1. New Jersey Halfway Back Program

New Jersey Halfway Back Program

Program Goals, Target Population

Halfway Back (HWB) is a highly structured program that serves as an alternative to incarceration for technical parole violators or as a special condition of parole on release from prison in New Jersey. HWB programs are run at nine different secure residential facilities in the State and provide parolees with an environment that is halfway between prison and ordinary parole release. The program is run by the New Jersey State Parole Board (NJSPB) and targets technical parole violators who have failed to meet supervision conditions, relapsed, or demonstrated some other form of poor behavior (excluding new criminal charges). HWB participants spend several months at a residential facility, receiving necessary treatment services, and are released back to their communities to finish the remainder of their sentence under parole supervision once they complete the program.


Program Theory

During the 1980s and 1990s, New Jersey, like many other States, saw a dramatic rise in its State prison population. At the same time, the number of parole revocations that resulted in a return to prison for parolees also greatly increased. This significant growth of admissions to prison, especially the admission of technical parole violators, placed enormous pressure on the State correctional budget. In 2001, the NJSPB responded to this issue by developing a new approach to manage parole violators, especially technical violators, emphasizing the use of intermediate sanctions and evidence-based practices.


Intermediate sanctions provide an alternative for technical parole violators, who have violated the conditions of their parole but have not committed a new felony offense. One response to this population has been to create programs that combine therapeutic elements with confinement. Part of the new approach taken by the NJSPB involved the start of the HWB program for technical parole violators. The program is designed to keep technical parole violators out of incarceration—thereby not contributing to the prison population—while providing appropriate treatment services that will reduce the chances of recidivism or parole violation.


Program Eligibility

Eligibility to participate in the HWB program is determined by parole officers. Parole officers rely on a matrix of graduated sanctions to match the technical parole violator to the appropriate sanction, on the basis of the parolee’s need, resource constraints, and program availability. Parolees are placed in the program if participation in HWB will meet their needs, if the technical violation is proportionate, and if there is availability in the program.


Program Components

The program-review committee, which includes treatment and parole staff, determines the length of stay as well as program conditions—that is, lockdown versus work release—for each participant. HWB participants typically remain in the program for 90–180 days. When parolees first enter the program, they undergo an orientation and assessment process that identifies and determines appropriate services to address their individual needs.


The HWB program generally provides services such as intensive substance abuse programming; relapse prevention; employment preparation, placement, and vocational training; financial management skills; anger management techniques; mental health services; gang deprogramming; and family restoration.

Intervention ID

18 to 100


Study 1


Ostermann (2009) found that 65 percent of the total sample were rearrested, 45 percent were reconvicted, and 32 percent were reincarcerated. Chi-square tests revealed significant differences for all measures of recidivism among all four groups.



Fifty-nine percent of Halfway Back (HWB) program participants were rearrested following release from prison, compared with 58 percent of parolees released to a Day Reporting Center (DRC), 62 percent of parolees who did not participate in a community program, and 79 percent of parolees who maxed out their prison sentence and received no community supervision.


Survival tests indicated that parolees who maxed out their sentence were the soonest to be rearrested; they were arrested for a new crime on average 315.21 days after their 2004 release. Parolees who received no community programming were rearrested on average 347.23 days after release. DRC participants lasted longer, with an average time to rearrest of 360.53 days, and HWB participants lasted considerably longer with an average of 455.81 days to rearrest.


The multivariate analyses, which controlled for demographics and criminal history, revealed that HWB program participants were 64 percent less likely to be rearrested than the max-out group. Parolees who did not participate in community programs were about 58 percent less likely to reoffend compared with the max-out group, and DRC participants were 68 percent less likely to be rearrested than the max-out group.


The final analysis using a Cox-proportional hazards test revealed that only the HWB program obtained statistically significant odds ratios, showing that HWB participants were roughly 38 percent more likely to stay arrest-free than the max-out group, when controlling for all predictor variables.



Fifty-nine percent of HWB participants were reconvicted for one of their charges. Participants in DRCs had the lowest reconviction rates; 32 percent were reconvicted for one of their charges. Sixty-two percent of parolees who did not participate in a community program were reconvicted, and 61 percent of parolees who maxed out their sentence were reconvicted. Multivariate analysis showed that HWB program participants were 68 percent less likely to be reconvicted than the max-out group, while DRC participants were 73 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reconvicted.



HWB participants had the lowest rate of reincarceration (17 percent), compared with 20 percent of DRC participants, 39 percent of parolees with no community programming, and 46 percent of max-outs.


Multivariate analysis of the reincarceration data showed similar significant results to the reconviction outcomes. The HWB program participants were 76 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reincarcerated. The DRC participants were about 73 percent less likely than the max-out group to be reincarcerated.

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