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AG: Federal Halfway Houses Must Boost Services to Lower Recidivism

An announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder called for 200 halfway houses that contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to provide services to releasing prisoners in their own local communities prior to completing their sentences, to increase the level of their services and offer more home confinement alternatives.  According to Holder, such organizations will now be required “to offer standardized treatment to prisoners with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

Holder also said that, “job training, affordable housing, parenting education, and other resources…(are needed) to break the cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration.”  Halfway houses, also known as “residential reentry centers,” or RRC’s,” have been criticized as little more than poorly-managed holding facilities that offer few services and often are centers for criminality rather than for reentry services.

Both the BOP and their contract halfway houses have often suffered from a lack of focus on whether their mission is to monitor residents for compliance with BOP policies more suited to incarceration or to mentor and assist them to help ensure a successful return to society. For example, most halfway houses restrict residents’ access to cellphones and offer extremely limited computer access, seriously limiting the job-seeking opportunities for returning prisoners. It appears that Holder is now trying to break the BOP mindset that cellphones are instruments of criminality rather than a tool for personal career enhancement and family reunification, and seeking additional vocational placement assistance, and transportation services so that people can obtain employment.

Holder’s announcement amounts to a rare instance where the BOP and its contractors will have to conform to the realities of society and the marketplace, rather than to their own archaic, institutionalized behavior. Holder pointed out that the federal system now houses 4000 fewer people than a year ago, “the first reduction in almost three decades.”


See: “In New Step to Fight Recidivism, Attorney General Holder Announces Justice Department to Require Halfway Houses To Boost Treatment Services For Inmates Prior To Release,”, March 24, 2014.

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