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Halfway Houses

One dilemma encountered by the American criminal justice system arises from the fact that the prison population is constantly growing. Although state and the federal governments must struggle to fund and contract new prison facilities, more are quickly being built. The U. S. criminal justice system is also faced with the problem of overcrowding within prisons. In addition to the growth in the prison population, there have been equally significant expansions within other forms of correctional supervision (Beck & Karberg, 2002).

In the United States, prisons originally emerged as an alternative to previous methods of punishment, which many considered gruesome and torturous. Proponents of prisons hoped that these institutions would reduce the likelihood that an offender would be capable of committing future offenses. Prisons were designed to rid the community of individuals who were not abiding by the rules and regulations of society. At its conception, one particular goal of the prison system was to reform criminal offenders, so that when they did return to society, they would be law-abiding citizens (Welch, 1999).

However, that is no longer the case. According to Sullivan (1999), the majority of prisons functioning today do not offer a significant number of programs geared specifically toward rehabilitating inmates. The typical inmate comes from a socially disadvantaged background, suffers from a low level of education, and lacks sufficient vocational skills, according to the author of Hardtimes (Johnson, 2002). Since there are few effective programs in prisons to rehabilitate offenders, those released from these institutions return to a social environment where they are still vulnerable to the causes of criminal influences.

When offenders are released from prison, they face countless problems such as difficulty finding employment, securing a residence, and assimilating back into society in addition to those they had prior to incarceration (Parenti, 1999). Thus, there is a need for services that provide offenders with mental and moral preparation to bridge the gap between life inside and outside prison walls. The halfway house was developed to provide such services, with the goal of assisting offenders in assimilating back into their communities.

Halfway houses, which are also known as community correctional centers, have been described as places that not only house offenders, but that also attempt to change offenders’ ways of life by rehabilitating them (Tonry & Hamilton, 1995). As the implementation of the halfway house into the corrections system is a recent occurrence (within the past 50 years), there has been relatively little scholarly inquiry into its efficacy. Furthermore, many of the studies that examined the halfway house in depth were conducted prior to 1980.

Foote and Sivili (1989) indicated that although the halfway house has undergone numerous changes in the past several decades, there have been limited data to document these changes. Halfway Houses Today Almost all criminals will return to the community at some point in time. Ninety-five percent of the approximately two million individuals who are incarcerated in the United States will eventually be released back into the community (Beck & Harrison, 2001).

Studies suggest that most will return to a life of crime, and that nearly half will end up back in jail or prison. In 2001, the U. S. Department of Justice reported that more than 600,000 inmates are released each year, which translates into roughly 1,600 inmates per day. This phenomenon has a disproportionate impact on neighborhoods that already face other enormous social problems. When individuals are incarcerated, they are removed from their families and other support systems that are essential to effective reintegration.

When released from prison, many people have great difficulty achieving conventional lifestyles. Taxman et al. (2002) asserted that because many offenders are incarcerated in remote areas many miles away from their communities of origin, they do not get the opportunity to procure the services they need (housing, employment) prior to discharge. As a result, ex-offenders are released into an environment conducive to crime, in which they do not have access to the tools they need to become law-abiding citizens.

Bradley, Oliver, Richardson, and Slayter (2001) contended that when inmates lack access to services such as housing, employment, and treatment programs, their successful reentry back into society is in jeopardy and the likelihood of recidivism is increased. Since offenders are individuals who have already demonstrated a capacity to violate the law, they must be closely supervised after they are released from prison; they must be afforded guidance in leading law-abiding lives (Sullivan, 1999).

The halfway house is an important ingredient in effective reintegration, as it helps to bridge the gap between the prisons and the community and provides an alternative to incarceration. Scope of the Halfway House A review of recent literature indicates that the halfway house segment of the corrections system has seen tremendous growth in the United States over the past 2 decades. Halfway houses have gained wide acceptance in the corrections community as alternatives to incarceration that help to rehabilitate offenders. Johnson and Bonta (1985) pointed out that in recent years there has been a widespread proliferation of halfway houses.

Managing offenders as they reenter communities and prepare for productive lives is not a new challenge for the corrections system. However, this challenge has achieved greater magnitude, as the number of offenders returning to communities has risen as the result of the high incarceration rates of past decades. Travis (2001) postulated that the halfway house can constitute a vital component of an offender’s transitional period, as it provides a structured environment in which offenders (who are accustomed to the highly regimented life of the prison) can reacquaint themselves with the challenges of community living.

Many definitions have been proposed for the halfway house phenomenon. Generally, halfway houses are described as 24-hour residential programs that offer a structured living environment in the community for offenders who require supervision when they are not working, seeking employment, or participating in programs offered by the facility (Nieto, 1996). Sullivan (1999) stated that halfway houses permit selected prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences to work and engage in community activities.

In this way, halfway houses prepare inmates to return to the community in a relatively controlled environment, as inmates are required to reside at these facilities when not participating in community-oriented programs. Halfway houses afford offenders greater freedom and responsibility than incarcerated individuals have, but less liberty than law-abiding citizens enjoy.

In their study of community correctional centers, Knapp and Burke (1992) defined the halfway house as “a facility that 1) houses adult offenders; 2) has at least 70% of its residents placed by federal, state, or local criminal justice authorities; 3) operates independently from the detention operation of a jail, prison, or other corrections institution; and 4) permits clients to leave the premises during the day for work, education, or community programs” (p. 1). Carter et al.

(1980) described the community correctional center as a relatively open neighborhood institution that uses community resources to provide most or all of the services required to assist offenders in assimilating back into society. According to Carter et al. , the degree of openness varies among community correctional centers and largely depends on the type of offenders that are being targeted, the needs of these offenders, and the methods employed to achieve the goals of the halfway house. Community correctional centers allow offenders to partake in a variety of services.

In addition, the structure of the community correctional center allows offenders frequent contact with their families and opportunities to rebond with them (Knapp & Burke, 2002). hi halfway houses, inmates gradually work their way back into the community. Currently, halfway houses make up a diverse component of the corrections system. As Knapp and Burke (1992) asserted, not all halfway house are alike; in particular, the degree of structure provided to clients varies from facility to facility. The success of halfway houses in rehabilitating offenders varies.

Tonry, M. , & Hamilton (1995) attributed the variation among halfway houses to several complex social factors, such as the characteristics of local economies and the availability of different services. In addition, the characteristics of halfway house staff can affect the facility’s reintegration efforts. Another variable that may affect the success of halfway houses is the classification of offenders for placement. As these facilities are residential, they can ensure that offenders participate in required programs. Taxman et al.

(2002) argued that well-run community correctional centers offer levels of supervision that permit credible monitoring of an offender’s behavior and compliance with the law, while also extending assistance in assimilating back into society as a responsible citizen. Residents of highly structured halfway houses are considerably freer from offender criminal activity than offenders who are released directly into the community without monitoring or supervision. Halfway houses also give correctional authorities the opportunity to assess offenders’ needs and to bring appropriate resources to centralized locations (Taxman et al.

, 2002). Advocates of the halfway house proclaim that placing the offender in the community is more humane, more cost effective, and more successful in terms of reducing recidivism than imprisonment is (Taxman et al. , 2002). Furthermore, halfway house operators contend that their programs offer offenders more suitable opportunities and alternatives than prisons do, and argue that prisons need only be utilized for serious and chronic offenders (Johnson & Bonta, 1985). Goals of the Halfway House Most halfway house programs have multiple goals they seek to achieve in their daily operations.

For instance, “the Maricopa County Community correctional center has written goals, which constitute a broad mission statement focused on reducing the number of incarcerated offenders, strictly supervising them, and reintegrating them back into society” (Knapp & Burke, 1992, p. 9). Although the specific goals of these facilities can vary, Parenti (1991) argued that most community correctional centers share general objectives and practices, as they all have to operate within the guidelines of their governing agencies.

For instance, most community correctional centers aim to provide access to treatment and to reduce prison overcrowding, while offering numerous services to address offenders’ problems. In addition, most of these centers are committed to strictly supervising offenders who otherwise would be incarcerated. The central goal of community correctional centers is to develop programs that aid offenders. Donnelly and Forschner (1987) contended that the primary emphasis of the community correctional center is on enabling residents to mend ties that were broken due to incarceration or other social factors.

Through halfway houses, offenders develop support networks in the community; furthermore, many of these programs require residents to address issues of employment, finances, and housing prior to release. Duffe and Duffe (1981), in studying the needs of offenders in prerelease centers, stated that it is the goal of the community correctional center to reduce the future criminal activity of its residents and to help offenders cope with the problems they face once released from prison that arise from conditions of confinement.

Through these centers, offenders develop social and psychological roots in the community. One common goal of most halfway houses is community safety, and another common goal is reintegration. To achieve these goals, offenders must be reconnected to the world of work, to productive and effective family relationships, to good health care, to social services, to productive peer group relationships, and to active civic engagement. Knapp and Burke (1992) asserted that the task of the halfway house is twofold: To aid offenders in procuring needed human services and to provide safety to the public.

Halfway houses provide protection to the communities that host them by utilizing strict supervision and structured reintegration services. In conclusion, the community correctional center has two primary objectives: To facilitate the integration of offenders back into their local environments and to provide the skills that allow participants to avoid future criminal behavior. When halfway houses are used by the offenders for whom they were designed, they can accomplish their goals at a fraction of the cost of incarceration.

Sullivan (1999) argued that halfway houses can provide a level of public safety comparable to that afforded by prisons, at a greatly reduced cost. As Nieto (1996) contended, however, reintegration is a goal that is separate from the goals of recidivism reduction or public safety, and is a very important social objective that all correctional agencies should embrace. Functions of the Halfway House The halfway house performs various functions within the criminal justice system. These functions differ according to the population that a particular facility serves.

The use of these facilities in the field of corrections has a long history in the United States and around the world (Latessa & Travis, 1991). The term halfway house conveys the position of these facilities within the corrections system. The halfway house affords an atmosphere that falls between the constraints of the institution and the liberation of the community. “Ideally, halfway houses provide the security of a structured, controlled residence (similar, in this respect, to an institution) combined with the freedom to pursue and engage in employment and other activities in the free community” (Latessa & Travis, 1991, p.

54). Halfway houses are an alternative to incarceration at all levels of corrections. According to Knapp and Burke (1992), halfway houses play two primary roles in the criminal justice system: Front-door sanctioning options and back-door sanctioning options. They service pre- and post-adjudication clients from local, state, and federal jurisdictions and are open to both men and women. The way in which the functions of the halfway house are utilized during the correctional process depends on the intent of diversion.

As a result, the halfway house is utilized in corrections for multiple purposes, which include but are not limited to detention, holding, prerelease supervision, and service distribution. Welch (1999) stated that community correctional centers service offenders and defendants in the following capacities: Housing offenders released from institutions under minimum security; housing convicted felons judged to pose little to no threat to the community; providing pretrial supervision of defendants, when required; and conducting presentence investigations to assist courts with sentencing procedures.

Nieto (1996) argued that for the released offender, the halfway house offers a partial diversion away from the “atomic reality” of the community. For another group of offenders, the halfway house presents an alternative to the isolated and extensively controlled life of prison inmates. Community correctional centers can provide minimum to mid-level punishments for offenders for whom incarceration is too severe and ordinary probation is inappropriately slight.

In Knapp and Burke’s (1992) study of residential community correctional centers, they reported the sources of referrals for 647 halfway house facilities. The majority of facilities (53. 6%) received referrals from state or federal prisons. In comparison, 22. 7% of residents were obtained via “front door” sentencing options, and even fewer residents were received from jails (9. 6%) or other miscellaneous sources (12. 7%). Halfway Out Inmates can often be released prior to completion of their prison terms, provided that they adhere to conditions mandating them to participate in certain programs.

As discussed earlier, one function of the halfway house is to assist offenders released from the institution in reintegrating back into society. This traditional function of the halfway house is known in the correctional community as “halfway out,” “backdoor referral,” or “back end sentencing” (Knapp & Burke, 1992). Under the back-end model, correctional officials may direct already-sentenced offenders into the halfway house. This program is tailored for offenders recently released from prison; as such, its focal point is transition (Nieto, 1996).

Sullivan (1999) noted that community correctional centers serve as transitional residences for offenders during the last months of their terms, in which offenders move from the total confinement of prisons to a minimum-security or less restrictive environment in the community. He described the halfway house as a “decompression chamber” that assists offenders in reintegrating into the mainstream of society. Numerous security methods are employed to ensure community safety while this transition occurs.

On a post incarceration basis, the halfway house serves three different populations: Pre-released residents under correctional control, parolees who are provisionally assigned to the residence, and mandatory released offenders (Nieto, 1996). These groups are each associated with distinct motivational factors and constraints, and they arrive at the halfway house facility with various ties to the community. Pre-released offenders can be returned to custody with formalities for noncompliance. Such offenders are referred to the halfway house by prison officials and they possess skills and community ties that are typical of the prison subculture.

Parolees are often assigned to halfway houses by a parole board or the United States Parole Commission because they need a transitory setting in order to make parole. The halfway house provides this group with a habituation stage between prison and parole, thus increasing their chances of success after a prison term (Sullivan, 1999). Mandatory released offenders choose to reside at the halfway house because they are seeking assistance and are more than likely in need of shelter (Knapp & Burke, 1992).

According to Nieto (1996), most of the residents of community correctional centers are sent to these facilities through back-end referrals from state and federal prison administrators or parole boards. In Knapp and Burke’s study (1992), 53. 6% of 647 operational community correctional facilities served offenders exiting from prison. “Back door” referrals from state correctional administrators constituted 89. 3% of these facilities, while 15. 5% were primarily populated through back-door referrals from federal institutions.

Of the 310 halfway houses under state jurisdiction, the majority (70. 6%) received residents dispatched by prison officials and 12. 2% had residents forwarded by parole boards. Halfway In In the field of corrections, many have sought alternatives to imprisonment that the courts could have at their disposal when faced with sentencing. This type of alternative sentencing dates to 1964 (Sullivan, 1999). Nieto (1996) claimed that under the front-end model, residential community corrections programs were integrated with sentencing guidelines and judicial discretion.

According to Welch (1999), community correctional centers provide an effective way of dealing with violations of parole or probation. Under this model, certain offenders are sentenced to halfway houses when courts determine that they pose minimal threat to the community and that there is thus no need to send them to jail or prison (Sullivan, 1999). It has been argued that the community setting of the halfway house is more effective than prison, as it allows offenders to maintain their jobs and contact with their families and therefore helps to deter future criminal involvement (Taxman et al.

, 2002). Front-door referrals or offenders who are “halfway in” generally come to community correctional centers in one of two ways. The first type of referral occurs when a judge sentences an offender directly to a community correctional center as opposed to an institution, typically as a condition of probation. Under the second option, a probation officer or some other corrections official refers an offender to the halfway house for a violation of parole or probation (Knapp & Burke, 1992). The correctional goal for the offender who is “halfway in” is stabilization.

Nieto (1996) claimed that the typical client in this type of program has been convicted of involvement in a nonviolent crime or has committed a violation of probation, and has a history of unstable employment and drug or alcohol abuse. Thus, stabilization concentrates on establishing stable employment or providing training that aids in the development of habits conducive to becoming a productive, law-abiding citizen (Welch, 1999). The types of offenders generally considered halfway in program are those persons that did not commit very serious crimes but some sort of supervision is necessary.

This philosophy has led many facilities to accept inmates who have been placed on probation. Almost one quarter of residents in the halfway houses studied by Knapp and Burke (1992) were “front door” referrals. Other Uses of the Halfway House Finally, halfway houses can offer an alternative to pretrial detention. The halfway house may be an appropriate intermediate vehicle for supervised release when defendants can neither make bail nor meet ROR (release on recognizance) criteria (Nieto, 1996). Although these defendants have been charged with a crime, they have not been convicted in a court of law; hence, they are legally innocent.

Instead of releasing such defendants on their own recognizance or placing them in jail, prosecutors can move for them to be placed in a community correctional center; if they do not adhere to the conditions of their placement, they can be placed in jail or held in contempt of court (Sullivan, 1999). As Sullivan explained, enrollment in such a program may have a direct effect on the final disposition of the defendant’s case. Technically, the intent of this program may not be correctional; however, it serves as a valuable tool.

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