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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie loves him some privatized prisonlike halfway houses, despite their rampant abuses and escapes and a lack of data showing that they help prisoners rehabilitate or transition to non-penal life. In fact, before he was governor, Christie spent time as a lobbyist for the company that gets nearly 70 percent of New Jersey's halfway house spending. He's such a committed fan that stories like this are unlikely to dent his support for the privatized halfway houses:
As Hurricane Sandy raged outside, dozens of male inmates burst into Logan Hall’s corridors. They threatened female inmates, tore apart furniture and ripped signs inscribed with inspirational sayings from the walls, witnesses said.
At least 15 inmates escaped from the halfway house, including some who had served time for aggravated assault, weapons possession and armed robbery.
All but one have been recaptured; Christie's administration has yet to acknowledge that anything even happened. But this is just the latest in a long string of disturbing incidents coming out of the fiercely Christie-supported halfway houses run by Community Education Centers, which offers the "counselors" who staff its facilities little training and pays them around $11 an hour. That type of management created the conditions for the events during Sandy, in which "The workers on duty, many of whom were poorly paid, did not know how to operate the backup generator, witnesses said. They did not even have flashlights."
The union that represents corrections officers in the state—the corrections officers employed in government-run facilities, that is—has sued to have the largest Community Education halfway house shut down, alleging, among other things, that the company is:
[...] skirting a state law that allows only nonprofit groups to contract for halfway house services.
The company has long relied on its Education and Health affiliate to obtain its public contracts. The nonprofit organization then hires Community Education to run the halfway houses, passing along virtually the entire value of the contract.
The state attorney general signed off on the arrangement in the 1990s, when it was still new, but the union maintains that the relationship is improper. The suit contends Education and Health Centers is "a sham nonprofit corporation engaged solely in activities designed to generate income for" Community Education.
The union is, of course, also concerned with New Jersey's trend of relying on Community Education's non-union workers paid $11 an hour. Though the idea of halfway houses is for low-risk offenders or parolees to get counseling and support, the New Jersey system creates incentives for the state to save money by moving more and more prisoners, including violent ones, into the halfway houses.
Christie's response thus far has been to ignore problems until the New York Times starts asking questions, then announce some fines, then go on as before.