Trump administration reduces support for prisoner halfway houses

October 13, 2017, Reuters

The DOJ logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference in New YorkThe administration of President Donald Trump has been quietly cutting support for halfway houses for federal prisoners, severing contracts with as many as 16 facilities in recent months, prompting concern that some inmates are being forced to stay behind bars longer than necessary.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Justin Long confirmed the cuts in response to an email inquiry from Reuters, and said they only affect areas with small populations or underutilized centers.

“The Bureau remains firmly committed to these practices, but has had to make some modifications to our programs due to our fiscal environment,” Long said.

Halfway houses have been a part of the justice system since the 1960s, with thousands of people moving through them each year. For-profit prison companies such as Geo Group Inc have moved into the halfway house market, though many houses are run directly by government agencies or non-profit organizations.

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Health and safety rules targeted as Trump begins to slash red tape

October 1, 2017, Reuters

rsz_2017-09-29t200156z_704044538_rc115a9154f0_rtrmadp_3_usa-trump_1When disaster hits the chemical plants in Port Arthur, Texas, triggering fires like those that flared in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Hilton Kelley is the man fielding panicked calls from neighbors unsure whether they should evacuate their homes.

Kelley, 57, is a well-respected figure in his community but is not a government or plant safety official. For 18 years, he has led a non-profit group based in Port Arthur that advises residents on air safety and dispatches a crew in emergencies, helping people to safety in more than 30 major fires or explosions.

More than 1,500 accidents at chemical plants have been reported in the United States since 2007, and amendments to the Clean Air Act issued in the last days of former President Barack Obama’s administration would have forced plants handling risky chemicals to coordinate emergency plans with local responders.

Kelley says those changes would have made his job easier by, for example, obliging plant owners to tell first responders what chemicals were on site. That would help them decide what equipment and training would be needed to help people.

President Donald Trump’s administration suspended the regulations, placing them in a two-year review. Trade associations argued the new rules were inconsistent with Trump’s pledges to cut regulations and with his executive order issued in January requiring federal agencies to offset each new regulation with two deregulatory actions.

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