News & Updates

AFSC Applauds US Department of Justice Decision to Reform Halfway Houses and Hold For-Profit Contractors Accountable

Tucson, AZ— Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo that acknowledges the need to “reform federal halfway houses.” Since the 1960’s, halfway houses (now called Residential Re-entry Centers- RRCs) have been used to facilitate a formerly incarcerated person’s transition back into the community. The decision affects approximately 103 different contracts for 181 facilities nationwide. All of these are fully privatized through a mix of contracts with for-profit companies and non-profit organizations.

The memo reiterates the stance in its previous memorandum on ending the use of private prisons, stating flatly that “the Department has serious reservations about outsourcing the Bureau’s core correctional and rehabilitative services to private companies”

In an effort to “reform the private market for RRC’s” the memo outlines a set of requirements including establishing uniform standards for all RRC providers; collecting quarterly data on performance metrics; and expanding oversight and monitoring on contracts. The most surprising aspect of these new requirements is the fact that they were not already in use, as they are some of the most basic measures of “good government” oversight.

But the memo also takes a few steps toward substantive reform. The Department pledges to develop a plan to limit the requirement that residents pay a “subsistence fee” of 25% of their gross pay while living in an RRC. These fees have proven to be a tremendous financial burden on many people returning from prison. The memo also recognizes the need to ensure that inmates receive their government-issued ID before their release from prison. This critical step will streamline the processes of obtaining work and housing for these individuals.

Part of the directive states that in order to establish uniform standards for all facilities, the Department will attempt to procure a single nationwide contract. This would be a significant step toward ensuring consistency in services. It also represents an extremely lucrative contract for any for-profit operator.

The American Friends Service Committee welcomes this positive step towards accountability and responsible government contracting. We have been investigating for-profit prison companies in Arizona and working to end private prison contracts, whether for prison facilities or community corrections, for decades.

As part of this work, AFSC and a network of national partners, including Grassroots Leadership and the Southern Center for Human Rights, have called attention to a new trend they have termed the Treatment Industrial Complex. This refers to the efforts of for-profit prison companies like GEO Group and CCA (now CoreCivic) to rebrand themselves as humane providers of treatment and rehabilitation services. In particular, the newly re-named CoreCivic has been moving aggressively to obtain contracts for residential reentry.

While AFSC lauds the move toward consistency, accountability, and performance measures, we remain concerned as the US government expands the use of surveillance, such as electronic monitoring. The memo makes several references to the expanded use of “home arrest” as a less-restrictive option than housing in RRCs. Yet, there is no mention of whether this will require electronic monitoring or other services that are currently being provided by for-profit prison companies like GEO Group.

“We have a serious concern that the proliferation of this surveillance technology, via smart phones or ankle bracelet monitors, is being used less as an alternative to incarceration and more as an alternative form of incarceration.,” notes AFSC program coordinator Emily Verdugo. “We are extremely wary of policies that claim to offer “alternatives” while instead widening the net of people under the control of the criminal justice system.”
Private Prisons: The Public’s Problem, 2011

Click to access AFSC_Arizona_Prison_Report.pdf

White Paper on Prison Privatization in Arizona:

The Treatment Industrial Complex:

1 reply »

  1. Mass incarceration has become such a huge issue in today’s society. Something must be done. But what? I think re-introducing formerly incarcerated people back into society should be much more welcoming and supportive. The stigma associated with being a criminal has to be diminished. We should not see those who are released from prison as a threat to society. We need to give them a chance. These people need to be uplifted. They need to be reminded how to seek the good in life. I think there should be more options and more programs that accept those with a criminal record to get them employed, to get them back into a routine of doing something that makes them feel like they matter. They need to have a chance to feel like they are worth something again. This post has shed light on some of the problem. These people are faced with financial burdens. This is where the idea of alternatives has come in. But do these alternatives actually seek to help these people? Now this is what I am starting to question. All of these companies seem to be money driven. But who is contributing to the emotional needs of these “criminals”? Who is easing the pain of the stigma they face? Who is there to mend their mental health? Who is helping them have a positive outlook on life when they feel like they aren’t good for anything or have nowhere to go? The re-introduction into society for people who have been in prison should be completely reconstructed and I honestly think it would significantly decrease the amount of crimes committed again after release. If someone is given a second chance at life, they need to have the resources and help available to take advantage of it, if they cannot figure out how to carry on by themselves.

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