Inch was appointed as the bureau’s barely three months ago under Trump administration, but he has done a lot in that short time. Many of Inch’s changes are hurting the inmates.
The inmates wanted answers following the claims, over the recent months, that they were being denied some or the entire time at the halfway houses.
Importance of the Halfway Houses for Successful Re-Entry
Thousands of inmates had been promised that they would go to halfway houses where they would:
- Finish up their sentences
- Look for jobs
- Get back their initial lives
- Get driver’s licenses
- Know how to use smartphones and other technologies
The cancelation of the proposed plan has upset many families as they will miss their loved ones who they had expected to celebrate winter holidays with.
For instance, Nathaniel Augustus III Smith, an inmate at FCI Sandstone was to unite with his Texas-based family in October. But following the recent move, he will have to wait even longer.
The lawmakers demanded answers, too. A Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings is a high-ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Cummings also expressed her concerns during the 3-hour hearing.
Among the issues that were covered in the session include:
- Prison staffing.
- Reentry programs.
Cummings was highly concerned by the Bureau of Prisons’ decision of not renewing 16, of approximately 180 contracts, for the halfway houses. The bureau’s decision has caused some of halfway houses to shut down.
Apart from not renewing the 16 contracts, it turns out that the Bureau of Prisons has also changed the regulations for several other halfway houses. The bureau, under the leadership of Director Inch, now requires halfway houses to host comparatively fewer inmates.
The waitlists for beds has also grown, due to the bureaus’ move causing some inmates to stay longer in the already overcrowded prisons.
The Bureau of Prisons has also vowed:
- Not to fund cognitive behavioral therapy at halfway houses (a requirement passed under the Obama administration).
- Not to hire the social services coordinators.
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Exiting Inmates Need Halfway Houses
The changes are concerning especially if we consider that social services coordinators have been orienting to face the outside world.
Halfway houses have been operational in the country since the 1960s. However, they became popular starting from 2008.
The popularity was propelled by Congress’s decision to pass a bill giving all prisoners the privilege to stay up to a year in a halfway house. The privilege is offered at the end of inmates’ sentences, though.
- Since late 2013 through mid-2016, almost 37% of inmates existing federal prisons passed through halfway houses
- Another 1-2% were confined at their homes, enabling them to stay with their families as they got regular check-ins from halfway house employees
Repercussions of Bureau of Prisons’ Recent Decisions
To address the challenge of few beds, caused by Bureau of Prisons’ decisions, the amount of time the prisoners spent at the halfway houses, has been reduced. The inmates now stay there for a few months, and not, half a year as it was supposed to be.
The short period stay has denied the inmates:
- Enough time to get a decent job opportunity to reunite with families.
- Opportunity to complete drug treatment among other useful programs.
Experts are concerned that these changes will soon:
- Compromise public safety.
- Decrease inmate accountability.
- Lead to elevated recidivism rates.
This is because some low-level offenders might copy bad habits as they mix with the high-risk inmates at the halfway houses.
Fred Skelton, 51, is another inmate who was originally supposed to join a halfway house on Dec. 15, but he has been told to wait until next spring.
Skelton’s grandkids had expected his return for the Christmas holiday, but now, that will remain a dream for another day.