It depends. After leaving prison, many justice-impacted people do not go straight home. Instead, they go to what the Bureau of Prisons calls residential reentry centers. You might know these facilities as halfway houses. While you will likely go to one after your release, it is unlikely that you will get to choose the halfway house you will go to.
What is a halfway house?
A “halfway house” is a facility that justice-impacted people are often placed in after release from prison. According to its website, the BOP contracts with these halfway houses “to provide assistance to inmates who are nearing release.”
Halfway houses have structured, supervised environments. They also help people with jobs, money, housing and other programs and services most people need assistance with after prison.
The BOP calls its own halfway houses “Residential Re-Entry Centers” (RRCs). They may also be called “Community Correctional Centers.” Most federal prisoners will spend some of their sentence in one. Many states operate halfway houses, too.
It is important to note that halfway houses are still a form of custody. You will still be under the authority of the government when you live in one. The concept of a halfway house is similar to parole. There will be specific rules to follow, and you must adhere to them. You can have violations in a halfway house, which could result in new charges.
How do they decide which halfway house to send me to?
There is not a specific law or rule that decides which halfway house the BOP will place you. But there are some common guidelines. Often, it is an issue of space and availability. Beyond that, decision makers will look at a number of factors before deciding where to put you.
- Resources. Staff will look at whether a facility can treat your needs. Some may offer better treatment programs, for example, than others.
- Record. Your criminal history will be a factor, too. Agencies typically like to group people with similar offenses together. So, if you were convicted of a drug crime, staff may place you with other people with a similar record.
- Court statements. The agency will take any statements from the court into consideration. For example, a judge may make positive comments about you during your case. That may land you in a halfway house with fewer restrictions.
- Location. Staff might also consider where your friends and family are located. Unless they consider them to be a danger to your rehabilitation, they can try to place you somewhere close to them.
What are some typical rules in a halfway house?
Halfway houses offer much more freedom than prisons do. But remember, you are still in custody when you are at a halfway house. That means there are still rules and restrictions you must follow. There are also punishments if you don’t.
- Work. In a halfway house, you will likely have work requirements. You will need to get a job and keep it.
- Treatment. You may be required to take part in drug or alcohol treatment.
- Curfews. Most halfway houses have strict hours on when you must be home. Being home late without an excuse will result in a violation.
- Chores. You will be expected to do regular household chores along with other residents.
- Nonviolence. Fighting with other residents is strictly off limits. You will face serious penalties for any violent acts.
A halfway house is still a form of incarceration. You will still be under government authority when you live there. You likely won’t get to choose where you are placed. Staff at the agency that has you in custody will decide where to place you. To do so, they will look at a few factors about you and the facility. Life in a halfway house is not as strict as prison, but you still have rules and responsiblities.