Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Great Series of Article by the New York Times Regarding Halfway Houses

The New York Times has an excellent series of articles discussing halfway houses in New Jersey. Below is a portion of one of the stories in the series.

After decades of tough criminal justice policies, states have been grappling with crowded prisons that are straining budgets. In response to those pressures, New Jersey has become a leader in a national movement to save money by diverting inmates to a new kind of privately run halfway house.  
At the heart of the system is a company with deep connections to politicians of both parties, most notably Gov. Chris Christie.  
Many of these halfway houses are as big as prisons, with several hundred beds, and bear little resemblance to the neighborhood halfway houses of the past, where small groups of low-level offenders were sent to straighten up.  
New Jersey officials have called these large facilities an innovative example of privatization and have promoted the approach all the way to the Obama White House.  
Yet with little oversight, the state’s halfway houses have mutated into a shadow corrections network, where drugs, gang activity and violence, including sexual assaults, often go unchecked, according to a 10-month investigation by The New York Times.  
Perhaps the most unsettling sign of the chaos within is inmates’ ease in getting out.  
Since 2005, roughly 5,100 inmates have escaped from the state’s privately run halfway houses, including at least 1,300 in the 29 months since Governor Christie took office, according to an analysis by The Times.  
Some inmates left through the back, side or emergency doors of halfway houses, or through smoking areas, state records show. Others placed dummies in their beds as decoys, or fled while being returned to prison for violating halfway houses’ rules. Many had permission to go on work-release programs but then did not return.  
While these halfway houses often resemble traditional correctional institutions, they have much less security. There are no correction officers, and workers are not allowed to restrain inmates who try to leave or to locate those who do not come back from work release, the most common form of escape. The halfway houses’ only recourse is to alert the authorities.  
And so the inmates flee in a steady stream: 46 last September, 39 in October, 40 in November, 38 in December, state records show.

Read the series here.

A Plea Deal Requiring Solitary Confinement in a SuperMax

The New York Times has a fascinating article about a plea deal that included a requirement that the defendant serve his time in solitary confinement.
The plea bargaining was long and difficult. The defendant, Peter Rollock, the leader of a Bronx narcotics gang, had been charged in seven killings.  
Federal prosecutors wanted the death penalty; any plea deal would have to include a mandatory life sentence.  
But prosecutors had another demand: because Mr. Rollock, then 25, had been accused of ordering some of the killings from jail, he would be placed in solitary confinement and barred from communicating with virtually all outsiders.  
Pistol Pete, as Mr. Rollock was known, agreed to the deal, and in late 2000, he was sent to the federal Supermax prison, as the Administrative Maximum, or ADX, facility in Florence, Colo., is known, and where some of the nation’s most infamous criminals are housed. With that, he might have retreated from public view forever. But Mr. Rollock, now 37, has not retreated.  
In his nearly 12 years in isolation at the Supermax, he has maintained a spotless record, his lawyers say. He has spent countless hours taking adult education courses through a closed-circuit television in his cell. He has even written a novel, “Trigga,” described by his lawyers as a cautionary tale for young gangsters. His family self-published the book; it is available on Web sites like Amazon.com.  
Still, Mr. Rollock’s behavior has not led to the most important change he seeks: relaxing the harsh conditions of his confinement and allowing him to enter the prison’s general population.
Read the entire article here.