Post Date: January 8, 2017
**We’ll continue to update this page as we learn more about the halfway house closures and what is being done to remedy this re-entry crisis.**
The U.S. House Oversight Committee held a two-hour hearing in December during which its members had the opportunity to ask some tough questions of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) director Mark Inch and others regarding the recent closures of 16 federal halfway houses. We submitted written testimony. But if you just want the highlights, here they are:
Unfortunately, the Committee members asked very few questions about the halfway house closures and how they were affecting prisoners and their families. No one asked how reducing services to halfway house residents might reduce public safety. No one asked how the closures were forcing prisoners to serve months longer in prison, as opposed to going to community supervision, including home confinement.
On the couple of occasions when members of the Committee asked about halfway houses, Director Inch said that BOP closed these facilities for budget reasons and to increase “efficiency” in the prison system. This answer was not challenged. We hoped Director Inch would have been asked what type of research and evidence the BOP considered before drastically cutting the time and services people receive when they are trying to reenter their communities. We hoped someone would have asked him why these closures were done in such a way that prisoners and their families received almost no notice.
Successful reentry is challenging enough without BOP making it harder. And the holidays are difficult enough for families without BOP changing release dates in ways that cause needless heartache for parents and children.
Today was disappointing and frustrating. The families and prisoners who have been writing us did not get the answers they deserved. We at FAMM are going to fight harder to convince Congress and the BOP that people’s lives are at stake and that successful reentry is important for everyone.
So, what happens next? FAMM is going to meet with the members of Congress supporting prison and sentencing reform bills and help them understand how these halfway house closures are going to make those reforms difficult to implement. And we’re going to talk to our friends in Congress about fixing compassionate release once and for all.
We encourage you to keep sharing your halfway house stories with members of Congress. A quick phone call or email can help members of Congress understand that this problem is hurting families and must be solved. Sign this action and share your story.
PREVIOUSLY, IN HALFWAY HOUSE CLOSURES:
Some federal prisoners and their families have reached out to us over the past couple of months to let us know how changes in halfway houses were affecting them. For example, we heard that at least one halfway house in Ohio had been closed, which meant that prisoners slated to go there for reentry services needed to stay in prison a few extra months, go to another halfway house far from home, or both.
We decided to look into this issue further. In early October, we emailed more than 30,000 federal prisoners and asked them about their halfway house experiences. The responses have been disturbing. We have learned that this problem is not confined to Ohio, but is occurring in many parts of the country. The disruptions for some prisoners have been abrupt. One prisoner wrote to us, “I was due to be released to a halfway house next week and was notified today that my date has been changed to March 2018. My family was prepared for me to come home, and they will be devastated to hear that my date was changed one week from me going home.”
We said we would keep the pressure on and demand answers, and we have. National, state, and local media have looked to FAMM to explain what is happening and why the BOP’s move is such a bad mistake. Stories have appeared so far on NPR, in Reuters, and in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Members of Congress have heard from us and are now asking questions. Indeed, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter to the BOP asking them to explain the closures and its decision to reduce critical reentry services. If you responded to our call to contact your member of Congress to demand answers, thank you!
We know many families are frustrated and angry with the BOP’s decision. Many are confused about whether their incarcerated loved ones will be affected. We now have the list of cities impacted by the closures here.List of RRCs_For Release
For years, we have been telling policymakers that they were wasting taxpayer money by keeping so many low-level offenders in prison. Some of these policymakers have responded that public safety is too important to be measured in dollars and cents. Now, these same policymakers are using budget concerns to jeopardize the successful reentry of prisoners back into society. This is plain stupid, and we are going to fight it.
Please be aware, however, that the impact of the BOP’s move is not limited to these areas. Other halfway houses are not closing, but they are being told by the BOP to accept fewer residents.
We will continue to raise this issue with Congress and the Department of Justice to find out why the BOP is reducing the quality and capacity of halfway houses at a time when it should be expanding both. Your personal experiences have been vital in helping us explain the different ways prisoners and their families are being impacted. As always, thanks for sharing your experiences with us. (If your family is being affected by these closures and you have not yet called your member of Congress, we urge you to do so now.)
Please know that we will keep you up to date on any developments.
Kevin A. Ring
P.S. Did you catch our conversation on Twitter? We shared just a sample of the responses we received from federal prisoners. Check it out and help spread the word!