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For the Lives of Prison Wives > Blog 2 Column > Behind the Wall > Halfway House Budget Cuts: A Set-Up to Keep Prison Doors Revolving

Halfway House Budget Cuts: A Set-Up to Keep Prison Doors Revolving

Feb 2, 2018 Danielle Steele Williams 0 Behind the Wall

After speaking with my husband this morning, I can no longer sit quietly about the curveball the Federal Bureau of Prisons has thrown to inmates who were prepared to be released to halfway houses.  For those of you that do not know, when a person is sentenced in the federal system he/she must go through a re-entry process, which includes the Release Preparation Program and eventually be placed in a Residential Reentry Center before entering the “free world” again.  These programs are in place to help make the transition back into society less challenging by preparing inmates before they leave prison.  Such benefits of the programs include, possible eligibility for a release gratuity, clothing, money for transportation to destination, exposure to other beneficial resources and most importantly prepares them to be gainfully employed while in the program.

One would think that’s a great way to assist individuals that have been locked away from society, some for most of their adult lives, being that their normal is so far from our normal.  We do know that one day several that are imprisoned for various crimes will eventually walk out of the prison gates.  So why not help them transition effectively?  Why would the BOP decide to cut funding to such a transformational program when the incarceration rate hit record highs over the last decade?

My husband called and first informed me of the BOP budget cut news last month.  Of course, it bothered him because he doesn’t know how it will affect him when it’s time for his release.  But this morning’s call was a little different…He was hurting for one of his cellmates that prepared to go home and had been through the Release Preparation Program, placed in the Residential Reentry Program, submitted all documentation which is a tedious process, shipped all of his belongings home, had a job lined up and family anxiously waiting and preparing for his arrival to receive a letter that abruptly ended it all!!  The half-way house he was assigned to is scheduled to be closed!!…. Just let that sink in…3 weeks away from freedom!!  Do you know what that can do to someone’s psyche?? He now has to do another 8 months.  His family that needs his love, physical and financial support now has to wait another 8 months.

So much can happen in 8 months, in prison and in the “free” world.  A person’s mind has to be in a certain space and place to do prison time and not let the prison time do him/her.  No, I haven’t done prison time but I understand my husband’s struggles to the best of my ability.  For my family, a difference in 8 months is a matter of the kids being able to spend time with their father their last year of high school or him not being able to be there to spend that year with them and see them graduate. That’s major!! Especially since he hasn’t been here from kindergarten through tenth grade!! If the BOP has incentive programs in place such as Halfway Houses and home confinement to help lower the recidivism rate, then why not utilize the programs to their full extent?

I can only imagine what the family is going through.  We got a taste of it as we waited to hear a response from the Clemency 2014 Project.  This is not an attempt to minimize the crimes that were committed.  However, the time has been served according to Former President George Bush’s Second Chance Act. The Second Chance Act was signed into law in 2008 with bipartisan support.  And to all my “if you do the crime, do the time people,”  there are many people in prison that were harshly sentenced due to mandatory minimums.  Therefore, the time really has been served if the the system was just.

Now, there is another option available if halfway houses are being closed.  However, that option is not being utilized. Why not put those who have already gone through the RPP on home confinement?  The same stipulations as the RRP still apply.  Therefore, those released to home confinement are no more a “threat to society” than those in a halfway house.

I applaud Jay-Z and Van Jones touching on a few criminal justice reform issues on CNN’s Van Jones Show.  There’s so much that needs reforming but to cut a program that will reduce the recidivism rate will be detrimental to society.  It’s a setup to send released inmates right back to prison because they don’t have the necessities they need to survive. When inmates are finally released, they still will be faced with probation, in many cases, which can last years and can be easily violated.   Probation is an issue that Jay-Z brought to the forefront that has led to Meek Mill’s current incarceration.   The same support that is given to Meek Mills is the same support that’s needed to get Congress’s attention to review and retract the decision to make Budget Cuts to Halfway Houses.  If budget cuts had to be made, did they have to be made to an area so significant to the success of newly released individuals?  For more info, check out the NPR article,
Prisoners Face Uncertainty As Number Of Halfway Houses Are Cut.

Write your Congressman or Congresswoman to voice your concerns about halfway house closures.

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