Blue Hills Avenue Facility Now Houses A Residential Program For Youths
December 28, 2006
By STEVEN GOODE, Courant Staff Writer
BLOOMFIELD -- An agency that for years has operated a residential program for troubled youths on Blue Hills Avenue is seeking permission to convert the facility for use as an adult halfway house.
The proposal, by Windsor-based Community Solutions Inc., comes as the state Department of Correction continues to look for ways to increase adult residential placements as a means to combat recidivism and help reduce the bloated inmate population, which is again near levels reached earlier in the decade.
Community Solutions, which operates 40 residential supervision and treatment programs in Connecticut and other states, is one of several vendors that contracts with the correction department to house inmates released into community facilities.
Under the Blue Hills Avenue proposal, which must be approved by the planning commission, 40 male inmates would be housed near a condominium complex and an enclave of single-family homes, for two to eight months each, and would be offered a wide range of services, including employment, housing search, life skills development and case management.
Bloomfield officials expressed support for the plan to house adult prisoners making the transition back to their communities, with some ground rules.
"We are going to insist on them not having certain types of clients that are not appropriate to a neighborhood context," Town Manager Louie Chapman Jr. said Wednesday.
The restrictions would address individuals with acute or chronic psychological or psychiatric difficulties, predatory sex offenders, and those convicted of arson.
Brian Garnett, spokesman for the Department of Correction, said Wednesday that there are currently 1,057 halfway-house placements statewide and the department is seeking 150 more as it expands community reunification efforts.
Garnett said that while offenders will continue to serve their full sentences, portions of those sentences will increasingly be served in residential programs.
The push for more halfway houses was given a boost with the appointment in 2003 of Theresa Lantz as correction commissioner, and continues today backed by data on recidivism rates.
According to a study conducted earlier this year at Central Connecticut State University, the overall recidivism rate among more than 8,000 prisoners who were released in 2000 and tracked for six years, was 39 percent. Those who served their entire sentences at a correctional facility had a recidivism rate of 47 percent, compared to a 24 percent rate among those who were released into residential programs.
"As a result, we have sought out other opportunities, because we know it works," Garnett said. "Halfway-house placements are the best thing we can do to support them and make sure they don't re-offend."
Garnett said the community release push is not a reaction to recent figures that show the state's inmate population again is on the rise after three years of decline. He attributed the recent increase to more violent crime and arrests in urban areas, as well as the system housing illegal immigrants for federal agencies. As of Wednesday, there were 18,800 prisoners incarcerated in Connecticut, according to Department of Correction figures.
Garnett said the department will require those eligible for supervised release to meet strict standards.
"We are not going to put anyone into a community who is going to create a risk," he said.
Chapman said that when the facility was geared toward housing juvenile offenders in the past, some residents initially expressed concern. He said there was no increase in crime as a result and that he expected a similar result with the change to a halfway house for adults.
The proposal is scheduled to go before the Bloomfield Plan and Zoning Commission on Jan. 22.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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