Institution based correction is largely practiced in the American correctional systems. Institutional confinement has been used in America since the ancient times as history describes it. Early punishments for criminals were directed more at the criminal`s body and property as well. The main goals were to humiliate the offender, inflict pain and also deter onlookers from crime. Modernity in incarceration strives to change the character of the offenders and this takes place away from the public view. Sentences are majorly imposed upon offenders and range from probation to serving a time in prison. Intermediate sanctions include sentences to a halfway house. Sanction use can be described as either positive, which is known to be rewarding or, negative which is a punishment. This forms the basis of all criminal theory alongside the main goals of social control and deviant behavior deterrence. Facilities operating in the United States of America, many of them adhere to certain correctional theories (Byrne and Taxman, 2005).
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Halfway house allows people to start off a period of reintegration with the society. The primary function of halfway houses is to provide criminals who have no place to go and also those who have no one at their backs to support them. The halfway house there caters for all their needs as inmates. They are offered food and a place to rest their bodies. It is important to note that the halfway is not a dormitory despite its primary functions states above. It must facilitate discharged offenders. The halfway staffs, together with officers who are on probation provide the inmates with instructions and guidance on various programmes undertaken (Latessa and Lowenkamp, 2006).
Halfway house residents are divided into two different groups. The first group is composed of the supervisees meaning probationers and parolees. The second group is composed of the discharged offenders who are not under supervision. This is the group of criminals who left prison when their term expired or their execution sentence was suspended. The first group of halfway house residents is required to live in such facilities by the requirements of the parole or probation. They have no obligation to change their residence without the permission of the relevant probation office director. Individuals of the latter group are free to go anywhere they feel like going. Non-supervisees are known to stay in the halfway house for six months after release. The period can still be extended if necessary for additional six months (Bussert, Golderger and Price, 2006).
Treatments of different nature are offered in a halfway house. Each house bears its on way of practice in offering the various treatments as required by the needs of its residents. The social Skills Training (SST) and Substance Abuse Programme, for example, are the popular kinds of treatments offered in most of the American halfway houses. These two kinds of treatment address the major needs of the criminal residents of the facilities. The two biggest needs are those of interactive skills and substance addiction. Interactive skills include the tactics of finding a job and retaining it while substance addiction involves alcohol addiction. Some of the halfway houses go to an extent of inviting external speakers, supervisors of facilitators to take part in some of these treatment interventions. A variety of other programmes also exist in these facilities. Some of the houses give some kind of financial diary to monitor the way the handle their finances; others provide health education, hygiene education while others provide collage therapy (Bussert, Golderger and Price, 2006).
Halfway houses are generally overlooked as facilities that are an important part of the safety of the public. They serve to offer crime prevention efforts and it is also hard of members of the public to describe the activities that take place in their various communities. This paper will stress on the fact that, halfway houses are a requirement in presenting a transitional environment for individuals initially involved in criminal offenses, have finished their sentence term and are ready to join the rest of the community as well as ensuring public safety (Byrne and Taxman, 2005).
Dramatic growth in the number of inmates has brought forth a large increase in the number of individuals legally entitled to receive various services. This dramatic growth has also created changes in the characteristics of inmate population that are of relevance to the programming decisions. Emphasis on the safety of the public point out that the scarce program resources are concentrated on a certain group of offenders. Such are those inmates that present a threat to the society outside prison and posses treatable crime related problems. This has led to a wide variety of initiatives. The most notable initiatives have been the evaluation of program effectiveness and privatization of some of the correctional activities. Programs have also been developed and their strategies implemented towards addressing the ways of holding offenders such that future crimes are prevented. This specifically, after the detainee is released form detention (Bussert, Golderger and Price, 2006).
The past decade has seen live debates covering the importance of halfway houses as a measure of controlling crime cases in America. These debates have focused their purposes on investigating and assessing the effectiveness of these facilities. Debates on the effectiveness have been largely related to the intended impact of a criminal punishment, the necessity of improving the safety of the public and reduction of future crimes and lastly the requirements of the states and localities in ensuring cost-efficient correctional programs. Many of these debates bring out several points inclined to the positive side of these facilities as a component of American correctional agencies (Latessa and Lowenkamp, 2006).
Regarding punishment, most individuals think that halfway houses are “less punitive” as compared to prison or jail. Research tends to prove these groups of persons by revealing that most offenders view halfway houses as very stringent and more punitive since they require changed behaviors. Some of the criminological debates have diverted their focus to determining whether involvement of halfway houses in correcting offenders is effective. The findings in many of the researches prove the effectiveness of such facilities as potential “intermediate punishment”. Offenders make public preparations, resolve the conflicts with other victim, and undertake public services and stay connected to their communities without the isolation of punishment based in prison (Bussert, Golderger and Price, 2006).
Halfway houses shorten prison terms and also help to alleviate pressure on crowded jails and prisons belonging to states and various localities. This transitional programming can also be followed by a home detention period and the offender is carefully monitored for compliance (Bussert, Golderger and Price, 2006).
Most evaluations of impact of halfway houses to the rehabilitation of the offenders focus on program components regarding their relationship with recidivism. The Massachusetts Furlough and Pre-release Program evaluation of over 15 years demonstrated that returns to custody were reduced. This was deduced from a study of 13,000 cases of placements of persons who were returning from prison. Recent research findings underscore the existence of benefits for a certain group of offenders rated high or medium risk based on the risk predictive screening. A large case study was once conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons on the offenders released through halfway houses in the United States of America. The findings of this study revealed that the residential as well as the employment components of halfway houses were related to the improvement in recidivism (Latessa and Lowenkamp, 2006).
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Many of the halfway houses share information on case management with their referral and oversight agencies. Ways of attaining client health care and behavioral attention have been developed. This has been done with much consideration towards respecting confidentiality if the clients and the needs of the oversight agency. Integrated case management systems and electronic networking has had several advantages in this institutional based correction facility. This is because; the transfer of information is accurate and more efficient between the programs serving halfway house clients and the agencies (Byrne and Taxman, 2005).
Researches on impact of halfway houses have, over a along time have proved that, halfway houses have no negative impact towards crime. They have always pointed out that they are of advantage to the neighborhood safety incase a person that was under detention is released back to the community (Byrne and Taxman, 2005).
Halfway houses are known to be developed in the response to a need for stable housing for persons involved in the criminal justice systems. Criminal justice professionals have also deduced that there is need for certain services more than stable housing. These services are aimed at reducing criminal behaviors in future. Agencies collaborate to come up with a “target group” of offenders. These group can be screened and identified incase they have contact with other criminal justice agencies and police. Criminal justice agencies have developed a screening process used in the selection of persons who are more likely to benefit from a halfway house situation. More often, they examine histories of repeated crimes related to alcohol or drug. This is an indication of the need to stay in a more structured living situation. Focus on the mental needs of an offender, special assistance in the cognitive skills and addressing the victim`s impact are also among the criteria for isolating offenders for placement in halfway house facilities. Courts consider such cases as where there is need to garnish wages in order to pay fees, fines, restitution and child support. Halfway programs act as a funnel of the payments earnings belonging to the offender and advisors to help him or her stabilize financially at the end of their supervision period (Latessa and Lowenkamp, 2006).
In conclusion, several trends have been seen to affect the correction systems in the United States of America. The unprecedented growth in the populations of inmates owe to changes in police practices and sentencing practices. The society has become of much concern with regard to the type of inmates released from prison or jail to join the other members of the community. The dark side of the offenders poses worrying situations about possible future harms. Halfway houses are facilities of great importance in ensuring the safety of the public. It is also important to remember that they are of positive impact to the offender’s life after finishing the sentence term. They are able to go through at transitional stage through which they experience a different life from that in prison in preparation for the real life in the world outside jail or prison (Byrne and Taxman, 2005).
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