have a fresh start over, often they can’t do that. So now the inmate is sent back to a community that he no longer wants to be a part of where there is a greater chance for recidivism. But what is outrageous is that there is nothing that says that an inmate can not relocate but they just cannot go to the halfway house in the desired state. At the time that is most needed for a new start inmates are often denied that. So what can be expected if the inmate goes back to a place they don’t want to return to and have to confront issues, friends and often family that can be problematic. Issues that can contribute to recidivism.
Another thing that makes it hard for these places to be effective is that there are not enough halfway houses to serve the amount of inmates that are being released from prison. For instance in my home town, DC, there is only one halfway house. If there is no room in that halfway house I could be sent to another halfway house as far as Baltimore, which is 45 minutes driving from DC. While in the halfway house I am required to get a job. What is the incentive in getting a job that I can’t keep? I live in DC, a job in Baltimore, MD without transportation is a burden. But if I don’t get a job I am sent back to prison, not for a new offence but for not being able to do what most of the American population, who has never been to prison, choose not to do, work in a place that is not convenient to the proximity of where they live. If I get a job in DC, which is possible, I must be able to travel back and forth between DC and MD. I cannot drive while in the halfway house so I have to take the train which costs $20 one way. So that is $40 a day and roughly $200 a week. This doesn’t include the cost of %25 of my check to cover for halfway house fees. Even if I am released from the halfway house early I still have to pay that co fee of 25% of my check until I am officially released from the halfway house. So in essence I am paying for a bed that someone else is using and if he leaves early there are now two guys paying for the same bed that neither one of them is even occupying.
There are so many other flaws that can be discussed about the halfway house. My point is that while some play politics others’ lives are at stake and public safety is being jeopardized, on many levels. Inmates are being set up to fail and many don’t even know it. I suggest that we take a good look at this issue and get the facts as to why some of these failures occur. There are so many different factors and they need to be looked at and hopefully one day soon addressed.
- Study: Halfway Houses Don’t Reduce Recidivism (fairnessworks.com)