ICCA recognizes and supports the operation of residential reentry centers and other community correctional programs in our communities. In order to provide these services and to promote public safety, private and public agencies must have a fair opportunity to site such programs within communities. Historically, reactionary neighborhood opposition, media involvement, political interference, land use regulations, and zoning practices in many areas have made the process to site such facilities protracted, litigious, expensive, and in some jurisdictions, ultimately impossible.
The all too familiar “not in my backyard” syndrome applies to all types of neighborhood change from a new school, to a skate board park, to elder housing. However, community correctional facilities remain low, if not dead last, on the list of desired changes.
As noted by the American Correctional Association, “Community corrections programs are an integral component of a graduated system of sanctions and services” (ACA, Policy Statement on Community Corrections). Yet, in many communities around the country, it is increasingly difficult for public and private agencies to gain agreement with local governments and community groups to site such programs.
Strong, organized resistance to siting of community corrections programs and facilities within neighborhoods is all too familiar to providers, correctional agencies, local jurisdictions and the public. Despite public opinion surveys that demonstrate public support for the general concept of community corrections, when a specific proposal to site a future halfway house or other community corrections program in a particular area becomes known, almost inevitably community opposition develops. Such opposition is frequently successful in terminating, or at least delaying, such programs that are needed for the steady number of incarcerated men and women who are returning to our communities every year. 95% of those incarcerated eventually return to their communities.
Two of the most frequently voiced concerns by community members around the siting of a community corrections program are the presumed negative impact on property values and the presumed increase in crime in the neighborhood. Both presumptions are contrary to the facts and the best research in the field. For example, Dr. Michael Gilbert, a criminologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, with a research interest in the relationship between adverse social conditions and patterns of crime in San Antonio wrote: “The best evidence available indicates that the presence of a halfway house presents little risk to either public safety or property values in the area”. Dr. Gilbert cites the work of Attorney Daniel Lauber of Illinois who actually found reduced crime rates in neighborhoods around halfway houses, as well as “no effect on property values even for houses adjacent to community residences [halfway houses or group homes]. Conversely, studies have shown that community residences are often the best maintained properties on the block”. Additional research and testimonials with regard to property value and neighborhood safety can be found in ICCA’s Siting Tool Kit on our website.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on 2015 releases (Dec. 2016), 641,100 adult prisoners were released from state and federal prisons alone. This does not include those released from county or local facilities. The real question is not whether these individuals are coming back to communities, but rather are they being provided an opportunity to successfully transition through a structured and well supervised program.
More research needs to be funded by federal agencies and private foundations on siting community correctional programs, including overcoming the NIMBY syndrome.
III. STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
- Providers need to ensure that the public is engaged and better educated concerning the need for community corrections programs, as well as on the myths and facts of their impact. Research and experience confirm these programs do not contribute to higher crime rates or declining property values, and that in fact the contrary is true; reentry and other community correctional programs enhance public safety by providing transitional supports thus reducing the recidivism rates of those who receive services. Additionally, these programs save taxpayers by reducing crime and by delivering community-based supervision which is less costly than incarceration. It is also worthy of note that participants work, pay taxes, and meet other financial obligations such as child support and court fees (see data in ICCA’s Siting Tool Kit on our website).
- Public confidence in community correctional programs will be increased when providers of such services ensure their programs are well-managed, reflect high levels of professionalism, and provide evidence-based services to address the key criminogenic needs of residents and clients.
- Community correctional programs need to solicit early input from the community (neighbors, law enforcement, elected officials and local institutions) and provide ongoing opportunities for involvement. For example, establishing an Advisory Board can provide consistent communication and suggestions from both the program and the community.
- Local jurisdictions, including cities and counties, should not be able to preclude community correctional programs from being sited or making it so arduous, litigious and expensive to do so that the result is a de facto denial. They should allow the opportunity to site programs serving populations in proportion to the people convicted of crimes in that jurisdiction.
- State laws governing growth management as implemented by local governments should ensure that community corrections and reentry facilities are identified as essential public facilities for which cities and counties must allow the opportunity for zoning. State law should provide the procedural due process requirements of consideration of such matters, including a timely appeal process.
- The land use and zoning codes of cities and counties should fairly allow for the opportunity to site community correctional programs in their jurisdictions, should recognize that they provide essential public services, and should not impose moratoria or unrealistic burdens on providers who are trying to site such programs.
- Providers of community correctional programs should carefully assess which neighborhoods are most appropriate for such programs, solicit early input from communities and neighborhood associations, identify ways to provide ongoing community involvement, and make enhancements such as improved lighting, well maintained buildings and landscaping, and community service projects. Additionally, programs should be well-managed and hold residents accountable at all times for their whereabouts and behaviors. (see ICCA’s Siting Tool Kit on our website)
- Providers of community correctional programs and the public correctional agencies that they contract with must be dedicated to providing more than “housing” to residents. Programs should provide assistance to residents in obtaining employment, access to substance abuse and mental health services, family reconciliation, and other evidence-based programs and practices.
- Providers should be knowledgeable about the research and case studies on siting; be able to articulate the purpose, methods and benefits of reentry centers and other community correctional programs; and be prepared to communicate with the community and local media regarding their programs.
Resources: ICCA’s Siting Took Kit
Reviewed and adopted by the ICCA Board of Directors
Date: October 5, 2018