International halfway house colloquium reveals similar worldwide challenges.

Author:Evans, Donald G.
Position:Probation and Parole Forum

Finding adequate and appropriate supervision strategies is a major challenge confronting community corrections agencies as they seek to meet the public safety needs of communities receiving an increased number of released offenders from prison. In a cooperative effort to develop new approaches and discover best practices, leaders in the halfway house movement from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States met in Toronto, Feb. 28 to March 1, 2005.

They met with the expressed purpose of sharing information on community re-integration strategies and public protection issues. Special attention was also given to the impact on and needs of female offenders being released from prison. Another area that was explored was the skill and knowledge needs of staff working in halfway houses in light of new program initiatives, as well as the safety needs of staff working in these residences. The colloquium involved a cooperative effort between St. Leonard's Society of Canada and the National Probation Directorate for England and Wales, with participation from the Correctional Service of Canada and the leadership of the International Community Corrections Association.

The plenary sessions featured presentations from England and Wales on their Approved Premises Pathfinder Project (an examination and evaluation of their efforts to provide accommodation and effective programs for offenders); from Canada about a projected study of the effectiveness of halfway houses; and from the United States, which reviewed the exhaustive study of halfway houses in Ohio conducted by the University of Cincinnati and a summary of the recently released report of the Re-entry Policy Council.

The participants were organized into four working groups on the general topics of community re-integration, public protection, female offenders and staff skills/knowledge. The working groups heard brief presentations from each country and were involved in a facilitated discussion of the issues emerging from the presentations. It was surprising how similar the challenges and issues facing community corrections agencies in each of the represented countries were. These challenges included:

* Finding sites that can be used as suitable accommodation for offenders;

* Developing effective programs that help reduce re-offending;

* Providing adequate supervision that ensures staff safety and public protection;

* Ensuring that staff have the skills and knowledge necessary to make effective...

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