Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Here’s a Great Idea – Let a Company Associated with Government Officials be Paid $70 million to Manage Half Way Houses in New Jersey

And Then Watch Them Let a Whole Bunch of Inmates Escape

Conservatives are always touting privatization, you know, let private for profit companies operate facilities that normally are operated by government.  Somehow, despite the fact that these companies are motivated to charge the most and provide the least (they are driven solely by profits) people still think that is the best way to provide many public services.

In New Jersey a private firm has been providing half-way houses for inmates released from prison but who require supervision prior to their complete release into society.  How is that working out?

Since 2005, roughly 5,100 inmates have escaped from the state’s privately run halfway houses, including at least 1,300 in the 29 months since Governor Christie took office, according to an analysis by The Times.

Some inmates left through the back, side or emergency doors of halfway houses, or through smoking areas, state records show. Others placed dummies in their beds as decoys, or fled while being returned to prison for violating halfway houses’ rules. Many had permission to go on work-release programs but then did not return.

While these halfway houses often resemble traditional correctional institutions, they have much less security. There are no correction officers, and workers are not allowed to restrain inmates who try to leave or to locate those who do not come back from work release, the most common form of escape. The halfway houses’ only recourse is to alert the authorities.

This practice has been taking place for years and the abuse of the system has taken place under both Democrats and Republicans.  But now New Jersey has Mr. Clean as Governor, former U. S. attorney Chris Christie who is supposed to be the most honest person in the state.  But Mr. Christie is not just unconcerned, he actively champions the program.

Mr. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, has for years championed the company that plays a principal role in the New Jersey system,Community Education Centers.

Community Education received about $71 million from state and county agencies in New Jersey in the 2011 fiscal year, out of total halfway house spending of roughly $105 million, according to state and company records.

The company first obtained substantial contracts for its “re-entry centers” in New Jersey in the late 1990s, as state financing began increasing sharply. In recent years, it has cited its success in New Jersey in obtaining government contracts in Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states.

William J. Palatucci, who is the governor’s close friend, political adviser and former law partner, is a senior vice president at Community Education.

Mr. Christie himself was registered as a lobbyist for the company in 2000 and 2001 when he was a private lawyer, according to disclosure reports that his law firm filed with the state. In early 2010, he hired the son-in-law of Community Education’s chief executive as an assistant in the governor’s office, according to state personnel records.

And as United States attorney for New Jersey and then governor, Mr. Christie has often visited the company’s halfway houses and praised its work. The company has highlighted those visits in its publicity material.

In the 1988 Presidential contest Republicans savaged Michael Dukakis when it turned out that an inmate out of prison under a furlough program started by the previous Republican Governor and ended by Mr. Dukakis committed a horrific crime.  Willie Horton became a national symbol of the Republican drive to label Democrats as “pro-crime and pro criminal”.  So what about New Jersey and Mr. Christie, is there a Willie Horton there?

After serving more than a year behind bars in New Jersey for assaulting a former girlfriend, David Goodell was transferred in 2010 to a sprawling halfway house in Newark. One night, Mr. Goodell escaped, but no one in authority paid much notice. He headed straight for the suburbs, for another young woman who had spurned him, and he killed her, the police said.

The state sent Rafael Miranda, incarcerated on drug and weapons charges, to a similar halfway house, and he also escaped. He was finally arrested in 2010 after four months at large, when, prosecutors said, he shot a man dead on a Newark sidewalk — just three miles from his halfway house.

Hm, apparently there are a couple.  As for Mr. Christie

Mr. Christie would not be interviewed for this article.

Mr. Christie has the reputation of being somewhat of a political bully.  Maybe, maybe not, but one thing bullies do is run away when things get tough. 

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