For many incarcerated individuals, a halfway house is an important step in the rehabilitation process. While living in a halfway house, individuals receive substance addiction treatment, mental health counseling and educational and social instruction in preparation for re-entering society safe, sober and equipped to find work and become self-supporting.
Halfway houses have rules in place to keep residents safe, sober and on the road to rehabilitation. Serving time in a halfway house is a privilege, and breaking the halfway house's rules usually means going back to prison.
At the state level, halfway houses are often operated by nonprofit organizations. There are also many halfway houses operated by private companies. Halfway house operators work with state agencies to provide supervised housing for incarcerated individuals who can benefit from the type of structured environment they provide. At the federal level, they are operated by private contractors and managed by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
There are no specific rules regarding who can be moved to a halfway house or sentenced to spend their period of incarceration in one, instead of in jail or prison. Generally, individuals are selected for halfway house programs based on the nature of their offenses, their past records and their behavior while incarcerated, and available space in nearby halfway houses. Certain individuals are not eligible for halfway houses, such as those with unresolved pending charges and those who require in-patient medical or psychiatric care.
Federal Halfway House Rules and Regulations
There are specific rules in place for individuals living in federal halfway houses, including:
- Residents must pay halfway house fees equal to 25 percent of their gross income.
- While in a halfway house, residents who have their own healthcare insurance must use it to cover their medical expenses. Those who don't have healthcare insurance can use Medicaid and Federal Financial Participation to cover these services.
- The Community Corrections Manager in the inmate's prison determines the halfway house placement. Usually, individuals in halfway houses are placed close to their homes, but this is not always possible.
- A prisoner has the right to refuse to be placed in a halfway house. BOP staff may not retaliate against individuals who refuse a halfway house placement.
- An individual may be removed from a halfway house and placed back in prison if he refuses to attend an assigned treatment program or if he is arrested for a new offense while living in the halfway house.
There is no limit on how long a person may be required to stay in a federal halfway house.
Federal Halfway House Visitation Rules
Halfway houses set their own visitation rules. In some, visits can occur only in specific areas of the building. In others, visitors may not enter the building at all; instead, visits must occur outside the house but on its property. Each halfway house sets its own visitation hours as well. Typically, these hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Halfway houses may have longer weekend visitation hours or specific weeknights with extended visitation hours to accommodate residents whose loved ones cannot come during regular visiting hours.
Often, halfway houses have rules regarding what can and cannot be brought into the facility during visits. Typically, weapons and alcohol are prohibited. Most halfway houses are unisex, so it is not uncommon for visitors of the opposite sex to be prohibited in these facilities.
What Can Residents Bring to a Halfway House?
Every halfway house has different rules about which items residents may bring with them. Often, they are limited to small storage lockers, so they cannot bring much. Some halfway houses permit residents to have cell phones, while others do not. Among those that permit cell phones, some permit smartphones yet others restrict residents to phones without internet access. Generally, residents are permitted to bring the following:
- documents needed for obtaining work, such as a Social Security card and a driver’s license
- health insurance information and medical records
- personal hygiene items
- prescription medications with a list of all the medications resident is taking
Preparing for a stay in a halfway house involves more than choosing which items to bring. If you or somebody you love is heading to a halfway house, the best resource for information will come from the facility itself. Every halfway house sets its own rules and routines, so the best way to get accurate information about a facility is to reach out directly to its operator.