In the recent past, there has been a remarkable growth in the development of community-based correctional programs for criminal offenders. Although halfway houses have been in existence for a long time, the interest in the use of these facilities has escalated since the mid-20th century.
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Currently, the category of halfway houses comprises a variety of facilities and programs. Since their inception, halfway houses serve a wide variety of clients. The main aim of this paper is to explain the issues, challenges, advantages, and disadvantages of halfway houses in the community-based correctional system.
Definition of halfway houses
Halfway houses are places that facilitate the reintegration of convicted criminals back into society. Experts in these facilities provide support to the clients and monitor them from time to time in a bid to ensure that they reform fully. From the research, the idea of halfway houses originated from an increment in the number of repeat offenders (Alarid 119).
However, halfway houses can accommodate clients referred from the system of criminal justice through probation, parole, work or study release, and persons serving pretrial diversions. Apart from providing services to offenders, halfway houses also cater for clients with mental problems, alcoholics, and drug addicts. In a bid to extend their services to eliminate a wide array of societal challenges, half houses also focus on neglected and delinquent juveniles, who are likely to engage in full-time criminal activities (Maxfield and Babbie 87).
Different countries have disparate types of halfway houses depending on the definition or use of a halfway house. However, a common practice among countries is that the government or individuals can own halfway houses (Piat 111). For the government halfway houses, the facilities do not generate profits, and thus they provide support to clients on the referral from the system of criminal justice. For the privately sponsored facilities, they comprise recovery homes for drug addicts and alcoholics as well as mental facilities for the people with mental problems (Alarid 26).
However, private facilities offer services at a fee and they focus on generating profits. Offering services at a fee requires the questioning of the quality of services offered by the private facilities. In most cases, investors owning these halfway houses are driven by a desire to accumulate wealth from profits, hence the likelihood to over enroll clients in a bid to maximize revenues (Maxfield and Babbie 92). In both the private and government halfway houses, the main objective is to monitor clients and provide support to facilitate their reintegration into society. Such an objective leaves most people wondering whether private facilities can provide adequate support with the generation of profits as the core motive.
In most cases, private facilities are understaffed or equipped with unqualified staff; thus compromising the quality of services offered by the institutions. However, such shortcomings do not underestimate the value of private halfway houses or overestimate the value of government facilities (Alarid 34). Furthermore, depending on the management of both facilities, challenges across these sectors vary considerably.
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Placing ex-convicts to halfway houses arises from the decision of judges or officers in prisons. Such a recommendation necessitates the questioning of the current system of criminal justice (White, Mellow, and Ruffinengo 143). From the available information, it is evident that the system of criminal justice aims at reforming criminals through rehabilitation. From this sentiment, it is clear that effective rehabilitation offered by the correctional facilities does not require additional correctional measures.
The prevalence of halfway houses that offer help to ex-convicts is evident of the prevalence of incompetence in the current system of criminal justice. Mostly, the society fails to embrace incarcerated offenders after serving their terms in prison. Similar attitude extends to the halfway facilities with most people opposing the location of such facilities in their neighborhoods (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger 79).
From such sentiments, it is evident that the society can contribute to inefficiencies of services offered by halfway facilities. Such a trend requires the sensitization of the society to ensure that people recognize the significance of halfway houses as means of support to the clients.
Comparison of halfway houses in the US and the UK
The United States
In the majority of the studies, researchers do not define distinctions between recovery/sober houses and halfway facilities. However, in the United States, recovery houses are different from halfway facilities (Kilburn and Constanza 9). For the halfway houses, rehabilitation programs occur throughout the day.
The rehabilitation programs subject clients to counseling in a bid to eradicate their undesired behaviors. With a focus on the clients of drug abuse and alcohol addiction, the rehabilitation programs expose them to supportive networks that will help to eradicate the addiction. However, clients of halfway facilities are busy throughout the day to ensure that they are occupied with positive activities (White, Mellow, and Ruffinengo 148) Furthermore, apart from the supportive networks, halfway facilities help clients secure some form of employment in addition to providing housing facilities.
With reference to the acquisition of employment and housing facilities, such practices can motivate people to acquire negative behavior for them to join halfway houses for assistance. This trend is likely to occur owing to the soaring rate of unemployment and tough economic times.
However, halfway facilities have addressed this challenge by implementing a policy that requires clients residing in the facility beyond the recommended period of six months to pay some rent depending on the rate stipulated by the administration. Nevertheless, the rate of payment is flexible depending on whether the client is working (Alarid 56).
Furthermore, recent evaluations of halfway houses in the United States indicated that the facilities helped in reducing the rate of recidivism among offenders. With reference to the current studies by the United States’ bureau of prisons, residential, and employment components of halfway houses contributed to reducing the rate or reoffending (Kilburn and Constanza 17). Such trend is attributed to the support offered by the halfway facilities. Furthermore, halfway houses are more effective as compared to prisons as they stress on behavioral change, as opposed to the incarceration facilities. For the prisons, the majority of them focus on completion of prison term, and thus they fail to emphasize the need to change behavior.
For the recovery or sober houses, clients are subjected to clinical rehabilitation and psychological therapy. Further, health insurance participates in covering expenses incurred by the clients of recovery houses. In some circumstance, the requirement of subjecting a person to recovery houses arises from the judges’ decision as part of the criminal sentence (Piat 114).
From this perspective, it is evident that in a situation requiring services of a recovery house, a criminal sentence remains incomplete prior to completing rehabilitation in these houses. However, criminal offense committed by the client should be attributed to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. However, some clients make self-referrals and subject themselves to recovery houses due to addiction to drugs or alcohol. For such clients, they pay for their expenses for residing within the facility beyond the recommended period.
However, unlike the clients in halfway houses, clients in recovery houses are supposed to comply with the minimum requirement of the program of recovery or resolve to remain sober throughout their period of rehabilitation (Kilburn and Constanza 29).
The United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, halfway houses entail facilities that offer support to people with mental disorders, orphans, children exposed to different forms of abuse, and adolescents without places of residence (Bhugra 240). Unlike in the United States, community groups, churches, and charity organizations own halfway houses. However, categories of halfway houses in the United Kingdom vary depending on the function and population for which the facility serves. For example, bail hostels entail halfway facilities that provide residential services to offenders released on bails.
For the approved premises, facilities provide residential support to the post-release offenders on probation (Bhugra 243). From the analysis of halfway houses in the United Kingdom, it is evident that private investors with the aim of generating profits do not own halfway facilities. By placing ownership of these facilities under the administration of the government and other groups that bear interests of the members of public, it underscores the provision of high quality services as opposed to those offered by the private halfway houses in the United States.
In most countries, people have politicized the issue of halfway houses, thus affecting the administration of social justice significantly. For example, in the United States, critics and proponents are entangled in a controversy between the sitting of halfway houses and a section of civilians opposing the establishment of halfway facilities in their neighborhood (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger 79). Through solidarity, groups of people opposing halfway projects invoke political legislation to bar the establishment of such facilities.
In addition, groups against the establishment of halfway facilities argue that the individuals in those facilities pose a threat to the safety of other people, hence the negative reception of halfway facilities by the community. However, prejudices based on class form the core reason for opposing the establishment of halfway facilities to rehabilitate addicts of drugs and ex-convicts. For the facilities owned by the government, opposition arises from some people distrusting the government sponsors in charge of those facilities (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger 90).
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In some states across the United States, it has become a common practice to privatize the public halfway facilities. State officers cite the need to reduce fiscal needs as the reason for privatization. In most cases, the ownership of the public halfway facilities ends with private investors who own other correctional facilities across the country (Bhugra 95). Privatization occurs in the absence of an approved procedure to ensure equal chances to the interested parties.
However, politics comes into play, thus rewarding ownership to private investors depending on their contributions in support of political activities of the states or federal government. For example, research across some privatized halfway facilities indicates that most facilities are subsidized by the state government, despite being privatized. With reference to the point of subsidization, the practice is advantageous to society when coupled with proper accountability of the funds contributed by the state. In such subsidized facilities, clients pay lower costs for rehabilitation as compared to clients of unsubsidized private facilities (Maxfield and Babbie 115).
However, the challenge of proper regulations and oversight in both the state and private facilities is evident, and this aspect leads to the increment in the number of escapees. Further, failure to regulate activities of escapees compounds people’s negative perceptions concerning the establishment of halfway houses in their neighborhood (Alarid 259).
Additionally, the challenge of imbalance in the allocation of resources between halfway and incarceration facilities is outstanding. It is approximated that the government spends more money in funding activities of halfway houses as compared to those of incarceration facilities (Alarid 263).
Compared to other correctional measures incorporated in the system of criminal justice, halfway houses target a wider variety of clients. For example, these facilities offer support to parolees requiring transitional services, drug addicts, and people with mental problems among other target groups. In facilitating the implementation of correctional measures by courts, halfway facilities involve studies and diagnostic services through which courts base their decisions (Alarid 248).
Halfway facilities facilitate the reintegration of ex-offenders into the society. Halfway programs and facilities incorporate the model of reintegration that discourages the isolation of offenders from society. With reference to the model of reintegration, halfway facilities provide crucial needs to offenders, thus lessening pressures on them as they prepare to return to society (Alarid 249). Moreover, halfway facilities maintain contact between clients and their families and friends.
The maintenance of such bonds adheres to fulfilling a person’s need of belonging and identity. Additionally, by offering assistance to secure employment, halfway facilities contribute to inculcating the notion of independence among its clients. From the facilities, offenders learn to meet their needs through legal means (Maxfield and Babbie 179).
Apart from offering clinical therapy, halfway facilities facilitate the provision of psychological therapy to both criminal offenders and addicts of drugs and alcohol. Psychologists argue that mental pressures can push people to offending or consuming alcohol and other drugs (Bhugra 113).
The failure to address psychological stressors can increase the rate of reoffending. Therefore, therapeutic measures that focus on the psychological stressors ensure the eradication of invisible factors contributing to the acquisition of unfavorable behaviors. Additionally, it is easy for the offenders without psychological problems to change their behavior at a higher rate than that of offenders with psychological problems (Piat 118).
As opposed to facilities of incarceration, such as prisons and jails, halfway facilities entail community-based program that lays emphasis on the significance of preserving the dignity of offenders based on the virtue that they are humans. Halfway facilities achieve this goal through providing humane treatment to the clients (Alarid 107).
With reference to prisons and jails, programs within facilities of incarceration are fixed, as they demand an offender to be presented in the facility throughout his or her period of incarceration. For the halfway facilities, programs and activities are flexible to accommodate some of the activities by the clients (Bhugra 109). For example, clients seeking therapy under the halfway programs can work and later attend to the activities and programs of halfway facilities.
With respect to human rights, halfway facilities contribute to adhering to the model of a civilized society. Furthermore, these facilities can contribute to civilization in uncivilized societies. Through their activities, halfway facilities advocate the release of offenders who have served long terms in prisons (Maxfield and Babbie 118).
Reconditioning an offender to a new or his/her former community entails the standardized procedures and practices of civilized communities. As a method of rehabilitation, halfway facilities are cheaper than facilities of incarceration. Furthermore, these facilities help in decongesting prisons through redirecting some of the prisoners to the establishments (Alarid 65).
Critics of halfway houses argue that these facilities contribute to the widening state control to the society. Halfway facilities are not an alternative to incarceration, but an addition to incarceration. The claims are compounded by the fact that most clients in these facilities hardly differentiate life in prisons and that accorded by halfway facilities (Caputo 54).
For instance, while in halfway houses, clients are subjected to regular and compulsory curfews, counseling, and drug testing. Such an argument entails a continuation of incarceration because these clients have to live under constant supervision, just as in facilities of incarceration (Caputo 56).
The government spends more money in catering for people in halfway houses, as compared to those in prisons (Kilburn and Constanza 19). However, expenses incurred by the government are spread to civilians, who bear the burden of raising revenues to facilitate the state operations. The increasing need for the transitional services has contributed to the increment in the number of halfway houses in the recent times. Although some critics may argue that government incurs expenses in government facilities, it also participates in activities of private facilities in various ways.
For example, in some circumstances, the government subsidizes the cost of private halfway facilities and partial payment of expenses through health insurance for the clients of private facilities. The majority of the costs of health insurance are shouldered by the taxpayers, as they contribute to a health scheme, but only benefits in case of urgent medical attention that may rarely happen. Furthermore, current researchers rank halfway facilities and those of incarceration as the most expensive forms of penal code across the world (Alarid 185).
Researchers highlight the significance of coupling rehabilitation programs with education to help in curbing the challenge of non-violent offenders and addiction.
However, in most cases, halfway facilities redirect their efforts to punitive measures that do not encompass the provision of education to the clients (White, Mellow, and Ruffinengo 149). Additionally, by locating halfway facilities in residential neighborhoods, the facilities expose their clients to social stigma due to the negative perceptions of civilians regarding people in correctional facilities (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Holsinger 85).
Halfway houses are facilities that provide support to people in need of transitional services. Although these facilities cater for a wide variety of clients, their meanings vary from country to country across the world. Halfway facilities come with numerous challenges as highlighted in this paper.
First, privatization has contributed to lowering the quality of services offered by these facilities. Furthermore, some groups of civilians, through political legislation, oppose the establishment of these facilities in their neighborhoods. Among the advantages of these facilities is that they help in decongesting facilities of incarceration. For the disadvantages, these facilities focus on punitive measure of rehabilitation, rather than coupling them with education.
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