Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pennsylvania study casts doubt on halfway-houses

A groundbreaking study in Pennsylvania is casting serious doubt on the effectiveness of the halfway-house model, concluding that inmates who spent time in these facilities were more likely to return to crime than inmates who were released directly to the street, reported the New York Times.

The findings startled the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett, which responded last month by drastically overhauling state contracts with the companies that run the 38 private halfway houses in Pennsylvania. The system costs more than $110 million annually.

Pennsylvania’s corrections secretary, John E. Wetzel, who oversaw the study, called the system “an abject failure.”

“The focus has been on filling up beds,” Wetzel told the Times. “It hasn’t been on producing good outcomes.”

The state now plans to link payments to the companies to their success at rehabilitating the thousands of inmates who go through halfway houses in Pennsylvania annually. 

The study by the Pennsylvania Corrections Department found that 67 percent of inmates sent to halfway houses were rearrested or sent back to prison within three years, compared with 60 percent of inmates who were released to the streets.

The study examined 38 privately run and 14 state-run halfway houses. The results for both categories were discouraging, Wetzel told the Times.

He said researchers had not pinpointed the reasons, but he said he suspected that some halfway houses were not providing adequate services.

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