As reported by the Star-Ledger, New Jersey State Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan had the audacity to tell members of the state Senate Budget Committee today he has no major concerns about how halfway houses are run in New Jersey. “I think our program is working,” he said.
However, he stated he has not yet completed a report on the facilities mandated by the legislature. So how does he even know if the program is working? He does not, but he is certainly trying to defend his boss Gov. Christie who has supported the New Jersey halfway houses and shown little interest in reforming them. Christie has been particularly unconcerned about the largest and most egregious provider Community Education Centers, whose Senior Vice President until recently was Bill Palatucci, a friend and close advisor of the governor.
Other states have adopted performance incentive funding programs as explained in a report by Vera Institute of Justice. This approach is based on the idea that that if a provider returns fewer offenders to prison, the state incurs fewer costs, and some portion of the state savings should be shared with the provider. It uses measures like employment and education while incorporating “best practices” to achieve better outcomes.
The horrors of our halfway houses were brought into a sharp focus in a New York Times series UNLOCKED in June 2012. Today the Commissioner responded, We have very little violence in our halfway houses, calling the violence depicted in the New York Times series “anecdotal.” What the Commissioner should be seeking is better outcomes, not sticking his head in the sand.