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Houston Toughens Halfway House Rules

Civil rights advocates warn the changes will make it tougher for parolees to get to work, hurting their ability to reintegrate with society. Advocates, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, say the new rules are necessary for public safety

Houston City Council has voted to toughen rules governing alternate housing facilities and boarding homes. Mayor Sylvester Turner said the changes were a matter of public safety. But civil rights advocates call them a step backward for criminal justice reform.

The rule changes come a year after a pair of deadly fires in group homes. The new ordinances require all group homes to get annual permits, undergo building inspections, and meet minimum requirements for fire safety. 

But there’s an extra requirement for these alternate housing facilities: They must stand at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, or other halfway houses. Activists with the Texas Civil Rights Project said that will make it harder for parolees to travel to jobs and reintegrate with society.

Mayor Turner said he’s sensitive to those concerns, “and over the year, we will see how this plays out. If their criticisms are borne out or it appears as though that we are making things unduly burdensome on this particular population, I’ll be the first one to raise a flag and say, ‘Let’s take a look at it and then let’s revisit it.’”

Houston has 99 correctional homes – more than the combined total for Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Turner said few if any of the alternate housing facilities currently open in Houston will close under the new rules.

 

Disclaimer: The City of Houston uses the terms “alternate housing facilities” and “correctional housing facilities,” saying that the term “halfway house” properly refers to facilities contracted and regulated by the state.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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