Chris Christie’s Ties To the For-Profit Halfway House Industry

Once again, the name of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being batted around, whether as keynote speaker for the GOP convention or potential running mate to Mitt Romney. While many find much to dislike in Christie’s combative persona and bombastic rhetoric, his popularity in New Jersey is at an all-time high, largely due to male voters. Critics can say what they want about his faults, but Christie’s political star seems to keep on shining.

If Christie seems too good to be true, or not exactly what he seems to be, a closer look at his dealings as governor in New Jersey suggests why. An extensive New York Times investigation details Christie’s connections to a company, Community Education Centers, that holds extensive contracts to run a system of halfway houses in New Jersey.

Christie’s Ties To Private Halfway House Company Run Deep

Out of a total of about $105 million allocated to halfway houses, Community Education Centers receives about $71 million. The company’s senior vice president, William J. Palatucci, is a close friend of Christie — he spoke to the press about the governor’s health after Christie made an emergency visit to a central New Jersey hospital last summer — and his political advisor and former law partner. Christie was a lobbyist for the company in 2000 and 2001; in 2010, when Christie was elected governor, the son-in-law of Community Education’s chief executive was hired as an assistant in the governor’s office.

The West Caldwell-located Community Education Centers company makes plenty of glowing claims for its halfway houses as an “innovative example of privatization” that provides  relief for overcrowded prisons and at a cheaper price. The corrections, parole and other government agencies in New Jersey pay about $60 to $75 per inmate to operators of halfway houses, vs. the $125 to $150 a day it costs the state to house someone in prison.

About 40 percent of New Jersey’s prison population — some 10,000 prison inmates and parolees a year — now pass through the state’s privately run halfway houses and many through those run by Community Education Centers.

Halfway Houses Poorly Run: Escapees, Drug Use, Rape

But with staff who receive only eight days of training (compared to 15 weeks for NJ correction officers), and with an alarmingly low ratio of staff to inmates (1 worker to 100 inmates in some cases, according to a 10-month New York Times investigation), “bedlam” is not an inaccurate word to describe conditions in at least some of the centers.

The New York Times also found high rates of escapees who sometimes have then committed violent crimes including murder; sexual assault by staff and by inmate; high rates of drug use; and numerous other violations. The halfway houses are poorly regulated and provide what seem to be only half-hearted programs, if that, in drug treatment, job counseling and other rehabilitation services needed by inmates to transition to life back in society.

73 percent of the inmates at the Albert M. “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center in Trenton, New Jersey’s state capital, tested positive for drugs, despite the millions that government agencies pay for drug counseling.

The Bo Robinson facility has 900 beds and is described as “at the vanguard of a national movement to privatize correctional facilities.” Politicians tout the lower costs and the jobs halfway houses create for communities ; the New York Times report rather suggests that what is going on is that undertrained and under-supported staff oversee (to the extent they can) alarmingly high numbers of inmates, who are in need of far better services and better surveillance.

Christie: We Should “Celebrate” Halfway Houses

Yet Christie says that places such as a 1,200-bed Community Education facility in Newark are to be “celebrated.” If he is chosen to give the keynote at the GOP convention, it won’t be a surprise if he sings the praises of privatization — prisons, schools, and who knows what else — while back home in Jersey not far from his office in the Trenton, yet another inmate may be breaking out of one of those state-funded, privately own halfway houses, operated by his cronies.

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Photo by Bob Jagendorf

30 comments

Carole H.
Carole H.3 years ago

This posting is an excellent example of why in my mind GOP stands for Greedy, Obnoxious Profiteers - a Profiteer being 'one who makes excessive profits at the expense of the public' - these people create and support policies which give themselves and their friends the opportunity to make excessive profits at precisely that, the expense of the public with no mind to who they might injure and damage in the process, nor to what good the funds they appropriate might have been used. Shame on them and on the poor fools who are tricked into voting for them.

Abbe A.
Azaima A.3 years ago

thanks

Charles P.
Charles P.3 years ago

Privatization of government agencies is nothing more than corporate welfare. They take the jobs that pay $20.00/hr., reduce them to $12.50/her. and pocke the profit. Who are these profiteers? Chances are they are heavily invested in the government entity that is giving them reign over what once was an agency that worked well.

Christine C.
Christine C.3 years ago

Thanks David F.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

David-Don't quote Lincoln to me out of context, I am a historian and Lincoln would be horrified at the "privatization" of government activities. Government services are not about profit they are about the common good and those two things are by their very nature at odds with one another. I have no problem with fair profit, but profit and public service a competing goals. A for-profit prison wants more inmates not less. Should that the public service goal of the corrections system? Of course not, but that is what you get with privatization. In areas where they have privatized things like child protective services the goal becomes making money not protecting children. The two do not go together.

marc page
Marc P.3 years ago

Oh. And when I say "More profitable" That means "More expensive to run." - And paid for with your tax money.

marc page
Marc P.3 years ago

These Halfway Houses are DESIGNED to fail. they do not make nearly as much for the private owners as private prisons do. If people like Chris Christy can convince the public that halfway Houses are a failure he can then advocate for building more profitable private prisons.

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy3 years ago

Right on.. profit has damaged any good that we could try to do to reform people....IF I HAD MY WAY......EVERYONE WHO WAS NOT A CITIZEN IN PRISONS WOULD GO HOME TOMORROW....SECONDLY CLOSE DOWN PRISONS AND FIND SOME OTHER USE.....THIRDLY....QUIT PUTTING LOW LEVEL NON VIOLENT CRIMINALS IN PRISON...AND MAKE USE OF REHAB BETTER.........FORTH...QUIT BUILDING PRISONS TO TAKE CARE OF OTHER COUNTRIES CITIZENS...IT IS WELL KNOWN MANY CRIMINALS WOULD RATHER STAY HERE IN THE USA INSTEAD OF GOING BACK TO THEIR OWN TERRORIST PRISONS.....AND IN THE COLD AREAS OF THE COUNTRY PRISON HAS BEEN KNOW TO BE A GREAT PLACE TO KEEP WARM AND HAVE SOME WARM MEALS DURING THE WINTER....AND GET OUT BY SUMMER...A FACT....

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

David-Government is a non-profit organization and halfway houses, prisons, police departments, fire departments, the military and most other things of the sort should never be run for profit.

Dan B.
Dan Brook3 years ago

The regressive Republican Party of No is obstructionist, mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, untrustworthy, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, oily, anti-environment, anti-health, anti-consumer, anti-choice, anti-birth control, anti-education, anti-99%, union busting, Medicare mashing and Social Security slashing, fiscally irresponsible, misleading, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, out-of-touch, dishonest, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

NEVER vote for Republicans.