Tag Archives: life

Halfway Houses are halfway there: Part Two: Money

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This is my second blog about the halfway houses in Anchorage Alaska. Because I only have first hand knowledge of the Glenwood Center (GWC), ran by TJM Western, I will be focusing on the policies and procedures I know about.

What qualifies me?

I spent 14 months at the GWC and had countless conversations and many observations during that time. I will start out by saying the only reason an offender is there on furlough is to work. That is not an issue, believe me, 9.9 out of 10 of us want to get out of prison, where we are making anywhere from .35 to .65 an hour (some were paid $1 or more, but majority rules.) Going to a halfway house helped many save getting out of jail the necessary money for release, which is needed for obvious reasons.

But it isn’t that easy.

First things first. Being in compliance with furlough, which means following GWC policy.

Policy at GWC: You must have a job, working a minimum of 32 hours a week. If you do not have a job meeting the minimum requirements you are liable for an IR (incident report) and possibly a preliminary hearing.

What does that mean? An IR can cause residents to receive extra in-house duties, program demotions, and/or termination from the center. Easy fix, get a job washing dishes or working the drive through at a burger place.

That brings us to the funds request. You might say to yourself, “I won’t need money, they provide everything, right, so I will just bank my money!” Even if you didn’t ever need to take the bus, you still need to get submit one of these. You can get a write-up for not submitting a Resident Funds Request, because without doing so you are not paying for your court fines/restitution. Or, if required, child support. Also, you pay for your phone calls, .50 local, $1.50 for outside of the Anchorage area (the newer cell numbers would be this higher fee), laundry ($1.75 to wash and another $1.75 to dry) and your personal hygiene items as well.

Let’s say you gross $398.78, netting $307.00 from a pay check. $99.70 goes directly to GWC, while another $99.70 goes into a savings reserve you cannot touch until release. In order to pull out any funds to use, you must list your restitution on your funds request, whereas they figure the 20%. Another $79.75 gone. Well, you figure you still have $127 left, right. No, because that $99.70 is in savings, remember. You have $27. This happens each time you get paid, For this example I used my job at Denny’s. I got paid bi-weekly there. Needless to say I walked a lot. And I “threw in” with room mates to get my laundry done.

The short of it? They want their 25% before taxes. And yes, that includes any tips you may receive. Then 25% goes into forced savings, and 20% goes to any restitution an offender may have. Add that up, and 70% is gone before you can even think about pulling money out to do laundry or take the bus. Sure, you get that savings when you leave, but you don’t accrue any interest. You get what you put in.

You might be thinking, okay, interesting, but whats the point Amber?

Lets do the math. If am paying $99.70 twice a month (actually more because that was just from my check at minimum wage, my tips were turned in and divided up just like a check, but for the sake of this exercise we will keep it simple) that is $199 a month. There are about 70 residents at GWC, barring the new ones not working yet and a few short term confined misdemeanents. Even at minimum wage, GWC is getting approximately getting $13K a month (and that is a low estimate). Factor in what Alaska pays to house inmates there –  Alaska spends on average $44,000 a year per inmate  – and it makes me wonder, where is the money going and to what programs is it going to? Staff at GWC are paid $11.75 an hour.

The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission Justice Reinvestment Report – December 2015 summarizes the findings of the Criminal Justice Commission, as a part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. The Commission studied the criminal justice system in three areas – pretrial detention, post-conviction imprisonment, and community corrections. Many have heard about this report, but not until I started looking at how much money GWC was being paid to house residents did I stumble upon the actual report.

Recommendation 18: Improve treatment offerings in CRCs and focus use of CRC resources on high-need offenders. CRCs, otherwise known as halfway houses, have the potential to effectively support offenders who are transitioning back to the community from prison. However, the Commission found that CRCs are likely mixing low and high risk offenders, which research has shown can lead to increased recidivism for low risk offenders. Additionally, the Commission found that CRCs would be more effective at reducing recidivism if the facilities offered treatment for offenders in addition to supervision.

Specific Action Recommended: To reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for offenders placed in CRCs, the Commission recommends:
a. Requiring CRCs to provide treatment (cognitive-behavioral, substance abuse, after care and/or support services) designed to address offenders’ individual criminogenic needs.
b. Adopting quality assurance procedures to ensure CRCs are meeting contractual obligations with regard to safety and offender management.
c. Implementing admission criteria for CRCs that:
i. Prioritize placement in CRCs for people who would benefit most from more intensive supervision and treatment, using the results of a validated risk and needs assessment; and ii. Minimize the mixing of low and high risk offenders.

After reading that I am unsure of what programs the CRC was required to provide. I had to earn Level 2 status in order to go to 12 step meetings for my recovery. I signed myself up for MRT classes (interested in learning what this is? Click here) and was told that work was to come first. I asked repeatedly to be able to go to STAR (a non-profit organization providing options, support and information to Alaskans affected by sexual violence) and was almost given a write-up for bringing it up with a GWC casemanager after I questioned why I could not participate in STAR groups. Now, regarding my individual criminogenic needs, I would assume they would want me to address the underlying issues in my “crime”.

I don’t have any clever wrap up to this issue. I would like to have some strong closing argument, but in all truthfulness, this has just raised more questions regarding what can, what could and what should be done to assist the overall positive outcomes for those incarcerated and specifically, those in GWC.

Comments are welcome!

 

 

This is how we rise

I was released from a halfway house Friday morning. I had been there for 14 months, okay, four days shy from 14 months, but to me it felt like a lifetime.

Sleeping in was a joke even on my day off. Sadly, the staff were only paid $11 an hour and found the job on Craigslist . My morning alarms were someone yapping away on the intercom like it was karaoke hour. I would get write ups depending on how staff read the rules. I had emotional and close to physical battles over laundry. I dropped a lighter in front of the assistant director, helped women with responses to their write ups for hugging each other and have spent countless hours staring out the window when I lived on the second floor. There was never a dull moment yet each moment I was away from my children I felt pieces of my heart break off.

Each time I left the building I had to have a piece of paper approved by my case manager, turned in at least three business days in advance. These were called CIT’s, and no one knows what that stands. These needed to be complete with clear details on route, bus or walking, walking times (to the minute because they could google map it, as a resident of the halfway I was not allowed to just jump on a computer anytime to do that), location address and phone number, and purpose. Purpose was important. Job search was about it, unless you were a resident at or above Level 2, then you would do the same thing with a pass. Only those were to be turned in at least 8 days in advance, no later than 5pm on Monday, to be valid only for the next weeks Tuesday and beyond.

Thankfully I am good at paperwork. And patience. And ambiguity. And paperwork. And answers that just lead to more questions. Have a question? Put in a cop-out, now known as a communication form. Just more paperwork.

The main point of being in a halfway house is to work. YOU MUST WORK A MINIMUM OF 32 HOURS A WEEK. They take 25% off the top, and you are only allotted up to $100 a week…as long as your funds request was in by 5pm Friday. Money would be given the following Friday. Residents are told to take the first job that comes our way, and believe me, we want to, because job search can lead to a host of problems; write ups if you are early to your location, or late. Information needed (see above CIT) was a real bitch to find in our outdated phone books. If you didn’t find a job within 30 days there were preliminary hearings with the case manager and probation officer to look forward to. These would lead to loss of privileges, extra community service hours and/or going back to jail.

I made it. I made it out. So did many others, while I was there, so it may not seem like such a big deal to someone who doesn’t know the whole story. This is but a short blurb.

I am grateful and blessed and look forward to many more blogs and telling my story. After all, this is how we rise.