Halfway Help: What’s the Purpose of a Halfway House?

Handsome young man is sitting on couch and talking to the psychologist while doctor is making notes

In the US, the halfway house is an indispensable part of the criminal justice system. Although the halfway house definition is difficult to nail down and is often disputed, the important thing to remember is that they serve as a transitory space between prison and the outside world.

They are designed to make it easier for convicted criminals to re-enter society as reformed individuals. As of 2021, around 10,000 Americans pass through the halfway house system every single year, the vast majority of whom are males with a variety of convictions. But what’s a halfway house in reality, and how does it serve the community? Read our essential explainer to find out.

1. Halfway House Explained

First, let’s properly break down the answer to the question “what is a halfway house?”. A halfway house is a full-time living facility where some convicts are sent to upon their release from prison. The halfway house will be staffed with carers, wardens, and security officials, as well as professionals who can help with paperwork and job applications.

All of the residents will be recently released convicts, with the standard period of residence being three to six months. Typically, a halfway house is always in a well-populated area, often in a dense, urban, downtown core. There will always be separate boys halfway house, men’s halfway house, women’s halfway house, and girls halfway house. If you search “halfway house near me” anywhere in America, you will likely find one close to you.

The idea is to give new releases a sense of normalcy and allow them to reintegrate into society. Residents are generally monitored, but they are also able to come and go as they please, according to certain conditions.

2. Do They Work?

While there has been no shortage of scandals surrounding poorly-run halfway homes, the general consensus is that they are effective tools for re-integrating offenders into society. On the whole, people who go through the halfway house system after release are less likely to re-offend than those who are immediately released into the general population.

Adjusting to life outside prison can be very difficult, especially after a long sentence. This is why halfway homes act as crucial transitory spaces where ex-cons can slowly adapt to life on the outside, often with full-time, specialist support. By opting for this staged release, former prisoners can be better adjusted to make the most of their freedom.

3. Recovery Houses Are Different

It is crucial to note that there is a common misconception around halfway homes. Many people assume that a halfway home is where an addict or recovery addict can go to adjust to a newly sober lifestyle and receive supported medical recovery. This is not the case. What you are thinking of here is a recovery house, which is completely different. A recovery house is an institution that does not house newly released offenders. While those with convictions can apply to live in recovery houses, this is not their sole purpose.

A well-known recovery house like Progress House asks that would-be residents apply to live there. People at any stage of their addiction/recovery can opt to live in a sober environment and receive constant therapy and support. They are free to leave at any time, although they will be encouraged to stay until their recovery is complete.

Practical Wellness Advice at Your Fingertips

Understanding the role of the halfway house and the recovery house can help some people make better, more informed lifestyle choices. If you need practical lifestyle advice from people you can trust, you have come to the right place. Make sure to consult our curated Lifestyle guides to learn more.