WASHINGTON—In a new step to further the Justice Department’s efforts towards enhancing reentry among formerly incarcerated individuals, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will impose new requirements on federal halfway houses that help inmates transition back into society. Under the proposed new requirements, these halfway houses will have to provide a specialized form of treatment to prisoners, including those with mental health and substance abuse issues. For the first time, halfway houses will also have to provide greater assistance to inmates who are pursuing job opportunities, such as permitting cell phones to be used by inmates and providing funds for transportation. The new requirements also expand access to electronic monitoring equipment, such as GPS-equipped ankle bracelets, to allow more inmates to utilize home confinement as a reentry method.
Holder announced the changes in a video message posted on the Department’s website.
The BOP’s new policies have the potential to be far-reaching. To ease their transition, those exiting prison typically spend the last few months of their sentence in either a federal halfway house—known as a residential reentry center (RRC)—or under home confinement, or a combination of the two. These community-based programs provide much needed assistance to returning citizens in finding employment and housing, facilitating connections with service providers, reestablishing ties to family and friends, and more.
Last year alone, more than 30,000 federal inmates passed through a halfway house.
Among the most significant changes Holder announced is the requirement for standardized Cognitive Behavioral Programming (CBP) to be offered at all federal halfway houses. This treatment will address behavior that places formerly incarcerated individuals at higher risk of recidivism. As part of this treatment requirement, BOP is setting guidelines for instructor qualifications, class size and length, and training for all staff at the halfway houses.
Several other modifications are being made to the standard contracts that apply to federal halfway houses in order to provide greater support to returning citizens. Examples include requiring halfway houses to provide public transportation vouchers or transportation assistance to help residents secure employment, requiring all federal halfway houses to allow residents to have cell phones to facilitate communication with potential employers and family, and improving and expanding home confinement by increasing the use of GPS monitoring.
The proposed new requirements will be posted today on the Federal Business Opportunities website (www.fbo.gov). Interested parties will have a 30-day period to comment on the proposal. The BOP anticipates implementing the new requirements beginning with contracts expiring in 2014.
The complete text of the Attorney General’s video message is below:
“Today, America’s federal prison population is experiencing a period of significant negative growth, with nearly 4,000 fewer inmates behind bars than at the end of the last fiscal year. This is the first major reduction in the federal prison population in three decades.
“Thanks to a variety of effective, evidence-based reentry programs and services, we’re doing more than ever to ensure that the tens of thousands of federal inmates who return to their communities each year have access to the substance abuse treatment, job training, affordable housing, parenting education, and other resources that so many need to break the cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration.
“Through innovative strategies like the Justice Department’s ‘Smart on Crime’ initiative, we’re working hard to tear down unnecessary barriers to opportunity and independence – while building up programs that enable former prisoners to reintegrate into their communities. And nowhere is this work stronger than at the Federal Bureau of Prisons – where groundbreaking efforts are underway to make our criminal justice expenditures both smarter and more productive.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Justice Department – through the Bureau of Prisons – is taking a critical step forward that will enable us to build on this important work – and improve the way reentry programming is implemented from coast to coast.
“For the first time, we will require all 200-plus halfway houses in the federal system to offer standardized treatment to prisoners with mental health and substance abuse issues. This treatment will be intensive, and must follow rigorous standards set forth by the Bureau of Prisons. Once fully implemented, these services will be available to every single one of the approximately 30,000 inmates who are released through halfway houses each year. This will ensure consistency and continuity of care between federal prisons and community-based facilities. And it will enhance the programs that help prisoners overcome their past struggles, get on the right path, and stay out of our criminal justice system.
“These important changes and others are codified in BOP’s published requirements for halfway houses – which will be posted online this week. Over the next 30 days, those who operate halfway houses will have the opportunity to provide feedback on these newly proposed requirements. And I encourage members of the public to visit this site, learn about these tools, and make your voices heard as well – so we can all take an active part in constructing the more effective, more efficient, and more just system that everyone in this country deserves.”
The full video is available at http://www.justice.gov/agwa.php.