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Practice Profile

Halfway Houses

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Halfway houses are community-based correctional programs that use community supervision and intermediate sanctions. While there is no singular definition of a halfway house, it usually refers to temporary housing, provided in a community-based residential facility, which uses around-the-clock supervision and offers services to assist with the transition from incarceration to the community (Wong et al. 2018). The goal of halfway houses is to provide services and basic necessities to former offenders returning from incarceration, to improve the likelihood of their successful reintegration and promote community safety.

Practice Components
A number of characteristics are common to most halfway houses, including 1) constant supervision and daily contact between staff and returning offenders; 2) a requirement for participants to abide by rules (such as curfews and drug testing); and 3) access to employment, education, life skills training, and additional services as needed (such as substance use treatment and counseling). However, the degree to which these services are provided (i.e., frequency, duration, and intensity) vary substantially among halfway house programs.

Halfway houses also differ based on the timepoint in the criminal justice system process. A halfway house can be characterized as "halfway in" or "front end" when it is used as an alternative to incarceration, to divert offenders from jail or prison. Alternatively, a halfway house can be characterized as "halfway out" or "back end" when it is used to aid in the process of offender reintegration from incarceration into the community (Caputo 2004).

Practice Theory
Halfway houses seek to offset criminogenic risk factors for recidivism, including unemployment, homelessness, and substance and illicit drug use, by facilitating exposure to protective factors such as networks of social support, education, employment, stable housing, and involvement in self-improvement programs (Latessa 1991). Such programs are intended to assist with successful transition back into the community and also create the potential for lasting social bonds.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Aggregating the results of nine independent tests of halfway house programs, Wong and colleagues (2018) found an overall statistically significant mean effect size of 0.236. This suggests that offenders who transitioned back into the community via halfway houses are significantly less likely to recidivate, compared with offenders released on standard parole or released from incarceration with services/supervision.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11990 - 2015933333

Meta-Analysis 1
Wong and colleagues (2018) conducted a meta-analysis on the impact of halfway houses on criminal recidivism. To be included in the meta-analysis, the halfway house program needed to be primarily transitional (supportive/reintegrative), rather than primarily intervention or treatment oriented. To isolate the effects of the halfway house on offender recidivism, only studies where the halfway house served as the primary sentence/intervention were included. Studies selected for inclusion were also restricted to those that 1) demonstrated at least a moderately rigorous design based on the Maryland Scale of Scientific Methods (Sherman et al. 1998), 2) had a comparison group that was deemed appropriate with respect to important demographic variables, 3) had a treatment group sample size of at least 20 participants, and 4) examined a quantitatively measurable criminogenic outcome. Studies that targeted juvenile offenders and very specific populations of offenders (i.e., sex offenders), and were published prior to 1990 were excluded from the analysis.

The original search yielded 5,890 unique references. Following screening and mapping by two independent reviewers, nine studies were eligible for review. These nine studies included 16,126 treatment group and 17,207 control group participants from five quasi-experimental designs with a strongly matched comparison group and four quasi-experimental designs with a weakly matched comparison group. In terms of participant race and ethnicity, five of the studies had a mixed-group sample, three studies used a sample that was predominantly minority, and one study did not report race/ethnicity. The authors did not report any other demographic characteristics (i.e., gender or age). All included studies were published between 1990 and 2015. One study was conducted in Iceland, and all others were conducted in the United States. Four studies were found in peer-reviewed journals, four were technical reports, and one was a master’s thesis. All studies targeted parolees and measured recidivism in one of the following ways: arrest, conviction, incarceration, new offense (undefined), or a combination of these outcomes.

Odds ratios were used as the effect size metric (Lipsey and Wilson 2001). The study authors calculated an overall pooled mean effect size for all studies using both fixed effects and random effects models. In addition, they conducted subgroup analyses to explore the potential sources of variability in the set of pooled studies.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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Wong and colleagues (2018) conducted additional tests in the meta-analysis (called moderator analysis) to see whether five moderator variables impacted the mean effect size and improved the recidivism outcome. Using a fixed effects model, they examined the mean effect sizes for 1) the publication year (1990 to 2009 versus 2010 to 2017), 2) publication type (peer reviewed versus not peer reviewed), 3) research design rigor (moderately strong versus moderate), 4) sample size (fewer than 1,000 offenders versus greater than 1,000 offenders), and 5) sample’s predominant ethnicity (white/mixed versus primarily minority). Analysis suggested a statistically significant between groups’ heterogeneity for all five of the moderator variables, which means that the effect size produced by these groups differed significantly from one another and were important factors in predicting the magnitude of the halfway house treatment effect on recidivism. Specifically, positive program effects on recidivism were associated with programs having the following characteristics: 1) the study publication date was between 1990 and2009, 2) the study was not peer reviewed, 3) the research design was either moderately strong or moderate, 4) the sample size was either fewer or more than 1,000, and 5) the sample’s predominant ethnicity was white/mixed. Negative program effects on recidivism were associated with programs that were published between 2010 and 2015, were peer- reviewed studies, and the study sample ethnicity was predominantly minority. Given the substantial heterogeneity shown among the nine halfway house program evaluations included in this meta-analysis, the authors also compared subgroups of effects sizes for the recidivism outcomes (arrest, conviction, and incarceration). They found a statistically significant treatment impact for arrest and incarceration, but not for conviction.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Wong, Jennifer S., Jessica Bouchard, Kelsey Gushue, and Chelsey Lee. 2018. “Halfway Out: An Examination of the Effects of Halfway Houses on Criminal Recidivism.” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 63(7):1–20.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Caputo, Gail A. 2004. Intermediate Sanctions in Corrections. No. 4. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.

Latessa, Edward J., and Lawrence F. Travis III. 1991. "Halfway House or Probation: A Comparison of Alternative Dispositions." Journal of Crime and Justice 14(1):53–75.

Lipsey, Mark W., and David B. Wilson. 2001. Practical Meta-Analysis. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Sherman, Lawrence W., Denise C. Gottfredson, Doris L. MacKenzie, John Eck, Peter Reuter, and Shawn D. Bushway. 1998. Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising. Research in Brief. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

New Jersey Halfway Back Program Promising - One study
This program serves an alternative to incarceration for technical parole violators or as a special condition of parole on release from prison. The program, which is run at secure residential facilities, provides parolees with an environment that is halfway between prison and ordinary parole release. The program is rated Promising. Program parolees showed statistically significant reductions in rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration, compared with the comparison group.

Community-based Residential Programs (Ohio) Promising - One study
The programs include halfway houses and community-based correctional facilities in Ohio. The goal of the community-based correctional programs is to reduce recidivism by offering a wide range of programming related to chemical dependency, education, employment, and family relationships. The program is rated Promising. Offenders in community-based residential programs were less likely to recidivate (measured by new arrests and re-incarcerations) than those not in the programs.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 18+

Race/Ethnicity: Other, White

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Settings: Residential (group home, shelter care, nonsecure)

Practice Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Probation/Parole Services

Unit of Analysis: Persons

Jennifer Wong
Associate Professor
School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1s6
Phone: 778.782.8148