Associated Students Legislative Council approved a resolution in support of attempts to prevent the closure of the halfway house in Isla Vista, which is scheduled to be shut down Feb. 28 due to lack of funds.
The position paper, approved at Wednesday’s regular Leg Council meeting, calls upon the Federal Bureau of Prisons to continue funding the Working Alternatives Halfway House, located at 6575 Trigo Rd. Leg Council also discussed a bill to create an “Executive Leadership Committee.” The committee would be comprised of all 22 A.S. boards, committees and commissions and aim to increase effective communication between the groups by holding all-inclusive meetings. That bill was tabled for next week.
Katie Joaquin, a member of the Student Commission On Racial Equality, spoke in support of the halfway house resolution during the meeting’s period for public comment.
Joaquin told the council that the halfway house gets funding from the federal prison budget, which the Bush administration is cutting. The halfway house provides job opportunities to people formerly incarcerated for nonviolent crimes.
Joaquin said the halfway house is important because it helps to provide a community of support for former prison inmates and people convicted of minor offenses.
“Closing the halfway house disrupts their community, which is important for rehabilitation,” Joaquin said.
Rep.-at-Large Kristen Ditlevsen, who authored the bill after Joaquin brought the issue to her attention, said she agreed with Joaquin’s interpretation of the halfway house’s importance.
“I.V. is as good a place as any,” Ditlevsen said. “We spend too much money on prisons. This helps people get jobs. It’s a good halfway house; in fact, it’s one of the better ones.”
Joaquin said a rally to save the halfway house will be held Friday, Feb. 25, at noon in front of the building.
According to a flier passed out by Joaquin during the meeting, 650,000 people are released from U.S. prisons every year with few resources, and 50 percent of them return to prison within three years. Chris Bickel, a UCSB graduate school sociology instructor and volunteer at the halfway house, created the flier. He said those statistics come from a U.S. Dept. of Justice report.
If closed, the halfway house’s 10 current residents will be relocated to other halfway houses in Inglewood and Echo Park in Los Angeles County.
“I have never seen a program like this,” Bickel said. “I wouldn’t defend all halfway houses, but this one is special due to all the nonprofit organizations that come in.”