The New York State Bar Association, saying that too many individuals who are released from prison, jail or a youthful offender facility end up returning, proposes a broad range of policy changes aimed at reducing recidivism by better preparing individuals for their return to the community.
The Association, in a recent report, also calls for expansion of diversion programs that have been proven to assist with rehabilitation. By avoiding convictions and incarcerations, such programs help individuals avoid the indirect consequences of convictions and decrease the likelihood of future criminal activities, convictions and incarcerations.
For those who are incarcerated, the Association recommends coordinated, individual-oriented efforts regarding education, employment, mental and medical health care, and housing. The planning process should begin when an individual is initially incarcerated, it says.
State Bar Association President David P. Miranda described the report of the Association’s Special Committee on Re-entry as a thoughtful examination of ways to help individuals successfully return to the community.
“Tragically, for too many individuals, life after incarceration leads to further crime and incarceration. Our goal should be to help them leave incarceration—or diversion programs that are alternatives to incarceration— with the job skills, education, housing and medical and mental health treatment they need to become productive, contributing members of the community,” Miranda said.
“This is a particularly appropriate time to examine the re-entry into society of adults and young people post-arrest or post-incarceration,” the report states.
“Every year, about 24,000 individuals are released from [New York] state prisons and more than 100,000 are released from local jails back into the community,” according to the report. “Within three years thereafter, two-thirds of them are rearrested, and over 40 percent are again incarcerated (mostly for economic-driven crimes).”
The Special Committee on Re-Entry was created by former President Seymour W. James, Jr. in 2012. Its report was unanimously approved by the Association’s House of Delegates on January 29. Co-chairs of the committee are Sheila A. Gaddis of Rochester (Barclay Damon and Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County) and Ronald J. Tabak of New York City (Skadden Arps). Richard Raysman of New York City (Holland & Knight) is vice-chair.
The comprehensive, 105-page report offers a broad range of recommendations. Among them are:
- Discharge planning should begin when an individual is confined. The person’s needs should be addressed in a coordinated, front-loaded way. These needs often involve education, future employment, and medical and mental health services.
- Proven diversion programs should be expanded for adults and youths. These include problem-solving courts, access to substance abuse services, case management, educational and career counseling and employment referrals.
- Employment initiatives might include innovative programs in which parole officers work with prospective employers, and pre-release training for suitable, available jobs.
- 21st Century educational opportunities should be expanded during incarceration. Eligible inmates should be able to earn college degrees, to improve their job prospects upon release.
- Colleges should refrain from using criminal history in initial admissions decisions.
- Better coordination between juvenile facilities and local school districts should enable many more youthful offenders to complete their high school education.
- Better coordination between health services and corrections agencies will ensure continuity of medical and mental health care for individuals during and after incarceration.
The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director, Media Services and Public Affairs