20 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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In this article, we will discuss in great detail, halfway houses. The article will begin with a description of halfway houses under which we will discuss some facts about halfway houses and a historic account along with a generic definition. This will be followed by a discussion of the rules of the halfway houses along with its benefits. 

A halfway house is a facility where people with criminal records or a history of substance misuse can learn (or relearn) the skills they need to reintegrate into society and better support and care for themselves.

Halfway houses provide social, medical, psychological, educational, and other comparable services in addition to housing. They’re known as “halfway houses” because they’re halfway between entirely independent living and in-patient or correctional facilities, where inmates’ behaviour and freedoms are severely regulated. 

What is Crisis Intervention?

There are two categories of halfway houses in the US. In one model, a patient is categorised upon admission based on the type of disability, ability to reintegrate into society, and estimated time period. They may be placed in an open bay same-sex dormitory, similar to those used in military basic training, with fifty to one hundred other people going through the same thing at the same time in a gymnasium-like atmosphere. [more clarification is required] The number of dorm members decreases as patients gain more skills and become less reliant on support services, to the point where, at the final stage before being ready to move into their own apartment, a patient may only have one or two housemates. The other model reverses this;

New patients are admitted to private rooms with individualised services and programmes. As they gain independence, the dorms get larger, until the patient is living in the 50–100-person dorm described above when they leave.

When convicted offenders are released into society, the same two models are employed to begin the process of reintegration while still providing surveillance and support; this is thought to lower the chance of recidivism or relapse when compared to a release directly into society. Halfway houses are designed to help those who have recently been released from prison or who have been in mental institutions for a long time.

Let us now look at some interesting facts about halfway houses.

In the United States, the majority of programmes distinguish between a halfway home and a sober/recovery house. A halfway home features a daytime rehabilitation treatment programme where clients receive extensive individual and group counselling for their substance usage while they create a sober support network, find new employment, and find new housing. Residents are expected to stay for one to six months.

Residents of work release housing are frequently asked to pay rent on a “sliding scale” that is based on their ability to find work while in residence.

Problems in Halfway houses

The cost of a resident’s stay in an addiction-recovery facility is occasionally covered by health insurance. In addition, a stay in a treatment facility could be a condition of a criminal sentence. Residents are usually expected to stay sober and follow a treatment plan.

A halfway house differs from a rehabilitation house or a sober house in some ways. A drug and alcohol halfway home is licenced by the Department of Health in certain places, and it is staffed 24 hours a day. A clinical treatment team is part of this group.

Halfway houses are a common element of the criminal justice system, yet little information about them is ever disclosed. We put together a guide to help you understand what they are, how they work, and the difficulties that plague them.

The federal government is underreporting cases of COVID-19 in halfway houses, according to an investigation by The Intercept published in May. Not only is the Bureau of Prisons reporting fewer cases than county health officials, but many in halfway houses who spoke with reporters said they were told to hide their positive test results.

It shouldn’t require much investigative work to figure out how many COVID-19 cases are actually present in a halfway house. Historically, however, relatively little information regarding halfway houses has been provided to the public, despite the fact that they are an important part of the criminal justice system. Even basic figures are difficult to come by, such as the number of halfway homes in the country or the number of persons who live in them.

In general, there are two causes for this obscurity: First, halfway houses are typically privately run and do not have to publish data like public facilities do; second, the name “halfway house” is loosely applied to a wide range of facilities. So we collated what little information there is regarding halfway homes, describing how various “halfway houses” differ from one another and how these criminal justice facilities frequently fail to provide real support to recently jailed people. We also look into why halfway houses have become COVID-19 hotspots due to poor conditions and oversight.

Furthermore, to run these facilities, state prisons departments, probation/parole offices, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) frequently contract with nonprofits and private enterprises. These contracts are the most common way for halfway houses to get money. Residential Reentry Centers are federally funded halfway houses (RRCs). Transitional Centers, Reentry Centers, Community Recovery Centers, and other titles are used to describe state-licensed halfway houses. These facilities collaborate with prisons departments to accommodate people who have been released from prison, which is typically a condition of parole or some type of post-release monitoring or housing plan.

Currently, the federal government has 154 active contracts with Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs) across the country, with a total capacity of 9,778 individuals. In 2018, RRCs had a population of roughly 9,600 individuals on any given day. While no regular population reports are available, 32,760 people spent time in federal RRCs in 2015, indicating that these institutions have a high rate of population turnover.

Unfortunately, there is substantially less data on the number of state-run or state-contracted halfway houses and halfway house occupants. According to BJS data from 2012, there are 527 “community-based correctional facilities,” or facilities where 50% or more of the residents are allowed to depart on a regular basis. A total of 51,977 people were housed in these facilities on a single day, including 45,143 males and 6,834 females. These figures, however, include establishments that serve primarily or exclusively as residential correctional facilities, as we’ll see later (where people serve their entire sentences). Because of this uncertainty, determining how many people are at halfway houses on any given day — and how many of them are expressly state-funded halfway houses – is practically impossible.

The contracting procedure is one reason we know more about federal halfway houses than state-level halfway houses. The federal contracting process is largely consistent and transparent, whereas state contracting processes vary greatly and publish little public-facing information, making it considerably more difficult to grasp the regulations that control persons in state-contracted institutions.

One last fact will now be discussed before moving onto the historic account;

When halfway homes try to establish themselves in a neighbourhood, they frequently face opposition. The relationship between halfway house siting and the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) phenomena has been studied in social justice literature. Some communities/neighborhoods may be able to influence policy through political solidarity, while others may not. According to certain studies, community residents are just concerned when halfway houses are built near them. 

Others argue that the presence of transitional housing poses a serious threat to community safety. According to NIMBY studies, a neighborhood’s opposition to placement may be linked to class-based stereotypes against ex-offenders and drug addicts. According to Kraft & Clary (1991), NIMBY sentiments are sometimes linked to a mistrust of government sponsors.

The halfway house concept is based on humanitarianism, rehabilitation, and reintegration principles. In today’s criminal justice and social services systems, halfway homes are more commonly referred to as “residential treatment facilities”. They are closely related to the prevalent punishment philosophy of their eras. Since the 1840s, when the Temperance Movement began, the phrase has been used in the United States.

The deterrence theory, which claimed that offenders were logical, conscious individuals who exercised free will and whose punishment should fit their crime, dominated correctional philosophy in Europe and the United States from the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries. It was thought that punishing offenders with clarity, swiftness, and proportionate harshness would dissuade them from committing more crimes.

By the turn of the century, explanations for crime and criminals had switched to the new “positivism” paradigm. Instead than focusing on the illegal act, more effort was put into understanding the criminal actor. This was supported by a high reliance in scientific experts and a belief in “ill” offenders being rehabilitated rather than “rational” actors being punished.

When the first halfway house was built is a point of contention. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, residential institutions meant to provide transitional services and aid have existed in the United States. Initially housing the homeless and needy, facilities such as New York City’s Isaac T. Hopper House were becoming likely options for convicted felons by 1845, since they offered structured programmes with supporting staff members, allowing individuals to return to society.

Residents, as opposed to inmates or ex-convicts, were given provisional access to the community in order to pursue vocational, educational, or employment possibilities, as well as attend specialised treatment programmes like Alcoholics Anonymous. These attempts were in line with the widespread notion at the time that criminal behaviour was influenced by a variety of biological, psychological, environmental, and social factors and could thus be remedied by tailored treatment.

The “medical model” of prisons, which relied on classification, diagnosis, and treatment, and the concomitant popularity of the new correctional ideas of probation, indeterminate sentencing, and parole bolstered those principles in the 1930s. These programmes were commonly referred to as “halfway out of prison” programmes as they were more integrated with the formal correctional system and eventually became the principal prerelease opportunities for offenders.

By 1950, those programmes had been further tailored to suit specialised populations, such as drug and alcohol abusers with criminal records. As state hospitals were deinstitutionalized by the federal government in the early 1960s, the mentally ill became residents. Corrections moved to the notion of reintegration during that chaotic decade, when practically every governmental institution and established practise in America was being questioned. One of the theory’s premises was that society as a whole, as well as communities and individual members, has a role in the establishment of economic, social, and cultural environments that encourage criminal activity. As a result, according to the theory, reducing crime and recidivism necessitates holding individuals, neighbourhoods, communities, and society as a whole accountable for and active in offenders’ reintegration.

The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recognised the importance of the reintegrative ideal in 1967, and the remainder of the 1960s and early 1970s was referred to as the golden era of the halfway house movement, thanks to this legitimization and unprecedented funding from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). This period, however, was brief. 

A new period of crime control emerged as a result of rising crime rates, conservative politicians, and a new punitive attitude. In fact, Robert Martinson’s now-classic study, “What Works?,” strengthened the reintegrative model’s claimed failure. “With few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative initiatives that have been recorded so far have had no discernible effect on recidivism,” Martinson said in “Questions and Answers About Prison Reform” (1974).

Regardless of whether the halfway house served as a pre-parole or post-parole facility in the 1980s, they remained community-based residential programmes that provided structure and resources to offenders. The majority were run by private, nonprofit organisations with boards of directors comprised of criminal justice, educational, and religious leaders, as well as other concerned people. Access to recreational, religious, medical, vocational, and transportation services, as well as support in getting gainful employment, was frequently offered by board members.

From the 1980s to the end of the twentieth century, the transition to a more punitive punishment ideology was represented in determinate and mandatory minimum sentences. As shown in a study conducted in 2000, California’s three-strikes law, put into effect in 1994 by the legislature and citizen initiative, ensnared over 50,000 “strikers” in its first 6 years, each of whom was eligible for at least a doubling of their normal sentence, with 5,887 “third strikers” sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

These events could have been viewed as a death knell for the halfway house movement. However, as jails and prisons become more congested, halfway house systems have shown amazing practical versatility. They evolved to serve as alternatives to jail and became known as “halfway-in houses” in this capacity. The name “halfway house” was phased out in favour of the more benign, descriptive, and inclusive word “residential treatment centres” in the 1990s. Both terms were still in use in the twenty-first century.

These adjustments, however, came at a cost, as the original halfway house’s therapy orientation was pushed aside in favour of worries about supervision and control. Although there was still “counselling, substance addiction treatment, educational and vocational training, and a myriad of social services, the ambiance is similar to that of a minimum-security jail than a rehabilitative community,” according to a 1992 report.

Correctional populations peaked in the early twenty-first century and continued to rise, with institutional congestion becoming epidemic in some jurisdictions. This resulted in successful lawsuits by inmates’ advocates at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels, with various government bodies being compelled to alleviate overcrowding and pay hefty fines and attorney’s fees. Despite these changes, a conservative “tough on crime” mindset continued to dominate the American political scene; California, for example, attempted to solve the problem by building over 20 additional prisons in the later decades of the twentieth century. 

The cost of producing a new cell was projected to be around $100,000 in the latter part of 1990s. Once inhabited, a cell might cost anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 per year to run. Residential beds in the community, on the other hand, cost around $12,000 per year on average. Residential correctional programmes are a popular alternative in a culture where citizens are highly punitive when it comes to crime but frugal with their tax funds when it comes to financing correctional institutions. When taxpayers are given a choice, as was the case in 2001 with California’s Proposition 36, which required drug treatment rather than incarceration for first and second offences of drug possession or use, they frequently choose the more cost-effective, treatment-oriented option. 

In the end, cost may be more important than philosophy, resulting in an increase in the number of residential community treatment facilities and correctional programmes as alternatives to jail and as the nuclei of community corrections.

The houses have laws and regulations in place to guarantee that the residents receive the greatest care and support that a halfway house can provide. Once you understand what it’s like to live in a halfway house, you’ll quickly recognise that the regulations in place are the reason for their success. The rules for halfway houses may differ from one facility to the next.

Halfway house guidelines are in place to guarantee that residents follow a disciplined system and a daily routine that will help them transition into contributing members of society in their sober lives. Violations of the halfway house rules are frowned upon and can result in fines and eviction from the residence. The following are some of the most common rules found in these facilities, however they differ in every facility.

  • At all times, residents must remain sober.
  • Residents must comply with the house’s curfew hour. 
  • Residents must comply with the house’s curfew hour. 
  • The use of violence is strictly forbidden.
  • Theft or damage of property is prohibited.
  • Residents should be able to find full-time work.

Lets dive deeper into the rules and guidelines:

Visiting Procedures

Visitors must adhere to specific halfway house visiting restrictions set forth by each facility. The rules for visiting the halfway home are in place primarily for security reasons. These restrictions ensure that the residents are never exposed to any type of physical hazard or substance throughout their stay.

Who Is Allowed to Come?

The amount of visitors a resident can have at a facility is usually limited. Immediate family members, approved friends, and attorneys are among them. In most cases, all visitors must be pre-approved by the staff. Visitors who have an outstanding warrant, are on parole, or are deemed a security risk will not be permitted to see the residents.

Visitors must be at least 18 years old and have a valid ID. Minors are permitted to visit if accompanied by a parent or adult. The majority of facilities do not allow overnight visitors.

Areas for Visitors

In most halfway houses, visitors are assigned to specific regions. This could be the grounds, a common place, or a visitor’s area in particular. It is normally forbidden to visit vehicles in areas such as the driveway. 

Hours of Visitation

Specific visitation days and hours are also included in the halfway home visiting restrictions. On weekdays, typical visitation hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On weekends, the hours may be longer. In most cases, halfway houses do not accept visitors for more than 24 hours. Some halfway houses allow walk-in visits, however this is dependent on availability.

What You Can Bring

The goods that may or may not be brought during visitation are strictly regulated by halfway houses. Before a visitation, the facility would normally examine your belongings. Items that cannot be taken with you may be stored in lockers.

For accompanying children, items such as identification, eyewear, diapers, and bottles are authorised. The list of prohibited items, on the other hand, is much longer. Medication, cigarettes, guns, electronic products such as cell phones and cameras, food and beverages, lighters, and other items fall under this category. When visiting, it’s crucial to double-check with the institution to see what products are permitted.

When Visiting, What Should You Wear?

The rules for visiting the halfway house are based on local regulations. Visitors are usually required to dress correctly when visiting a facility. This involves not wearing clothing that is overly tight, for example. The rules on what to wear differ from state to state. Before planning a visit, double-check this with the halfway house.

Visit via video

Some halfway houses offer video visits, which allow residents to conduct video talks with one other from the comfort of their own homes using mobile phones or computers. This saves time and money while also avoiding traffic.

Federal Halfway Houses in the United States

Federal halfway homes are designed to assist federal criminals who are nearing the conclusion of their term in reintegrating back into society. The visitation rules for federal halfway houses are similar to those for other halfway houses. This includes only allowing visitation in specified places. Visitors may not be permitted to enter the structure. There may be other designated sites for visitation instead.

Visitation hours are normally 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with greater hours on weekends, like with other halfway houses. Drugs, weapons, and alcohol are also prohibited while seeing residents under federal halfway house visitation laws.

Phone Procedures

Residents are subject to half-house phone rules to guarantee their safety.

In some halfway houses, cell phones are permitted, but in others, they are prohibited. Every facility’s halfway house phone rules will plainly mention this. Smartphones may be prohibited in some facilities. Mobile phones with cameras and internet connection may not be permitted in other homes. 

Residents who live in residences that do not allow cell phones must surrender them to the house administration and will only be given them back when they leave. The following are typical halfway house phone guidelines for individuals who are allowed to keep their phones:

  • The volume of a phone discussion should be kept to a bare minimum.
  • Phone calls must be limited to a set amount of time. 15 minutes, for example.
  • During group or individual sessions, cell phones are not permitted.
  • In most cases, breaking these restrictions will result in the confiscation of the phone.

In homes where cell phones are prohibited, a resident phone may be accessible for all inhabitants to use.

Violations

Because every halfway house has strong restrictions in place, breaking them has major ramifications. In 2014, a case of halfway house violation was reported in Oklahoma, which has the most halfway houses. But first, let’s go over some of the most egregious halfway house infractions.

  • Use or possession of alcohol or drugs – Violations may result in eviction from the house without warning.
  • Failure to attend recovery meetings or therapeutic sessions leads to a warning.
  • Residents who engage in physical aggression or abuse will be ejected from the facility, and charges may be filed.
  • Theft or property damage – Residents will be given warnings. If you continue to break this rule, you will be evicted from your home.
  • Violations of the smoking ban in non-designated areas can result in a fine or dismissal.
  • For Non-participation in household tasks – Daily inspections are carried out. A warning may be issued in the event of a violation.
  • If a resident disrupts a session, they may be asked to leave and issued a warning.

Offenders who have not yet completed their sentence in federal halfway houses may be sent back to prison if they are arrested for halfway house infractions, which might jeopardise their conditions of release.

When violations occur, most federal houses give warnings or ‘pull-ups.’ Until the number of warnings reaches a particular threshold, no serious action is taken. Residents are expelled from the house immediately in such circumstances, and appropriate charges may be brought.

Halfway house breaches are not tolerated and can have negative consequences for the addict’s recovery. If a person is evicted from their home, they may be kicked out of the programme as well. A sense of community is formed when living in a facility, and the halfway house rules encourage accountability in the individual.

This is certain to be the start of a better life. Who is allowed to see a resident at a halfway home is governed by visiting rules. This ensures that the resident is not in danger or exposed to harmful substances. Similarly, the halfway house phone restrictions ensure that the resident’s communications are kept under control. Halfway house regulations, as well as skill training and therapy sessions, aim to help the individual improve so that they can operate well in society.

A person who lives a substance-free existence is able to enjoy life to the fullest. This significantly improves the quality and meaning of life. Addicts have a difficult road to recovery, but it is well worth the effort.

Most of the time, individuals that are discharged from a rehab center in the US are given the advice to spend a specified period living in a sober living environment. In many states, they are requested to stay in halfway houses, which are mostly associated with drug and alcohol rehab while others are used for ex-offenders. Some also have a mix of both, and those facilities need to be closely watched to prevent any mishaps from occurring.

In these facilities, they live with other individuals who are in the same situation as them as part of the full recovery process. So, let us discuss what are the benefits of halfway houses

It gives people more time to go from living in a rehabilitation center to going back to the real world.

While living in a sober living environment, individuals who are in the process of recovery from alcohol or drug dependence are around other fellow housemates. This could be a very good opportunity for them to live and thrive with different types of people, which is a strong skill of life that’s priceless. In day-to-day life, encountering different individuals is part of life. In a halfway house, they would be taught to be able to tolerate and live together peacefully, which can help prepare them to be part of society once more.

People are prepared to be educated or go into a career upon discharge.

Whatever their age or gender may be, individuals who have gone through addiction usually have had issues with their education or career. They might have been expelled from school or fired from their companies because of their addiction. By living in a sober environment, they will be given an opportunity to go back to school, get a new job, or become a volunteer for a cause. In some way, this therapy helps people re-enroll in certain classes and put up new career goals for themselves, applying new and better habits that they learn from their rehabilitation programs.

It offers an atmosphere with a focus on recovery.

A halfway house for addicts that are recovering is greatly helpful in a way as it lets them fully focus on recovery in a safe and non-judgmental community. Normally, this facility uses a set of amenities and implements a usual and strict regimen of recovery, for example, meeting attendance, which ensures that individuals will not relapse but will rather be successful in getting back to a normal life. Peer facilitators will look to it that clients will get into their routines with safety and vigilance, and will eventually look ahead to taking part in their recovery.

For example, The Next Step (TNS) (located in Thailand) treats clients in a facility that is constructed in a way that makes their journey to recovery more comfortable, relaxing, and also inspiring. Generally, they have all the necessities: a swimming pool, game room, gymnasium, dance area, martial arts area, meditation area, creative arts space, BBQ, kitchen, etc. All of such activities make the facility feel very comforting for clients.

Moreover, the TNS village also gives different types of accommodations, which include modern boutique rooms, which are more sociable, and Lana-style cabins, which clients like more if they prefer more freedom to individualize.

It does its very best to help clients get well and back into a healthy life.

Normally, those staying in a halfway house are surrounded and supported by other individuals who understand what they’re going through and support their journey to getting better. They will have a program set up which benefits them directly in terms of getting back into society. This program usually involves building a sober support network, counseling that orbits around their specific conditions, housing, new employment chances, and outside meetings. All in all, these activities help clients achieve healthy, personal, mental, physical, and spiritual goals.

It helps clients develop accountability.

Most importantly, living in a sober environment will teach addiction recovering patients to be accountable for themselves. Apart from the strict rules that come with it, it is also inclusive of drug tests regularly and other similar screenings that are intended to guide clients towards responsible living. While its policies might seem a little harsh, they are mainly put in place to make clients adapt, listen to direction, become a part of the recovery process, and eventually regain a drug-free lifestyle.

Benefits for ex-offenders

The cost to incarcerate an offender is 9.4% more than it costs to place him or her in a halfway house. Placing an ex-offender in a halfway house is not only cost-effective but also helps promote rehabilitation, unlike detention facilities. Halfway houses also reduce recidivism: criminals that spend time in a halfway house between release and reentry rather than simply going back to their normal lives are half as likely to offend again. Though there are quite a few advantages to the halfway housing system, there are still areas to improve. For example, communities normally do not favor halfway houses which forces the halfway houses to change their location to a poorer residential area with prevalent drug usage and an increased crime rate. This type of exposure makes it much harder for offenders to stay in a lawful and healthy lifestyle; hence if halfway houses had a better location, they would most likely have a higher success rate.

Halfway Houses should only be used for substance abuse offenders to be able to fulfill their purpose of promoting better habits. Those who do not need this reinforcement shouldn’t have to go to a halfway house before being allowed to return home. Forcing all ex-offenders to attend halfway houses unnecessarily wastes money, but targeting the ex-offenders that could benefit from the environment serves the offender as well as the community. But without a proper structure, these environments can be counterproductive. In some instances, nonviolent offenders might be placed in halfway houses with violent offenders. This negatively affects both non-violent and violent offenders. This does the opposite of what halfway houses are made for. Instead of reducing the risk of offenders committing a crime again, it increases it. When in proper use, halfway houses can be greatly beneficial. Policies should be brought forward that ensure halfway houses are more than a waste of money and time that prevent ex-offenders from being able to see their families immediately.