The administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued $45,000 in fines against New Jersey halfway houses from which nine inmates escaped in recent months, the harshest penalties ever brought against the troubled network of private operators, the New York Times reports.The halfway houses were fined for failing to report escapees to state officials quickly and for recording inmates who had escaped as present. In other cases, supervisors failed to keep track of inmates who had fled from work-release programs or slipped away before being sent back to prison, corrections officials said.
The inmates escaped from six different halfway houses, including two run by Community Education Centers, a company that dominates the state's halfway house system and has drawn scrutiny because of its close ties to Christie. Hundreds of inmates escape from the state's halfway houses each year, but authorities have previously done little to crack down on the problem. No penalties had ever been brought against halfway house operators until officials learned of The New York Times's 10-month investigation into escapes and other problems at the privately run centers, which can be as big as prisons but have little of their security.