BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A halfway house for federal prison inmates in Buffalo that has been in operation for more than 40 years is closing at the end of the year. Buffalo Halfway House, Inc. on Glenwood Avenue, is a private non-profit agency that receives its operating funds from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), but the bureau has notified the home the funding will end on December 31.
Buffalo Halfway House, Inc. board president Judy DeWald said the organization feels blindsided by the bureau’s abrupt decision, “This was totally unexpected,” after they received a letter from the BOP earlier this month that their 5-year contract is not being renewed for the fifth and final year.
As many as 51 federal inmates live at the residence, which is designed to bridge the gap between incarceration and returning to real life. DeWald explains BOP designates a halfway home as a Residential Reentry Center (RRC).
“They are hooked up with mental health, addiction treatment. We give a lot of support for re-entry back into the job market, and of course this is how folks that have had some trouble with the law can hopefully become productive citizens again.”
It was nearly a year ago that one of the residents, Michael Feldman died of a suspected drug overdose, but DeWald said the halfway house has kept its certification, and the Bureau of Prisons has not specified why they are shutting the facility down.
“We have been in the community for 44 years and we really are not receiving a lot of specifics about why the closing is happening.”
Absent an explanation from the government, DeWald said they have researched actions of the BOP’s Residential Reentry program and found the government has shut down 16 other halfway houses across the country.
As of December 31, residents of the home will either be transferred to another halfway house in Rochester or Pittsburgh, or return to prison, while federal inmates that might qualify for Residential Reentry are not being referred to Buffalo.
“We understand the families are calling and trying to find out, why isn’t my son or daughter going to go into this halfway house?”
Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins was asked to intervene in this dispute between the Buffalo Halfway House and the Bureau of Prisons. A Higgins spokesperson said, BOP officials say they are still interested in locating a halfway house in the Buffalo area, they have just decided the home on Glenwood Avenue is not up to the task.
That raises the question, is the closing part of a nationwide cutback of halfway houses, or is Buffalo’s facility being penalized for not meeting certain requirements in their contract? DeWald said her board, the home’s residents, and the 19 staffers who could lose their jobs, would like an answer.