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Local halfway house residents on their way to reentering society

May 13, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

The correctional establishment is more than jails and prisons. It's a continuum, a wide array of establishments that stand between criminals and freedom.

The Marshalltown Residential Facility, 1401 S. 17th Ave., is one arm of that correctional establishment.

Prisons from surrounding counties - Marshall, Hardin, Benton, Butler and occasionally Tama and Grinell - send inmates on the last leg of their sentence to the halfway house to begin becoming reintegrated into society.

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The Marshalltown Residential Facility, shown here Thursday afternoon, houses 50 men and women on the last leg of their prison sentences before being reintegrated back into society.

"They have been in prison for sometime. They are coming out and they don't have a good stabile situation to come out to or they might need some reestablishment into society," said Jon Groteluschen, residential manager of the residential facility.

Residents must have jobs and pay $19 a day to stay at the halfway house and a $15 fee for linens. Despite being employed, the residents' money is meted out by their probation officer.

After their stay, Groteluschen said, many residents leave with more money in their pockets than they have ever had before.

The corrections building houses 50 criminals whose sentences are nearly complete. Most of them are men. The average resident stays for 17 weeks.

Groteluschen said staff gradually lengthen residents' rope and allow them more freedom.

Each resident has a level, and each level has several sub-levels. Those levels determine the freedom afforded to each resident. As residents move up in levels, they are afforded more furlough time - leisure time.

"A person's behavior largely determines where he lands on that continuum," said Dot Faust, director at the Marshalltown Residential Facility.

The center is one of four in the judicial district.

But some things are nonnegotiable. Some freedoms residents will never have so long as they are staying at the halfway house.

Residents cannot visit bars. They cannot own cell phones or anything that takes pictures. Men and women are not allowed to mingle within the building. They are required to check in with administration wherever they go.

"We have rules here," Groteluschen said. "Our function is really to look after the ones who are having problems - the riskier clients."

Faust said many offenders at the center have mental health or substance abuse issues.

The center aims to help clients with those problems so that they can be rehabilitated, she said. Unless the underlying cause of a criminal's problems are addressed, they are bound to re-offend.

"The goal here really is reentry," she said. "We are giving them tools and support to get them ready to go back to their families."

Groteluschen said he monitors residents progress and brings himself up to speed on each criminal's case before they arrive. He said he does this to ensure he doesn't put a resident in a room with a former enemy or coconspirator and to be aware who has a risk of violence.

Time residents spend in the halfway house often counts toward their sentence, he said. The parole board tries to ensure each soon-to-be-released criminal is at the same point in their rehabilitation before sending them to the halfway house.

But the correctional center is not just a conduit between those coming out of prison, but also for those who could potentially go to prison.

Judges regularly mandate OWI offenders who get three offenses to spend time at the Marshalltown Residential facility, which is a designated community-based OWI center, in lieu of incarceration, Groteluschen said.

Sometimes, he said, those people have most of their life in order and putting them in prison does them a disservice.

"We don't want to disrupt those things they got going on in their lives," he said.

Cameras and alarms are the only form of security at the Marshalltown Residential Center. It has no security guards. The door are not locked.

"If someone leaves, we know it immediately," Groteluschen said.

Because of that lack of security and detention, residents occasionally leave without permission or simply do not return from work or other designated places. Groteluschen said the latter is far more common.

Those residents are charged with either absence from custody or escape from a correctional facility, according to several recent police reports.

The Marshalltown Residential Facility feeds residents two meals a day.

"The goal while they are here is to live here and work and get furlough and then use furlough to get used to gradually being out of here," Groteluschen said.

More than half of the residents in centers such as the Marshalltown Residential Facility throughout the district were convicted of public order or drug-related crimes.



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