Lawmaker Seeks Hearing on State’s Halfway Houses

The New York Times recently ran a three-part series looking into New Jersey’s halfway house system, which claimed security is lax, gang activity is rampant and violence among inmates is common. The series has raised questions and concerns among many, including lawmakers. Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31), chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee, has requested a hearing on the issue to gather more information. He told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desiree Taylor that he wants to find out why escapes are happening and if there needs to be changes in operations.

Mainor said he was very surprised by the articles. “We definitely want a hearing and we want to concentrate on finding out why there are so many escapes going on, along with the recidivism, along with the crime that’s being committed by people that are escaping,” he said.

While some have said the more than 5,000 escapes from halfway houses include parolees, Mainor said, “I believe that one escape is an issue of concern and what we want to do is find out why something like this is happening.”

Use of halfway houses in New Jersey has been tied to monetary savings. It costs far less to use halfway houses than to incarcerate offenders in jails. But Mainor said, “When you’re looking at public safety, money cannot be brought into this.”

Investigating the process is important, according to Mainor. “Based on information I’ve received, it seems that the security is very lax and I believe something like that should not be happening in the halfway houses,” he said. “I think what we need to do is start looking at how we are determining who is going into the halfway houses.”

Critics of the articles have said The New York Times has a political agenda and blew the issue out of proportion. Earlier this week, Bill Palatucci, a Senior VP of Community Education Centers, told NJ Today that The New York Times has an agenda “to hurt New Jersey and to hurt this governor.”

But Mainor said he believes the findings should be further investigated.

“These are real concerns,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we investigate it a little further to make sure that they [halfway houses] have met the criteria and if not, then we need to move forward to make the recommendations to correct any problems that they’re having.”

Mainor said he would support a plan from the Senate Democrats to require quarterly reports on the operations of halfway houses.

Related: VP of Work Release Centers Calls New York Times’ Article Part of Anti-Christie Agenda