Pa. to offer halfway houses incentives for cutting recidivism rate

    More than 60 percent of ex-offenders in Pennsylvania re-enter the criminal justice system within three years.

    Following a study showing poor performance by the state’s halfway houses, Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections will start paying contractors based on the numbers of graduates who are rearrested or incarcerated.

    Bret Bucklen, a researcher with the Department of Corrections, says a thorough review confirmed earlier reports that Pennsylvania’s expensive network of halfway houses was not having a significant impact on recidivism.

    In fact, inmates who go through halfway houses before their release are slightly more likely to commit another crime than prisoners released to the street.

    “We still believe in the potential of the centers, in theory, to help with the re-entry, help with their planning and getting a job and all the things they need to do to transition home,” Bucklen said.

    A new approach

    Starting this summer, when the contracts to run its facilities are rebid, the state will add financial incentives for reducing the recidivism rate.

    “We have laid out the goal and we have the confidence that they will be able to focus on that goal because their contracts and their payments are tied to that,” Bucklen said.

    Pennsylvania also runs about a dozen centers itself.

    Bucklen says they will be looking for other incentives to help those programs succeed.

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