Escapes Still A Problem At NJ Halfway Houses

Alfred Jones, seen here in a NJ Dept. of Corrections photo, escaped from Tully House in Newark on Sunday.STATE – Alfred Jones escaped from custody while he was being transported from Tully House in Newark to East Jersey State Prison in Rahway on Sunday.

Tully House is a Residential Community Release Program facility, operated by Community Education Centers, that is contracted to provide intensive supervision and treatment services, coupled with work release, vocational, educational, and college education referral enrollment services.

In June, The New York Times published a series of articles examining New Jersey halfway houses. According to an analysis by the paper, at least 1,300 inmates had escaped from the privately-operated facilities in the first 29 months of Gov. Chris Christie’s term in office.

Christie has praised the work of Community Education Centers since his days as a United States attorney for New Jersey and was registered as a lobbyist for the company when he was a private attorney. His former law partner and current political advisor William Palatucci is a senior vice president at the company.

New Jersey spends about $65 million per year on privately-operated halfway houses.

In 2011, the Office of the State Comptroller issued a report concluding that the New Jersey Department of Corrections failed to adequately monitor the state-funded halfway houses. According to the report, the state didn’t conduct required on-site monitoring visits and or collect penalty fees that could have been charged for at least six escapes.

Following the Times articles, the governor’s office issued a statement saying that the administration had stepped up monitoring of halfway houses.

Yet earlier this month, Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would have required contracts with private halfway house operators to be reviewed by the Legislature’s auditor after their first year. Instead, he altered the terms to require an independent auditor to review the contracts – after they end.

“Such audits, conducted by skilled and professional independent auditors, will better reflect the fiscal realities of the full term of the contracts,” Christie said in his veto message.


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