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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

A half-fast idea


The federal government and states across the country have spent billions of dollars in recent years on sprawling, privately run halfway houses, which are supposed to save money and rehabilitate inmates more effectively than prisons do.

But now, a groundbreaking study by officials in Pennsylvania is casting serious doubt on 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.

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.

Higher recidivism rates for those in halfway houses than those released directly to parole. I wonder why that is. There is speculation in the story that the facilities aren't really providing the services they promise to, which include "therapy, drug treatment, job training and other services to help ease their transition back to society." But I wonder if it's precisely because they're providng those services. Inmates released directly to parole are put in sink-or-swim mode; they know they have to immediately start acting like responsible adults or they'll end up back in the joint. Inmates given this easing-back-into-life transition period get to put off that day of reckoning, which might not be the best idea for those reluctant to behave responsibly in the first place.

In any case, they're certainly not getting their $110 million worth. But who thinks they won't spend millions and millions more trying to "fix" the problem instead of just abandoing the whole thing?