Curtailing the Use of Halfway Houses, and the news in criminal justice this week

“These changes, particularly in the absence of a justification, threaten to make our communities less safe while increasing BOP operating costs over time.”

For decades, halfway houses have been useful in helping prisoners safely transition back to their communities before release. Recently, the Justice Department has severely curtailed the use of halfway houses and home confinement, and no longer requires halfway houses to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment. In 2015, more than 10,000 people were in federal halfway houses, and 4,600 were in home confinement. Now only 7,670 are in halfway houses, and 1,822 are in home confinement. Officials at the Bureau of Prisons claimed the “fiscal environment” had led the bureau to look for ways to “most effectively use [their] resources.” The federal government spends more than $36,000 per year to imprison a person, while placement in a halfway house costs just over $32,000 and monitoring a person on home confinement costs only $4,392.

“There are 42,090 men and women in Arizona state prisons. Nearly all of them will be released. We’re working from the state perspective to make sure they’re prepared.”

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwell, and players Antoine Bethea and Corey Peters met with participants in the Second Chance initiative, an eight-week reentry program created last year. Nearly 60% of participants in the Second Chance program leave prison with a job, and the recidivism rate among graduates has dropped by 30%. The group visited participants in an addiction treatment program, a computer lab, a job fair, and a skills-training area, which simulates work schedules and teaches masonry and drywall installation. After the tour, Bidwell promised the team would help publicize the program, provide grass for the complex’s football team, and donate tickets for program graduates.

“Regardless of the cause, former state prisoners in North Carolina are experiencing worse employment outcomes now than they did during earlier periods of economic growth.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce found that post-release employment rates of people who have been incarcerated are much lower than in the 1990s, and have not returned to pre-recession levels. In 1998, 62% of formerly incarcerated people were employed one year after their release; in 2014 that number was only 39%. The authors suggested a variety of contributing factors, including an overall decline in job-finding, reduced numbers of manufacturing jobs, a decline in education levels among incarcerated people, and the increased use of criminal background checks for job applicants.

“We are beginning to see what success looks like with criminal justice reform. I’m proud of what we have accomplished but acknowledge there’s a long way to go.”

Officials in Louisiana have begun the justice reinvestment promised as part of 2017’s criminal justice reform package. The state has saved $12.2 million and announced plans to spend $8.54 million in the five parishes—Orleans, Jefferson, Caddo, East Baton Rouge and St. Tammany—that have the highest number of people in prison. Nearly half of the reinvestment funds will go to local corrections programming focused on getting incarcerated people closer to their homes and families. In addition to investments in local corrections, reentry support programs, and drug courts, $1.7 million will be spent on victim services.

“It is now clear that on the whole, juvenile-justice schools do not serve kids as well as local school districts, and they should not be considered sufficient substitutes for attending a community school.”

Analysis by Bellwether Education Partners, published in Education Week, found that students in juvenile justice facilities have less access to high-level math classes and are less likely succeed in those courses. In traditional high schools, 96% of students have access to Algebra 1, and 95% of those who take it will pass. In juvenile facility schools, only 82% have access to Algebra 1, and only 61% of those who take it will pass. In addition to greater programmatic support and better qualified teachers, the analysts also pointed to the need for the collection and sharing of more reliable data about school quality and student achievement.