The findings have made Pennsylvania “a prominent voice in the national debate” over whether new correctional strategies actually work.
A recent study conducted by the Pennsylvania Corrections Department and reported on by the New York Times suggests that inmates released into halfway houses are more likely to be re-arrested or re-incarcerated within 3 years of being released than inmates who are released directly onto the streets. The federal government and individual states have together spent billions of dollars in funding on privately run halfway houses, which are designed to “save money and rehabilitate inmates more effectively than prisons do.” But if the findings of the Pennsylvania Corrections Department are correct, the halfway-house model may cause more damage than good in the long run.
John E. Wetzel, Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary, oversaw the study, and called the entire system of halfway houses “an abject failure.” He said, “The focus has been on filling up beds. It hasn’t been on producing good outcomes.” After these findings were reported to Governor Tom Corbett, he initiated a complete overhaul of the entire system, which costs Pennsylvania more than $110 million annually. Under the new plan, the state will “link payments to the companies to their success at rehabilitating the thousands of inmates who go through halfway houses in Pennsylvania annually,” and not simply to the number of beds which are filled. Wetzel said that although researchers were unable to specifically pinpoint why the re-arrest rates are higher for residents of halfway houses, he did say that they suspect some of the facilities were not “providing adequate services.”
Christopher Greeder, a spokesman for Community Education Centers, which is the largest provider of privately run halfway houses in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey said one explanation for the higher rates was due to the fact that, “halfway-house inmates were under more scrutiny than prisoners released into the community … They were thus more likely to be detected when they break the law.” However, the study from Pennsylvania was “so conclusive” that even Professor Edward Latessa, from the University of Cincinnati, a criminologist who sits on the Community Education’s board of directors was “dismayed.” He said that the study served to confirm his own research concerning the system in Pennsylvania. Dr. Latessa said, “We looked at quality indicators in our study. They were all poor. There were almost no positive results. I was shocked.”
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