State audit finds severe problems in NJ halfway houses

Governor Chris Christie linked to state's largest operator of halfway houses
June 16, 2011 12:59PM

New Jersey is overpaying halfway house operators and not policing them sufficiently, a state audit reported by the Wall Street Journal found. The Department of Corrections is charged with overseeing the facilities that house about 2,720 residents daily, and has a $64.6 million budget to pay for the program. But the audit found that the state overpaid halfway house operators more than $587,000 over six years, and $390 million of the $400 million in funds it has paid to the non-profit Education and Health Centers of America — which oversees about half of the homes in question — has been funneled to for-profit companies with identical CEOs. (The CEO, unnamed in the report, said the non-profit is a “holding company” that wouldn’t exist without the for-profit organization.) The state also found close connections between Governor Chris Christie and New Jersey’s largest operator of halfway houses. The report found that the surprise inspections that the Department of Corrections is supposed to make are frequently announced, or altogether skipped. Moreover, the $5,000 in penalties the Department of Corrections are supposed to administer by law to to halfway house operators whose residents escaped, were never issued in many cases. In at least six of those instances, the escaped residents were supposed to be brought back to jail, according to the Journal. Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan admitted that his agency must make improvements. [WSJ]