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.
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.
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.
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.