“Arkansas: Bill Targeting Planned Parenthood Advances.” New York Times. April 9, 2013. The State Senate voted 19 to 11 Tuesday to approve legislation that would prohibit Arkansas from awarding grants to abortion providers, a move aimed at cutting off money that Planned Parenthood receives for sex education. Planned Parenthood officials say the bill, which now heads to the House, could affect doctors and entities like rape crisis centers if they refer women to abortion providers.
“Building Better Halfway Houses.” Editorial. New York Times. April 12, 2013. With corrections costs exceeding $50 billion a year, federal and state officials are understandably eager to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of people released annually from prison get the drug treatment, job placement and support services they need to have a chance at crime-free lives. Halfway houses, which typically receive prisoners near the end of their sentences, are supposed to provide these services for less than it costs to keep a person in prison. But many fail to provide quality services or prevent ex-convicts from ending up back behind bars. Pennsylvania is one state that has confronted the problem. A groundbreaking study issued earlier this year led the state to overhaul its contracts with the private companies that run the houses. The study found that 67 percent of the inmates who were released from prison to halfway houses were rearrested or sent back to prison within three years, compared with 60 percent of the inmates who were released directly to the streets. It also found that nearly two thirds of all reincarcerations within three years of release from prison were not for new crimes but for technical violations, like missing appointments with parole officers. The Pennsylvania results are consistent with those of other studies showing that halfway houses are often haphazard operations where services, record keeping and client assessment are poorly managed. This is grim news, given the billions of dollars the federal government and the states have spent on halfway houses in recent years. Pennsylvania’s overhaul effort creates a new incentive-based system. The halfway houses that actually cut recidivism will be eligible for an increase in state financing in subsequent contracts. Those that have higher recidivism rates will receive warnings, and they can lose their contracts altogether if the problem persists. The purpose, a good one, is to persuade the managers of these facilities to provide the counseling and other services that help inmates make the transition to the world outside.