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A halfway house is a place to allow convicted criminals to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support; this is generally believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a release directly into society. Halfway houses are meant for reintegration of persons who have been recently released from jail or a mental institution. There is often opposition from neighborhoods where halfway houses attempt to locate.
There are several different types of halfway houses. Some halfway houses are state sponsored while others (mainly addiction recovery homes and mental illness homes) are run by "for profit" entities. In criminology the purpose of a halfway house is generally considered to be that of allowing people to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support. This type of living arrangement is often believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a straight release directly into society.
Some halfway houses are meant solely for reintegration of persons who have been recently released from prison or jail, others are meant for people with chronic mental health disorders, and most others are for people with substance abuse issues. The state-placement of ex-criminal offenders to a "halfway house" after a prison sentence may either be decided upon as part of the judge's sentence or by a prison official's recommendation. In addition, a direct sentence to a halfway house may be decided upon by a judge or prosecutor in lieu of prison time.
Still it is important to remember that transitional recovery arrangements are many times voluntary residence arrangements and many "halfway house" residents may have no criminal record whatsoever. This is a social justice issue of high order, as there is often political opposition from neighborhoods where halfway houses attempt to locate.
Most programs in the United States make a distinction between a halfway house and a sober/recovery house. A halfway house has an active rehabilitation treatment program run throughout the day, where the residents receive intensive individual and group counseling for their substance abuse while they establish a sober support network, secure new employment, and find new housing. Residents stay for one to six months.
Residents of work release housing are frequently required to pay rent on a "sliding scale" which is often dependent on whether or not they can find a job while in residence. In addiction recovery homes, a resident's stay is sometimes financed by health insurance. In addition, a stay in a recovery home may be a partial requirement of a criminal sentence. Whereas at places labeled as recovery houses or sober houses for those with substance abuse problems, residents are only asked to remain sober and comply with a minimal recovery program. Residents pay for their own stay.
In certain areas, a Halfway House is much different than a Recovery House or Sober House. In these areas, a Drug and Alcohol Halfway House is licensed by the Department of Health and has staff coverage 24 hours a day. This staff includes a clinical treatment team.
In the United Kingdom, halfway house usually refers to a place where people with mental disorders, victims of child abuse, orphans or teenage runaways can stay. The latter are often run by charities, including the Church of England and other churches, and community groups. Residential places for offenders on bail are known as bail hostels, and probation supervised accommodation for offenders post-release are known as Approved Premises. However, a halfway house more usually refers to something combining features of two other things, for example a solution to a problem based on two ideas.
Since halfway houses are such a marginal topic in criminal justice, there is scant research on the subject.
Research into halfway houses usually focuses on one of two topics: 1) Programming Integrity or 2) N.I.M.B.Y. ("Not in my backyard") phenomena.
With regard to programming integrity, findings regarding the ability of transitional housing to reduce recidivism or help addiction recovery have been mixed. Many criminologists have done research of halfway house facilities that provide housing for low risk criminals after institutionalization. Risk screening for residents is considered essential in order to preserve both institutional and community safety (see: Lowenkamp, Latessa and Holsinger 2006).
Social justice literature observes the relationships between halfway house siting and the NIMBY phenomena. NIMBY is an acronym for: "Not In My Back Yard". Some communities/neighborhoods may have the ability to affect political legislation through political solidarity while others may not.
Some research stresses that community residents simply feel nervous when halfway houses are sited near them (Piat 2000). Others point out that the presence of transitional residences may pose real hazards to community safety (Krause 1991).
In NIMBY research, it has been suggested that a neighborhood's resistance to placement might be linked to class-based prejudices about ex-offenders and drug addicts. Kraft and Clary (1991) argue that NIMBY responses are sometimes associated with a distrust for government sponsors.
As the economy lulls, there are fewer opportunities for traditional prison building. Halfway houses are currently under debate in some parts of Chicago. (see: http://www.chicagonow.com/concerned-citizens-of-chatham/2011/12/are-halfway-houses-welcome-in-chatham/).
Kilburn and Costanza (2011) point out that the 2007 Petit Family Murders, in Cheshire, Ct., were specifically designed by 2 former convicts who met in a Connecticut halfway house.
In New Jersey, the governor, Chris Christie, came under fire by a series of investigative articles in the New York Times for privatizing halfway houses. To downsize the fiscal needs of New Jersey, the state delegated the responsibility of halfway houses to Community Education Centers, a company with a myriad ties to Chris Christie,  including Christie's former lobbying for the company, and utilizing its senior vice president as a political adviser. Christie is additionally featured on a promotional video on the company's web site. Despite privatization, Community Education Centers is subsidized with $71 million by the state of New Jersey. Lack of regulation and state oversight has led to violent crimes and escapees, such as Rafael Miranda. Only three prisoners escaped from 2010 to the first 11 months of 2011, whereas 163 escaped during the last quarter of 2011 from the halfway houses, with 452 for the entire year. No new charges are brought for escaping, only extraneous crimes such as Miranda's homicide. Despite the halfway houses' flaws, recidivism was reduced from 30000 to 25000, and the state spends almost half as much money per resident in a halfway house to inmate in a prison. However, crime statistics in general have fallen throughout the United States (Crime in the United States), and Community Education financed its own research.