Drugs and Violence Thrive in NJ Halfway Houses

By Hunter R. Slaton 06/18/12

Conditions are so bad in these "treatment" centers that inmates have actually asked to return to state prison.

Inmates in a rec yard at the Bo Robinson
"Halfway House."
Photo via

Reporter Sam Dolnick paints a chilling picture of sexual abuse, horrific violence and rampant drug use in part two of the New York Timesexpose of New Jersey’s privately run halfway houses—of the fresh-out-of-prison, rather than fresh-out-of-rehab variety—in particular at Trenton’s 900-bed Albert M. “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center. Inmates here (they still are inmates, having been released early from state prisons into the care of Community Education Centers, which runs Bo Robinson) live in overcrowded conditions, with far less security than in prison. In fact, many inmates ask to return to the lock-up. Drugs make their way into the facility by the same trade routes that they enter prisons: smuggled in by visitors, or stuffed inside balls that are tossed over the walls from the shoulder of nearby Highway 1. As a result, county officials conducting surprise drug testing at Bo Robinson in 2009 found that 73% of inmates tested positive.

Community Education Centers is meant to rehabilitate its charges, but this happens in only the most rudimentary of ways. Low-wage workers, very few of whom have any training in drug and alcohol treatment, merely read out self-help literature to packed rooms of disinterested (at best) inmates. But the in-house Narcotics Anonymous meetings are perhaps the worst parody of care. A former deputy director of treatment for the facility named Derrick Watkins (who was dismissed after the 2009 drug-test debacle) relates how an older inmate once came to tell him how “the Bloods are running the NA meetings.” An incredulous Watkins asked, “Excuse me?” To which the inmate replied, “Instead of drug and alcohol talk, they were talking gang stuff.”

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Hunter Slaton is the esports managing editor for Blizzard Entertainment. You can find hunter on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.