Should the Government Continue to Fund Unsuccessful Half-Way Houses?
Date:  05-23-2013

Half-way houses are needed, but recidivism rates are shameful
A recent blog asked readers to comment on whether they thought half-way houses should continue to receive funding from the government, given the grim fact that the majority of those released from a half-way house end back in prison.

Although most post-release residential programs are called half-way houses, the preferred term is Community Corrections Centers (CCC). Basically, a CCC is a more lenient prison. As the blog states, rules abound, but may not always be followed. It is not uncommon to be sent back to prison for violating a CCC rule.

The blog gave a somewhat idyllic view of half-way houses that bears little resemblance to the reality of residing in one. Because of budget constraints, many halfway houses offer little in the way of rehabilitative programming. Substance abuse programs, for example, are usually run by community agencies not under the aegis of a half-way-house. A half-way house has to demonstrate that it is offering some type of programming. Too often the programs have grandiose names and are described in latest trend-speak terms, but are nothing more than a “counselor” showing out-dated videos that bored residents nap through. If a residence shows up for a program, the resident gets credit for participation, no matter if the program was useful, or not.

But CCCs can be an important step for inmates transitioning back into the community. The original concept was to help reentrants acclimate to life outside of prison walls. Reconnecting with families, finding employment, securing housing, and obtaining health care are just some of the goals reentrants hope to accomplish while in a half-way house. But as CCCs, particularly privately run ones, cut corners to save money, residents are not receiving many of the services that should be provided. Security is lax, as is accountability. Perhaps the government ought to provide funding to CCCs that have demonstrated success. This pay-for-success concept is being used by the government in other areas of the criminal justice and reentry fields and maybe it is time the government applied it half-way houses as well.

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