NYLON — The New York State Bar Association is calling for policy changes and program enhancements dedicated to assist former prison inmates in building successful lives after incarceration.
According to a press release from the NYS Bar Association, these propositions are aimed at improving a former inmate’s rehabilitation into their community and curtailing the likelihood of future criminal activities, convictions, and incarcerations.
“Tragically, for too many individuals, life after incarceration leads to further crime and incarceration, said State Bar Association President David P. Miranda. “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.”
For those who are incarcerated, the Bar 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.
These recommendations originated in a report given by the Bar Association’s Special Committee on Re-entry.
The comprehensive report offers a broad range of recommendations, including the following:
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.
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 Special Committee on Re-Entry was created by former President Seymour James, Jr. in 2012. 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.
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