National Institute of Justice National Institute of Justice. Research. Development. Evaluation. Office of Justice Programs
Home  |  Help  |  Contact Us  |  Site Map   |  Glossary
Reliable Research. Real Results.
Additional Resources:

Program Profile: New Jersey Halfway Back Program

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 13, 2011

Program Summary

A highly structured program that serves as an alternative to incarceration for technical parole violators or as a special condition of parole release. Halfway Back programs provide parolees with an environment that is halfway between prison and parole release. The program is rated Promising. Participants lasted considerably longer to a rearrest and had the lowest rate of reincarceration compared to the other groups (day reporting centers, parolees with no community programming and max-outs).

Program Description

Program Goals, Target Population

Halfway Back (HWB) is a highly structured program that serves as an alternative to incarceration for technical parole violators or as a special condition of parole on release from prison in New Jersey. HWB programs are run at nine different secure residential facilities in the State and provide parolees with an environment that is halfway between prison and ordinary parole release. The program is run by the New Jersey State Parole Board (NJSPB) and targets technical parole violators who have failed to meet supervision conditions, relapsed, or demonstrated some other form of poor behavior (excluding new criminal charges). HWB participants spend several months at a residential facility, receiving necessary treatment services, and are released back to their communities to finish the remainder of their sentence under parole supervision once they complete the program.


Program Theory

During the 1980s and 1990s, New Jersey, like many other States, saw a dramatic rise in its State prison population. At the same time, the number of parole revocations that resulted in a return to prison for parolees also greatly increased. This significant growth of admissions to prison, especially the admission of technical parole violators, placed enormous pressure on the State correctional budget. In 2001, the NJSPB responded to this issue by developing a new approach to manage parole violators, especially technical violators, emphasizing the use of intermediate sanctions and evidence-based practices.


Intermediate sanctions provide an alternative for technical parole violators, who have violated the conditions of their parole but have not committed a new felony offense. One response to this population has been to create programs that combine therapeutic elements with confinement. Part of the new approach taken by the NJSPB involved the start of the HWB program for technical parole violators. The program is designed to keep technical parole violators out of incarceration—thereby not contributing to the prison population—while providing appropriate treatment services that will reduce the chances of recidivism or parole violation.


Program Eligibility

Eligibility to participate in the HWB program is determined by parole officers. Parole officers rely on a matrix of graduated sanctions to match the technical parole violator to the appropriate sanction, on the basis of the parolee’s need, resource constraints, and program availability. Parolees are placed in the program if participation in HWB will meet their needs, if the technical violation is proportionate, and if there is availability in the program.


Program Components

The program-review committee, which includes treatment and parole staff, determines the length of stay as well as program conditions—that is, lockdown versus work release—for each participant. HWB participants typically remain in the program for 90–180 days. When parolees first enter the program, they undergo an orientation and assessment process that identifies and determines appropriate services to address their individual needs.


The HWB program generally provides services such as intensive substance abuse programming; relapse prevention; employment preparation, placement, and vocational training; financial management skills; anger management techniques; mental health services; gang deprogramming; and family restoration.

Evaluation Outcomes

top border

Study 1


Ostermann (2009) found that 65 percent of the total sample were rearrested, 45 percent were reconvicted, and 32 percent were reincarcerated. Chi-square tests revealed significant differences for all measures of recidivism among all four groups.



Fifty-nine percent of Halfway Back (HWB) program participants were rearrested following release from prison, compared with 58 percent of parolees released to a Day Reporting Center (DRC), 62 percent of parolees who did not participate in a community program, and 79 percent of parolees who maxed out their prison sentence and received no community supervision.


Survival tests indicated that parolees who maxed out their sentence were the soonest to be rearrested; they were arrested for a new crime on average 315.21 days after their 2004 release. Parolees who received no community programming were rearrested on average 347.23 days after release. DRC participants lasted longer, with an average time to rearrest of 360.53 days, and HWB participants lasted considerably longer with an average of 455.81 days to rearrest.


The multivariate analyses, which controlled for demographics and criminal history, revealed that HWB program participants were 64 percent less likely to be rearrested than the max-out group. Parolees who did not participate in community programs were about 58 percent less likely to reoffend compared with the max-out group, and DRC participants were 68 percent less likely to be rearrested than the max-out group.


The final analysis using a Cox-proportional hazards test revealed that only the HWB program obtained statistically significant odds ratios, showing that HWB participants were roughly 38 percent more likely to stay arrest-free than the max-out group, when controlling for all predictor variables.



Fifty-nine percent of HWB participants were reconvicted for one of their charges. Participants in DRCs had the lowest reconviction rates; 32 percent were reconvicted for one of their charges. Sixty-two percent of parolees who did not participate in a community program were reconvicted, and 61 percent of parolees who maxed out their sentence were reconvicted. Multivariate analysis showed that HWB program participants were 68 percent less likely to be reconvicted than the max-out group, while DRC participants were 73 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reconvicted.



HWB participants had the lowest rate of reincarceration (17 percent), compared with 20 percent of DRC participants, 39 percent of parolees with no community programming, and 46 percent of max-outs.


Multivariate analysis of the reincarceration data showed similar significant results to the reconviction outcomes. The HWB program participants were 76 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reincarcerated. The DRC participants were about 73 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reincarcerated.

bottom border

Evaluation Methodology

top border

Study 1

Ostermann (2009) examined the ways in which two community programs in New Jersey affected the recidivism rates of parolees reentering the community. The two programs were Day Reporting Centers (DRCs) and the Halfway Back (HWB) program. Three measurements for recidivism were used: rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration (except for parole violations). Rearrest was measured if study participants were arrested for a new crime after their release date. Reconviction was counted if participants were found to be guilty of one of their charges. Reincarceration was measured if participants served a custodial term in either prison or jail after their release. Time spent in the community was calculated by finding the difference in days between the study participant’s date of release from prison and the date of data collection (May 15, 2007). This allowed for a 3-year follow-up period. Data was gathered from multiple sources including the New Jersey State Parole Board, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, and the New Jersey State Police. Recidivism was determined by analyzing the study participant’s criminal case history and Interstate Identification Index.


The study sample included all individuals released from New Jersey Department of Corrections in 2004. A total sample of 714 participants made up four groups:


·         Offenders who maxed out their prison sentence and did not receive any community supervision following release from prison (n= 200)

·         Offenders who were paroled but did not participate in any community programs (n= 198)

·         Offenders who were paroled to a DRC on release (n= 135)

·         Offenders who were paroled to a HWB program on release (n= 181)


Control variables used were age, gender, race, number of previous arrests, and type of crime for which they were incarcerated and then released in 2004. The sample's average age was 35 years old and was 93 percent male, 67 percent African American, 17 percent white, and 16 percent Hispanic. Fifty-three percent of study participants were incarcerated for drug related offenses, 26 percent for property offenses, and 21 percent for violent offenses. No significant differences were found among groups.


The study used Chi-square tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA) analyses for variance to establish differences among the groups in relation to control variables. Sequential logistic regression was used to examine the impact of program membership on recidivism outcomes, including control variables. Further analyses were run by program types. Kaplan–Meier survival analyses were conducted to measure the differences in time to rearrest, with Cox-proportional hazards tests used to predict recidivism with control variables.

bottom border


top border
A cost analysis by White and colleagues (2010) compared the costs of participating in the Halfway Back (HWB) program with the costs of returning to prison in New Jersey. The comparison group included 392 technical parole violators who returned to prison to 227 HWB program participants. The comparison group spent a total of 73,338 days in State prison as a result of technical parole violations. The number of days incarcerated was multiplied by the cost per day for a State prison stay ($107 per prisoner), totaling $7.85 million. To control for differences in sample size, the cost was standardized as a rate per 100 individuals by dividing the total amount by the number of comparison group members and then multiplying by 100. This resulted in a cost of more than $2 million for every 100 comparison group members. HWB participants spent 23,103 days in the program. This was multiplied by the daily costs of the program ($68 per participant), which totaled about $1.57 million. At the standardized rate, the program costs $692,072 for every 100 HWB participants. By sending technical parole violators to the HWB program instead of returning them to prison, the State of New Jersey generates a potential savings of about $1.31 million for every 100 program participants. This analysis does not take into account marginal costs, and arguably the savings are generated only if the prison beds that are freed up by HWB participants remain unused or prison units are closed as a result.
bottom border

Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1

Ostermann, Michael. 2009. “An Analysis of New Jersey’s Day Reporting Center and Halfway Back Programs: Embracing the Rehabilitative Ideal Through Evidence Based Practices.” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 48(2):139–53.

bottom border

Additional References

top border
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

White, Michael D., Jeff Mellow, Kristin Englander, and Marc Ruffinengo. “Halfway Back: An Alternative to Revocation for Technical Parole Violators.” Criminal Justice Policy Review (published online Sept. 7, 2010).
bottom border

Related Practices

top border
Following are practices that are related to this program:

Noncustodial Employment Programs for Ex-Offenders
This practice involves job training and career development for offenders with a recent criminal record in order to increase employment and reduce recidivism. These programs take place outside of the traditional custodial correctional setting, after offenders are released. The practice is rated No Effects in reducing criminal behavior for participants in noncustodial employment training programs compared with those who did not participate.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
bottom border

Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Residential (group home, shelter care, nonsecure), Other Community Setting

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Aftercare/Reentry, Alternatives to Incarceration, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Day/Evening Treatment, Diversion, Family Therapy, Gang Prevention/Intervention, Probation/Parole Services, Residential Treatment Center, Vocational/Job Training, Motivational Interviewing

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders, High Risk Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: National Reentry Resource Center

Program Developer:
David Wolfsgruber
Asst. Director
NJSPB Community Programs Division
P.O. Box 862
Trenton NJ 08625
Phone: 609.777.0181

Program Director:
Lenny Ward
NJSPB Community Programs Division
P.O. Box 862
Trenton NJ 08625
Phone: 609.633.7703

Michael Osterman
Evidence Based Institute, School of Criminal Justice,
123 Washington Street
Newark NJ 07102

Training and TA Provider:
Todd Clear
School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
123 Washington Street
Newark NJ 07102