Comptroller says Corrections taking action on halfway house problems

TRENTON – New Jersey’s Comptroller told lawmakers today the state’s Department of Corrections has taken action by responding to the agency’s audit on the state’s halfway house programs.

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer told lawmakers during a Senate Legislative Oversight hearing that a 2011 audit on the program found significant areas of concern, including nearly $500,000 in overpayments to companies that manage the halfway houses as well as a lack of oversight over the program by the DOC.

Boxer told senators DOC has responded to specific concerns and is following the proper procedure for rectifying problems laid out in the audit.

The Senate hearing was called in response to the comptroller’s report and a scathing series in The New York Times last month, which detailed some the of the lax security and regulations surrounding the facilities, as well as the high number of escapees over the years.

“My objective is for this committee to understand what is at the root of these problems,” said Sen. Robert Gordon, (D-38), chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee, adding the hearing would not be “a witch hunt.”

Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), asked Boxer whether the comptroller thought halfway houses are “just one of those areas … where a private for-profit entity” shouldn’t be involved with administering.

Boxer responded by saying the DOC is conducting a thorough review on data on the program, which could shed some light on her inquiry, he said.

“Our point is simply that we as a state should have a little better data,” Boxer said, adding he is not calling into question the success of re-entry programs for offenders in the state.

Buono agreed, prefacing her comments by saying, “I think everybody on this committee believes that re-entry works.”

Comptroller says Corrections taking action on halfway house problems