Prisoner Re-entry in Albany, NY
In May 1983, Constantine Institute Director
Terry O'Neill was graduated from Albany Law School at commencement excercises held at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center
in Saratoga Springs, New York. The commencement address was given by New York's recently inaugurated Governor Mario
M. Cuomo. Governor Cuomo, a celebrated orator, gave a speech on the theme of service to "Our Lady of the Law",
making a career as a lawyer in public service seem both worthwhile and idealistic, even akin to a religious vocation.
A year later, O'Neill had begun his career in public service as Counsel to New
York State Assemblyman Edward Griffith. Mr. Griffith represented the 40th Assembly District, comprised principally of
the neighborhood of East New York in Brooklyn. His constituents had the misfortune of having every urban pathology
-- drugs, crime, poverty, substandard housing. East New York was, in fact, known as "the murder capital of New
In the course of the legislative year, the
governor of New York opens the Legislative Session early in January with his State of the State Message in which he outlines
his legislative and budgetary priorities for the year ahead. Shortly thereafter, he forwards to the Legislature the
Executive Budget in which he lays out all state spending for the coming fiscal year. The Legislature immediately schedules
a series of hearings by the fiscal committees of both houses. The Joint Fiscal Committee Hearings are held over a period
of about two weeks, with each day of hearings devoted to the budgets of agencies and programs in specific policy areas.
The Judiciary and criminal justice budgets are examined under the rubric of Public Protection. At this hearing, representatives
of the state court system and the heads of all criminal justice agencies appear before the Joint Committees and answer questions
posed by the legislators. They are followed over the course of the day by other parties affected by the budget proposal.
In January of 1984, still at the outset of Governor Cuomo's administration, one of the
commissioners who appeared before the Joint Fiscal Committees was Thomas A. Coughlin, III, Commissioner of Correctional Services.
One of the memorable exchanges that occurred that day was between Commissioner Coughlin and Assemblyman Arthur Eve of East
Buffalo. O'Neill remembers that the discussion was over prison expansion and the likelihood that a lot of the inmates
who would come to occupy the expanded capacity would be young men of color who would be natives of places like East Buffalo
and East New York.
At the time of this exchange, the Department
of Correctional Services had custody of about 17,000 inmates. Over the course of the twelve years that Mario Cuomo was
governor of New York, that population soared to some 71,000. Most of this expansion was the direct result of New York's burgeoning
drug problem and the set of sentencing statutes known collectively as the Rockefeller Drug Laws that had had been on the books
since 1973. As the result of these laws and vastly stepped-up enforcement activity, New York engaged in what was effectively
a mass deportation of young men of color. And yes, they were from places like East New York and East Buffalo.
Not only were these young men sent off to mostly remote upstate prisons, but the places they came from suffered a serious
disenfranchisement. When populations were counted for political redistricting purposes, those young men were considered
residents of the districts in which they were incarcerated, not their home communities. The result was that places like
East New York and East Buffalo, that lacked much political influence to begin with, were now suffering the consequences
of having less population and therefor less representation in the state political process. This phenomenon came to be
known as prison gerrymandering.
An obvious effect of incarcerating
so many people is that eventually, most of them are eventually released. In fact, as of 2010, some 16,000 persons
are released from state prison in New York every year. These individuals almost invariably return to their home neighborhoods
-- again, places like East New York and East Buffalo that continue to be economically distressed, a problem that has been
exacerbated for over a generation by prison gerrymandering.
of course, is not the only state that saw its prison population skyrocket since the late 1970s. The problem of all these
unemployable ex-cons all over the nation finally prompted President George W. Bush to propose legislation known as The Second
Chance Act. This law created a federal program that has begun to encourage states to create inmate re-entry programs
and services to help people who have done prison time successfully transition back to the community to take up new and productive
The Constantine Institute supports the efforts of state and
local governments around the nation to address the problems of so many individuals, most of whom come from and return to distressed
and impoverished communities, and most of whom have great difficulty finding housing and employment. What follows below
in the first annual report of the Albany County Re-entry Task Force, a consortium of governmental and non-governmental entities
that is taking the first steps toward creating a support system for returning prison inmates.
In Albany County, there are about 600 people under parole supervision at any given time. Because
without transition support, these individuals are seriously at risk of violating parole or committing another crime against
yet another victim, the work of this task force is an essental component of a county-wide public safety strategy. We
offer their work as a fine example of what local governments around the nation are doing to address the extraodinary problems
that have resulted from the war on drugs and the policy of mass incarceration.
We also note that New York Governor David Paterson has approved legislation that has reformed the Rockefeller
Drug Laws and ended the practice of prison gerrymandering.
of these factors are today contributing to the healing and renewal of places like East Buffalo and East New York that endured
so much hardship and violence in recent decades.
Lady of the Law is smiling down on them at last.
ALBANY COUNTY REENTRY TASK FORCE
ASSESSMENT OF ALBANY COUNTY’S REENTRY SYSTEM
Prepared by the Albany County
Needs Assessment Committee
Introduction to Albany County Reentry Task Force
Albany County Data
Overview of Reentry
A. Case Management Services
B. Housing and Residential Services: Emergency, Transitional and Permanent
C. Behavioral Health Services
D. Financial Support,
Educational, Vocational Training and Employment Services
E. Community and
Faith-Based Supportive Services, Family and Peer Supports
Gaps and Barriers to Successful Reentry
Related to Criminogenic Needs
COUNTY REENTRY TASK FORCE
ASSESSMENT OF REENTRY SYSTEM
INTRODUCTION TO ALBANY COUNTY REENTRY TASK FORCE
The Albany County Reentry Task Force (ACRTF)
was established in October 2008, under a grant received from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice (DCJS). The mission
of the Task Force is to increase public safety and reduce recidivism by developing a strong reentry system that emphasizes
evidence-based principles and approaches to addressing the criminogenic needs of formerly incarcerated individuals. County
Reentry Task Forces are charged with the following specific objectives.
To assist with the development and management of service plans for high risk individuals returning from State prison, in order
to effectively manage risk and address their criminogenic needs, as well as their housing, employment and other stabilizing
2. To continuously analyze the existing reentry system, identify service gaps and systemic operational
barriers to successful reentry, and implement strategies and evidence-based principles to build service and resource capacity,
and to mitigate or eliminate barriers.
3. To engage the broader community in building a comprehensive
reentry system, through community education and outreach efforts targeting various stakeholders such as formerly incarcerated
persons and their families, service providers, landlords, employers and the general community, in order to build partnerships,
increase resource capacity and further strengthen the County’s reentry system.
Albany County CRTF initiative is led through a partnership among three County Departments: Mental Health, Probation and Social
Services. During the first year of the project, Albany County Department of Social Services served as the lead implementing
department. During this period, a more refined understanding was gained of the primary service needs of those high-risk individuals
reentering Albany County from State prisons, particularly related to the high incidence of alcohol/substance abuse and mental
health needs. As a result, the lead implementing role was transitioned for the second year to the Albany County Department
of Mental Health.
The Albany County CRTF functions in an advisory capacity
to the Albany County Departments of Social Services, Probation and Mental Health, in their roles as lead agencies for Albany
County’s Reentry Task Force initiative. The ACRTF reports activities and recommendations to the Departments, who in
turn report directly to the County Executive. The Commissioner of Albany County Department of Social Services, the Director
of the Albany County Department of Probation and the Director of the Albany County Department of Mental Health serve as Co-Chairpersons
of the ACRTF. The Task Force membership includes representatives from the NYS Division of Parole, the NYS Department of Correctional
Services, the Albany County Executive’s Office, the Albany County Legislature, the Albany County District Attorney’s
Office, the Albany County Departments of Social Services, Probation and Mental Health, Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center,
the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, municipal police departments, other public and private human service agencies, research
and educational professionals, and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.
The Albany County Reentry Task Force is charged under its DCJS grant with analyzing the reentry system for
incarcerated individuals within Albany County, identifying gaps in service accessibility and availability, recommending strategies
to address identified needs and barriers, and advising the Albany County Departments of Social Services, Probation and Mental
Health on related matters. This analysis is based on the National Institute of Corrections’ Transition from Prison to
Community (TPC) model that asserts that effective reentry systems enhance public safety by encouraging mutual ownership of
issues by stakeholders and promoting the use of evidence-based practices. In applying the TPC model to the review of Albany
County’s reentry system, efforts are being made to solicit input from a variety of stakeholders, identify evidence-based
best practices and successful program and funding strategies, and develop recommendations for strategies and program development
that will improve outcomes for the population.
This report represents the
Task Force’s summary of initial findings and recommendations related to the Albany County reentry system, as informed
by discussions that have occurred within meetings of the full Reentry Task Force, as well as its Steering, Needs Assessment
and Case Review Committees. The information presented in this report represents an evolving process of analysis and planning.
The findings and recommendations provided are based upon the Task Force’s broad review of what is an extremely complex
service delivery system. Many aspects of the system remain to be discussed. In addition, many gaps exist in the data available
regarding capacities, utilization and the flow of individuals through the system. During future years, the Albany County Reentry
Task Force will continue its work, exploring more aspects of the service delivery system, involving additional community representatives
with specific areas of expertise, and delving more in-depth into selected service areas, best practices and recommended strategies.
II. ALBANY COUNTY DATA HIGHLIGHTS
Albany County is located in the capital region of upstate New York. Albany County’s
demographic, geographical, social, economic and service system characteristics directly impact upon the nature of the reentry
population and the challenges that they face.
According to the U.S. Census’
most recent estimates, Albany County’s population in 2007 was 299,307. Albany County incorporates urban, suburban and
rural areas. The City of Albany comprises the largest urban center, with 31% of the County’s total population. The Town
of Colonie is the second largest municipal area, with 27% of the total County population.
Albany County’s economy is largely driven by government and the service industry. The County is known
for having highly developed networks of health and human service providers. While having advantages for resource availability,
this network also draws persons from other counties and States to Albany County for the purposes of securing services. Major
segments of the service system function in a regional capacity, including the alcohol/substance abuse treatment network, several
private regional hospitals, a State-operated psychiatric center, and a Veterans Administration hospital. A network of emergency
shelters, low-cost motels and others serving a transient clientele are resources used by homeless persons originating from
throughout the region.
Poverty rates for individuals within Albany County
were estimated for 2007 at 12%, with the largest numbers found within Blacks/African Americans (30.7%) and Hispanics (22.7%).
Poverty rates were significantly higher within the City of Albany, with 25% of the population estimated to be below poverty
levels, with the highest rates found within Blacks/African Americans (33%), Hispanics (33%) and Asians (28%).
Albany County’s 2008 rates per 100,000 population for index crime, violent crime and property crime
were among the highest in New York State. Rates for index crime (3,528.8) and property crime (3,083.8) were third highest,
below only Erie and Schenectady Counties. Similarly, rates for violent crime (442.0) were third highest among upstate districts
and fourth highest in New York State, below New York City, Erie and Schenectady Counties. For violent crime with a firearm,
Albany County rates (77.1) although considerably lower, are fourth highest upstate behind Erie, Monroe and Schenectady Counties.
It is unclear whether the Statewide data represented is an accurate depiction of actual comparative rates, or if biases related
to reporting and recording of crime are involved. Considerable complexity would also be involved with attempts to determine
what rates would generally be anticipated to occur in a County with Albany’s demographic profile. But regardless of
the impact of either of these factors, it is clear that crime is a significant issue in Albany County. Countywide arrests
decreased slightly (166 or 1.7%) between 2008 and 2009. However, increases were seen in felony arrests in the categories of
Violent Felony Offenses (49 or 7.4%), Drug (41 or 7.6%) and Vehicle and Traffic Laws (33 or 17.1%).
Summary State data is available regarding the top crime categories for all State inmates released to the community,
including by Parole, conditional release (C/R) or maximum expiration (ME). This data is maintained by County of conviction
and sentencing, and may not always reflect the County of release. During the period 1998 – 2007, the total number of
annual State inmate releases nearly doubled, from 410 to 814. During this ten year period, similar increases were seen across
each top crime category: violent – 82%, drug – 89% and other – 121%. Comparison of recent annual periods
also showed significant increases. Between 2006 and 2007, the total number of releases increased by 13%, from 718 to 814.
Increases in drug crime were low (10 or 3%), with more significant increases seen in violent crime (42 or 29%) and other crime
(44 or 13%).
In addition to the trend towards increasing numbers of persons
being released with a history of violent crime, the rates of recidivism for returning offenders by County of commitment steadily
increased through the period 1997 – 2006. In 1997, 10.1% of Albany County offenders released returned to the NYS Department
of Correctional Services (DOCS) within one year, 22.9% returned within 2 years, and 33.3% returned within three years. Of
those released in 2004, 16.3% returned within one year, 33.7% within 2 years and 44.1% within three years. By 2006, the number
released that returned within one year reached 20.6%. In all instances, the percentage returned for rule violations was higher
than for those returned for new felony convictions. However, the gap between these two percentages decreased for those returned
within three years of release. Despite these trends, between 2008 and 2009, there were slight decreases in numbers of parolee
arrests within Albany County, for both felonies (193 to 182) and misdemeanors (181 to 172). More significant decreases were
seen in numbers of absconders (191 to 131) and parole violators lodged (568 to 470).
nature of Parole technical violations that are imposed may serve as a potential source of insight regarding system and service
gaps that contribute to individuals’ failures upon reentry. Information provided by the Albany Field Office is that
the majority of technical violations for parolees are drug-related, with efforts being made to link individuals to increasingly
intensive levels of treatment prior to re-incarceration. However, violent offenses, such as domestic violence, generally result
in an immediate request for return to prison.
County Reentry Task Forces
are required to target the majority of their resources to those formerly incarcerated persons that are considered to be at
high risk of recidivism and/or who exhibit high needs for services. To gain an understanding of the basic nature of this population,
data was extrapolated from a DCJS-issued report of individuals anticipated to be released from DOCS facilities during the
period February – April 2009. This report identified 280 individuals projected for release, of which ninety-four percent
(94%) were males and six percent (6%) females. Sixty-five percent (65%) of these offenders had served a new term of incarceration,
while thirty-five (35%) percent were parole violators returned to DOCS. The report projected 110 (39%) individuals as being
at high risk of any re-offense (i.e. “any risk” score of 7 – 10) and 118 offenders (42%) as being at risk
of committing a violent felony offense. The highest rates of risk for re-offense, for both any crime and violent felony offense,
were seen in the younger age ranges of 17 – 29.
As indicated above,
females are under-represented in the DCJS high-risk report and as a result, may not be readily identified for needed services.
To date, no females have been identified through the Case Review Committee process, due to their not reaching the high risk
score levels that drive the selection process. However, Task Force members are aware of instances of recidivism involving
females, including one who violated parole after being out for only five days following an eight-year incarceration.
During CY2009, 616 individuals were released to Albany County under Parole supervision,
representing a 13% decrease from 2007 levels of 708. The total Parole caseload in Albany County at the close of December 2009
was 732, representing a decrease of 13.9% from December 2008 levels. These decreases mirror a statewide trend of an increased
number of discharges from Parole supervision associated with implementation of the April 2009 Drug Law reform, which authorized
merit discharges of eligible determinately sentenced drug offenders. However, Albany County’s percentages of decrease
were greater than those for the total 13 CRTF counties, where numbers of releases to parole and active parole caseloads at
the close of December 2009 declined by 4.6% and 6.2%, respectively.
should be noted that decreases seen in the number of individuals released to Albany County under Parole supervision do not
necessarily mean that the numbers of persons returning from prison are lower. As indicated above, total releases grew steadily
throughout the most recent period for which data is available. To the extent that release rates continue at these or higher
levels, fewer persons assigned to parole will mean more individuals discharged without supervision. This may in turn translate
into more individuals discharged without formal support in accessing needed services in the community.
The monthly totals of active parolee sex offenders present in Albany County caseloads ranged from 36 –
47. At the close of December 2009, there were 38 active sex offender parolees, as compared to 46 at the close of 2008. Caution
should be taken in interpreting this data, as monthly caseloads through 2009 ranged from 36 – 47. Parolees also represent
only a portion of the sex offender population in any community, as many are released from State prison upon maximum expiration
of their sentences.
OF REENTRY PROCESS
The process of preparing an individual for
reentry from prison to the community effectively begins with the pre-sentence investigation conducted by the Probation Department.
The Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) is a permanent document that follows an individual throughout their incarceration and
initiates the process of identifying criminogenic needs. The report includes a description of their crime, the social history
of the individual and their family, issues related to alcohol/substance abuse, mental health and physical health, and recommendations
related to sentencing. Although a rich source of information regarding an individual, the PSI cannot be released without the
permission of the sentencing court. As a result, the PSI is an informational resource that is not consistently available to
support Albany County’s Task Force in developing individual service plans.
sentencing to the State prison system, an individual is first brought to a DOCS Reception and Classification Center, where
the PSI is reviewed as part of the classification process. This process takes approximately 2-3 weeks, during which medical,
psychiatric and educational testing occurs, and information is gathered to inform security classification and programming
decisions. The results of this initial DOCS assessment currently drive the plan for the individual throughout their incarceration.
At present, when an individual is ready for release to the community,
Field Parole must gather information from several different sources within the DOCS system, in order to obtain a complete
picture of their involvements, supervision and service needs. These include an inmate status report prepared by Facility Parole
staff, DOCS programming and disciplinary reports, DOCS medical evaluations and NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) reports.
For persons who are targeted to be served through the CRTF, this need to gather information from a variety of sources is a
barrier to the early development of a comprehensive reentry service plan. However, the following two State initiatives are
expected, when fully implemented, to address this concern.
a) DOCS and
Parole are in the process of developing a Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP) and process. The TAP will combine all assessment
and service plan information within one document that will follow the individual throughout their incarceration and into the
community reentry phase. It will be a “living” document that is continuously updated, identifies strengths and
needs, and is developed with the participation of the inmate. The TAP will require inmate sign-off and will incorporate a
strong element of accountability.
b) The Hudson Correctional Facility
Reentry Unit was established in March 2009, as a 40 bed unit housing inmates targeted for release within 90-120 days, to the
counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Columbia. The Reentry Unit has established weekly programming and encourages
community providers to perform in-reach at the facility. A system has also been established for Individual Service Plan (ISP)
meetings to be held with inmates in the Reentry Unit. Albany County’s Reentry Coordinator will participate in the ISP
meetings for those inmates targeted for return to Albany County, regardless of risk level or anticipation of direct involvement
with CRTF services.
At the current time, the Albany County Reentry Task
Force Case Review Committee identifies individuals for review and authorization of Task Force services using the DCJS-generated
risk score listings, related case discussions with NYS Parole, and occasionally through a referral from Albany County Department
of Probation. Strategies need to be developed for outreach to other potentially eligible individuals, including but not limited
to those designated as high-risk who are anticipated to be released without supervision due to maximum expiration of their
Once Task Force capacities have been sufficiently developed
to ensure that the needs of high risk State inmates are being addressed, consideration may be given to broadening the Task
Force’s efforts to include high risk individuals being released from Albany County Correctional Facility without Probation
supervision. When the needs of such individuals are not adequately addressed, the risk increases that they will commit further
criminal acts and potentially enter the State prison system.
IV. REENTRY SERVICES AND RESOURCES
A. CASE MANAGEMENT
The analysis of case management service availability is complicated
by issues of definition, as case management-type functions are contained within many job titles, including Parole and Probation
Officers, as well as human service professionals working in a wide variety of settings. For the purposes of this discussion,
the broadest definition of case management will be used, incorporating functions along a continuum of assessment, service
plan development, linkage with treatment and community-based services, and direct follow-up services. Formerly incarcerated
persons may access case management services through a variety of non-criminal justice programs, including but not limited
to the mental health, drug/alcohol, employment and homeless service delivery systems. However, outside of Parole and Probation,
case management capacities targeted specifically to formerly incarcerated persons are limited in availability. The primary
providers of “stand-alone” case management services that are specifically targeted to formerly incarcerated persons
are summarized below.
· “Given the Chance”, a program of the AIDS Council of Northeastern
New York, serves individuals regardless of HIV status, both while in correctional facilities and as they are transitioning
back to the community. Case management services continue as needed for eighteen months post-release. Mentoring and family
support are integrated into reentry services. Once in the community, Transitional Case Management Services are available for
reentering individuals, who need assistance to access alcohol/substance abuse services. The Safety Counts Program targets
individuals who are at risk of alcohol/substance abuse relapse, providing group and individual sessions and social events.
The Council also provides several levels of case management services for HIV-positive individuals, including Housing Case
Management and assistance with access to medical insurance and care.
· Trinity Institution Homer Perkins Center, Inc. provides reentry-related
case management services through several programs. a) Trinity’s Jail Transition Program targets youth ages 16 –
20 years, both male and female, incarcerated at Albany County Correctional Facility. The program’s goal is to remove
obstacles to education, employment and living crime-free in the community. Participants receive an individual, comprehensive
needs assessment. Pre-release groups are conducted three times per week. Participants may be either sentenced or un-sentenced,
and also target those preparing to transfer to State prison. A minimum of one year of services post-release is guaranteed.
An action plan is developed for the individual and referrals implemented and monitored through case management. b) Case management
is provided as a component of the T-LEAP Program, which provides employment-related assistance to low-income persons over
age 16 who are currently on or will be sentenced to Albany County Probation and are parents.
· TASC provides comprehensive evaluations
and development of individualized service plans to individuals involved in the criminal justice system and in need of linkages
with alcohol/substance abuse and mental health services. Information is gathered regarding an individual’s history,
mental health and drug/alcohol needs. Staff provide whatever assistance an individual needs in order to access services, including
transportation, assistance securing documentation, accompaniment to DSS to assist with benefit applications, advocacy with
the courts for alternative dispositions that favor rehabilitation, and progress reports provided to the Courts, Parole and
· The Veterans Administration (VA) maintains a liaison in every State prison in NYS and coordinates closely with NYS
Parole. The VA Reentry Coordinator can work with any incarcerated veteran who is within 12 months of reentering the community.
Honor Court Program provides comprehensive evaluations and development of individualized service plans to individuals involved
in the criminal justice system and in need of linkages with alcohol/substance abuse and mental health services. Information
is gathered regarding an individual’s history, mental health and drug/alcohol needs. Staff provide whatever assistance
an individual needs in order to access services, including transportation, assistance securing documentation, accompaniment
to DSS to assist with benefit applications, advocacy with the courts for alternative dispositions that favor rehabilitation,
and progress reports provided to the Courts, Parole and Probation.
Albany County is in the process of procuring case management services
specifically targeted to CRTF clients, through an RFP process initiated in March 2010. It is anticipated that this will result
in a point in time service capacity of approximately 30-40 individuals, to be served through two (2) Masters-level case managers.
Length of engagement will be determined specific to the needs of targeted individuals, will run concurrently with active Case
Review Committee status, and is expected to average twelve (12) months, including up to three (3) months pre-release and nine
(9) months post-release. During the pre-release period, case managers will assist with assessment of individual needs, including
both criminogenic and stabilization needs, and referral processes to ensure a smooth transition for the individual upon release,
including assisting with completing program applications and arranging needed appointments. For individuals in the Hudson
Correctional Facility Reentry Unit, the Case Managers will be expected to initiate pre-release client contact through in-reach
at the facility. Post-release services will involve regular contact with the reentering individual, to assist with establishing
and maintaining service linkages, providing support, identifying and addressing new needs as they emerge. The Case Managers
will be required to actively participate as members of the CRTF Case Review Committee.
The following represent the major systemic barriers identified for accessing case management services on behalf
of formerly incarcerated persons.
a) Existing case management capacities
are insufficient to meet the needs of all formerly incarcerated persons who would potentially benefit. This is particularly
true of capacities with expertise in the needs of formerly incarcerated persons. At the current time, persons who are released
following maximum expiration of their sentence are less likely to be linked with case management services, regardless of their
b) Most existing case management services are provided within
institutional funding silos with narrow eligibility criteria, and are related to specific special needs, such as mental health,
alcohol/substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, veterans and homelessness. Accessing case management services therefore often requires
an exact knowledge of and ability to navigate these various service systems.
A comprehensive plan to address an individual’s needs often requires concurrently accessing services within multiple
service delivery systems. Confusion frequency exists across programs regarding their respective roles. When such involvements
are not well coordinated, which is often the case, the result may be duplication of services or even conflicting service plans.
d) Funding source preferences for use of performance-based contracting may pose
a barrier to securing case management services for hard to serve persons, as programs are reluctant to accept those with a
questionable likelihood of success.
AND RESIDENTIAL SERVICES: EMERGENCY, TRANSITIONAL AND PERMANENT
incarcerated persons are impacted by long-standing issues that exist within Albany County related to the availability of affordable
housing for the low to very low-income population. The unaffordability of quality rental housing to low-income households,
in the absence of a housing subsidy, is a major underlying cause of homelessness within Albany County. According to Comprehensive
Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) data published by HUD, the 2000 Census found that within the City of Albany, 74.5% of
all households reported housing costs in excess of 30% of income. This subgroup included 8,271 renter households, of whom
nearly 5,100 had a housing cost burden of greater than 50% of income. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out
of Reach study found that in 2009, 48% of all Albany County renters would have been unable to afford a 2-bedroom apartment
at Fair Market Rent levels.
The problem of housing affordability is particularly
acute for recipients of Temporary Assistance and SSI who are not successful in accessing public or subsidized housing, including
formerly incarcerated persons who may be designated as ineligible to access public housing. Even housing developed under State
and federal programs may not be affordable to these subgroups, as TA and SSI benefit levels fall significantly below even
the 30% AMI level.
Housing and residential program capacities targeted
specifically to reentering individuals are extremely limited in Albany County. The following represent currently existing
· NYS Parole maintains limited transitional residential capacities for undomiciled,
high-risk parolees, through a contract with Altamont Program for 15 beds (10 male, 5 female) located in Albany County and
30 beds (all males) in Schenectady County, to provide emergency/transitional housing, primarily for those being released as
undomiciled. Stays range from 1 – 90 days, with an average of 60 days. Similarly, during 2008, NYS Parole developed
a contract with Horizon Center for the provision of transitional housing through a “Secure Stabilization and Employment
Program” targeting parolees, including but not limited to sex offenders with adult victims. Albany County Department
of Social Services partnered with Parole in this endeavor, providing additional funding support. However, this contract was
terminated December 31, 2008 due to fiscal constraints being encountered by the Division, resulting in a loss to the system
of 32 beds.
· An additional 9 transitional beds for homeless persons, provided by Altamont Program under contract with Albany County
Department of Social Services, are also generally filled with parolees. Altamont Program also operates 40 SRO units and 90
permanent housing apartments in the community. Priority is given to participants in drug/alcohol treatment through the Eleanor
Young Clinic and those engaged in vocational activity.
· TASC operates a total of 22 transitional beds (14 – male, 8 –
female), targeting offenders in the Capital District who are in need of drug, alcohol, or mental health treatment. Lengths
of stay average 30 – 90 days. Transitional housing has become the agency’s most important component, contributing
significantly to more than 75% of TASC residents successfully completing a year long program of case management, client monitoring
and reporting services.
· Lydia’s House opened in February 2009 as a 6-bed transitional housing program for females returning to the
community from incarceration.
· The Veterans Administration operates a reentry program for incarcerated veterans, providing all housing and treatment,
with no requirement to seek temporary assistance. Although not specific to the reentry population, formerly incarcerated veterans
can potentially access transitional and permanent housing through a more extensive network of capacities. The Veterans Administration
supports 117 beds for veterans, including 28 operated by Albany Housing Coalition and 60 operated by Altamont Program at Schuyler
Inn, 20 of which are targeted to those with mental health needs and include the services of a psychiatric nurse and social
worker. Access to these beds is through the VA, which conducts initial screening and makes referrals. Lengths of stay may
be up to two years, but most obtain an apartment within 6 months to a year. Permanent housing for veterans is provided through
the HUD Section 8 VASH program, with a total of 90 vouchers are available.
The NYS prison system is a significant source of discharges
to homelessness and the number of individuals being released to Parole supervision as undomiciled is increasing. During 2009,
the number of Albany County parolees in shelter at the end of the month steadily grew from a low of 5 in January to a high
of 21 in December. While the percentage of Albany County parolees in shelter is somewhat lower than the total for the 13 CRTF
counties, this rate of increase is significantly higher. An informal April 2009 review of persons with proposed release dates
within the upcoming four months showed that nearly one-third were expected to be released as undomiciled. Of these, 38% were
expected to enter Parole Community Based Residence Programs, 26% were sex offenders that required motel placement, and the
remaining 62% were expected to be referred to emergency shelters. Parole Albany Field Office representatives report that at
present, five parolees are released on average each week to Albany County as undomiciled. One contributing factor is a recent
change in policies related to approvable housing for perpetrators of domestic violence. A narrower view of “similar”
victims has contributed to more denials of proposed housing arrangements and a related increase in homeless discharges from
Many individuals discharged from prison as homeless that are not
housed in a Parole residential program are referred to or independently seek assistance through the local emergency shelter
system. No single source of data is available regarding the numbers of reentering individuals who receive emergency shelter.
Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS) reports 208 episodes of homelessness encountered during 2009 among State prison
releases (102) and County jail releases (106). These numbers are not reflective of the total volume, as many individuals are
referred directly to Capital City Rescue Mission, a facility which does not routinely report all sheltered individuals to
The increasing numbers of registered sex offenders being discharged
as homeless from NYS prisons has become of primary concern during recent years, related to access to emergency shelter. Episodes
of homelessness among sex offenders have increased significantly in recent years, from 29 in 2004 to 143 in 2009. Of the episodes
encountered in 2009, 52 involved releases from prison, 49 involved parolees and 15 involved probationers. Both permanent housing
and emergency/transitional shelter resources for this population are restricted by local and State residency laws. Although
the Albany County residency law was overturned by the State Supreme Court in July 2009, State laws and administrative directives
continue to impose restrictions on residency options for individuals on parole and probation supervision. Further, the Town
of Colonie has adopted a local ordinance that severely limits the number of sex offenders that can be housed in hotels/motels
within the Town, through establishment of a point system and a fee imposed on owners that accept sex offenders whose stays
are reimbursed by governmental agencies.
Access to existing emergency
shelter beds by Albany County’s homeless single adults has been negatively impacted by the increasing number of referrals
that are made by other counties to facilities in Albany County. Referrals of single individuals are routinely made to the
Capital City Rescue Mission by counties from throughout the region and NYS Parole. Such referrals are frequently made without
assuming formal fiscal responsibility and act to the detriment of access for Albany County homeless persons.
The primary barriers and unmet needs identified specific to the reentry population are as follows.
a) A need exists to identify best practice models and strategies for reentry that will reduce the numbers
of individuals being released from prison as undomiciled and directly entering the homeless emergency shelter/motel placement
system as a result.
b) Public housing and Section 8 policies regarding
tenancy by formerly incarcerated persons are very restrictive and not well understood, as individual housing authorities have
considerable discretion in this area. However, even were such opportunities to be available, waiting lists are extremely lengthy
and periodically closed to new applications.
c) Additional transitional
and permanent housing capacities are needed for reentering individuals, including but not limited to Single Room Occupancy
(SRO) beds with attached supervision, case management and drug-testing. Both reentry-specific housing and housing that integrates
formerly incarcerated persons within the broader population are needed.
Barriers to developing programs include zoning, resistance to congregate facilities and to the reentry population, and difficulties
in securing adequate funding for operating costs.
e) Finding supportive
housing for sex offenders with mental health needs can be nearly impossible. Insurance companies have informed mental health
housing providers that they will not insure programs that serve Level 3 offenders.
C. BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES (Mental Health and Alcohol/Substance Abuse Treatment)
The majority of individuals served to date through the Albany CRTF Case Review Committee have exhibited needs
for alcohol/substance abuse and/or mental health treatment and services. Albany County Department of Mental Health serves
as the Local Government Unit (LGU) for mental health, chemical dependency and developmental disability services. As the LGU,
the Department is responsible, in conjunction with the designated State agencies, to ensure that a complete system is in place
to meet needs, through services provided directly or through other community providers. Given these roles and responsibilities,
the transition of lead CRTF responsibilities to Albany County Department of Mental Health is expected to facilitate behavioral
health treatment and service linkages for the high-risk reentry population.
Abuse Treatment – Parole’s Albany Field Office reports that the majority of technical violations and instances
of absconding are drug/alcohol related. In addition, many instances involve co-occurring disorders or dual-diagnoses. Albany
County has a rich array of drug/alcohol services, characterized by cooperative provider relationships and a good system of
care without major gaps. However, issues exist related to the ability to seamlessly transition an individual from prison to
treatment. NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services’ (OASAS) assessment instruments assume that incarcerated
persons are long-term, sober/drug-free in the institutional setting, when in fact substances are often accessible in correctional
facilities. In addition to encouraging OASAS to address this issue through development of forensic assessment instruments
and protocols, a greater familiarity and use of relapse prevention groups and informal networks of peer and faith-based sponsored
support should be encouraged for those who do not have access to formal treatment.
for rapid access to alcohol/substance abuse treatment and relapse prevention services are emerging as a primary area of concern
in the successful reentry of candidates for CRTF services. Albany County’s early experience with serving high risk parolees
indicates that alcohol/substance abuse relapse is a major issue. Of the 20 individuals accepted for CRTF services through
May 2009, all were known to have histories of alcohol/substance abuse. Of those 9 released through 6/1/09, 4 used drugs or
alcohol almost immediately upon return, threatening their successful reentry.
all DOCS facilities offer programs related to alcohol/substance abuse, the nature and effectiveness of these programs are
reported to vary widely from facility to facility. DOCS programming guidelines currently limit alcohol/substance abuse programming
to a 6 month period, which may not be contiguous to release period. Following completion, an individual may not be eligible
for more unless they relapse. Also, participation in relapse prevention programs is voluntary for participants.
Peer support networks, both formal and informal, are seen as very important to supporting reentry. Forming
a relationship with a supportive organization or provider prior to release, through peer support groups or in-reach, is extremely
valuable. Peer-run groups, such as 12 step programs and recovery networks, may be the sole options available for individuals
who are unable to access formal treatment upon release. Relapse prevention groups are available within DOCS Reentry Units.
At other facilities, inmates would access AA and other groups.
County is addressing these issues through a combination of initiatives, including a) interface with Twin Counties for assessments
conducted with inmates of the Hudson Correctional Facility’s Reentry Unit, b) expedited assessments provided through
the Albany County Department of Mental Health’s Alcohol/Substance Abuse Central Management Unit (CMU) and c) the initiation
in March 2010 of a weekly relapse prevention group, targeting solely those individuals accepted for receipt of services through
the Albany County CRTF. The group will provide additional support and monitoring to individuals who are at high risk of relapsing
during the early period of reentry, pending their linkage with a formal treatment program.
Under the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative, it is also anticipated that two “Veterans Courts”
will be developed with the goal of sentencing veterans to treatment. The possibility exists for one of these courts to be
located in Albany.
Mental Health Services - Albany County has high quality,
innovative mental health services targeting individuals who are seriously and persistently mentally ill. Supportive and intensive
case management services are available to this population through the ICM and SCM programs, provided by Albany County Department
of Mental Health and Clearview Center, respectively. In addition, the Department of Mental Health operates an ACT Team which
provides multi-disciplinary services on an outreach basis to homeless mentally ill persons. In January 2010, the Department
established the CART Team, a clinical case management and expanded clinic treatment program designed to provide immediate,
intensive, short-term clinical monitoring and crisis case management to individuals with mental illness and co-occurring mental
hygiene disorders, who repeatedly access emergency services and are at risk for psychiatric hospitalization and/or incarceration.
Albany County Department of Mental Health co-locates staff at the Albany County
Correctional Facility Mental Health Tier, providing assessments, overseeing treatment needs, and linking individuals with
community-based services upon release. In addition, through its Forensic Unit, the Department provides services to individuals
in the community with mental health needs who are involved with the criminal justice system, as follows.
Under a Jail Diversion Program, one full time social worker is dedicated to working with Albany City Court,
Public Defenders Office, Assistant District Attorney's Office and Albany County Probation Department. The Jail Diversion Program
targets individuals who receive mental health services or are in need of mental health services at any stage of the court
process, but primarily focuses on arraignment to divert mentally ill individuals from landing in jail. This program
provides assessments, makes recommendations to the court, serves as a liaison between the court system and community providers,
and provides ongoing assistance to the individual and court while their case is pending.
A Forensic Social Worker works closely with the Jail Diversion Program and completes any court ordered 390.30
evaluations requested by the courts in Albany County. The Forensic Social Worker is the liaison and point person for
all SPMI individuals returning to Albany County from prison, and coordinates all discharge plans with the NYS OMH Office of
Forensic Services. The Forensic Social Worker is also available to NYS Parole to complete mental health assessments
and make recommendations when indicated. In addition, the Forensic Social Worker is responsible for enrollment and
disenrollment of the Medication Grant Program in Albany County, for individuals returning from Albany County Correctional
Facility and the NYS prison system. Albany County Department of Mental Health also has a .5 FTE Social Worker position
that completes MH evaluations and makes treatment recommendations for individuals who are under probation supervision.
Sex offenders represent a significant subgroup of high-risk individuals returning to Albany County following
incarceration, including both parolees and those released upon maximum expiration of their sentence. Of the 20 cases reviewed
and accepted by the Case Review Committee through May 2009, four (4) were registered sex offenders and two (2) had a history
of sexual offense, although not required to register. A contract has been established under CRTF funding with Dr. Richard
Hamill d/b/a Forensic Mental Health Associates (FMHA), with capacity for 25 individuals to be assessed, including limited
capacities for polygraphs and Abel assessments, and 520 treatment sessions or an average 10 individuals attending weekly.
In addition, specialized services targeting areas commonly encountered among
the reentry population such as anger management and batterers’ counseling, are provided by a number of local agencies,
including but not limited to Project Equality and Family and Children’s Services of the Capital Region, Inc.
The primary barriers and unmet needs impacting formerly incarcerated persons’
access to behavioral health services are as follows.
a) OASAS assessment
instruments used for determining needs and level of care for alcohol/substance abuse treatment do not recognize the needs
of those whose sobriety has been the result of incarceration, nor do they recognize that inmates may access substances while
incarcerated. Programming policies and treatment models for incarcerated and recently released individuals should more clearly
distinguish between enforced abstinence and sobriety, and their respective dynamics and impacts on the individual at reentry.
b) Significant short-falls in mental health treatment and service capacities
exist. Most publicly-funded mental health services operate at capacity. Access to outpatient services is particularly difficult
for those who do not fit SPMI criteria.
c) Access to behavioral health
services is limited for reentering individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid or Family Health Plus benefits, and who otherwise
lack health insurance that provides adequate coverage in these areas.
Sex offender treatment, anger management and batterers’ counseling services are not generally funded through Medicaid
or health insurance companies. An inability or unwillingness to self-pay can pose a significant barrier to individuals accessing
these needed services.
D. FINANCIAL SUPPORT,
EDUCATIONAL, VOCATIONAL TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES
The ability of
incarcerated persons to secure employment that will be immediately available upon release is extremely limited. As a result,
critical aspects of planning for successful reentry include linkage to temporary assistance and other financial benefits,
as well as educational, vocational training and employment services. Strategies for assisting individuals pre-release to complete
benefit applications and gather required documentation help to facilitate a smooth transition to establishing eligibility.
At the current time, Albany County Department of Social Services conducts eligibility interviews for temporary assistance
and Medicaid via videoconferencing with inmates of Albany County Correctional Facility who are to be discharged directly to
inpatient and residential facilities. A process is also in place among Albany County Department of Social Services, NYS Parole
and the Hudson Reentry Unit whereby inmates to be released to parole supervision are assisted in completing applications and
gathering documentation, applications are mailed in advance to the Department, and eligibility interview appointments are
scheduled for the second business day following their release. The potential for use of videoconferencing to conduct eligibility
interviews with inmates at Hudson Reentry Unit and other DOCS facilities has also been explored, but was determined to not
be feasible due to cost factors.
Parole places considerable emphasis on
parolees obtaining employment. Albany County compares favorably to the total 13 CRTF counties related to the percentage of
parolees that were employed either part-time or full-time in 2009 (50.9% versus 38.2%). Of the total parolees, 37.6% were
employed part-time, 5.8% full-time at minimum wage and 7.4% full-time above minimum wage. However, the percentage of Albany
County parolees employed full-time (6.8%) was below the average for all CRTF counties (15.5%).
Achieving financial independence is an area where many barriers exist. Funding resources to support higher
education and vocational training are limited, as are opportunities to secure appropriate interview clothing, job-related
transportation and other similar supports. It is also the experience of local providers that employers are becoming stricter
related to criminal background checks.
It is easiest to access services
and jobs for those in the behavioral health system (i.e. mental health, alcohol/substance abuse), and those with lower educational
levels that “match” lower wage jobs. However, the system does not similarly assist those with higher capacity
to return to their pre-incarceration employment levels. Formerly incarcerated persons with higher-level education and skills
often remain in low wage jobs due to their history of felony convictions. When employment does not match an individual’s
abilities and expectations, it can further exacerbate their frustration and risk of recidivism.
The primary sources of funds available to support employment services flow through County Departments of Social
Services and Work Force Investment Boards (WIB), under State and federal funding streams and regulations. Most resources available
through Albany County Department of Social Services are targeted to the TANF-eligible population, where the head of household
maintains a custodial relationship with a minor child. Available services funding and employment-related activities deemed
acceptable under State regulations are more limited for Safety Net recipients (i.e. single individuals or couples with no
custodial relationship to a minor child).
Currently, Albany County Department
of Social Services contracts with Altamont Program and America Works to provide job readiness skills, academic skills enhancement,
basic work and life skills, and job/vocational skills, job placement, transitional employment and 90-day retention services
to TANF and Safety Net Family recipients. The America Works contract specifically includes services targeted to 25 registered
sex offenders who are in receipt of Safety Net benefits. Altamont Program holds the contract with Albany County Department
of Social Services for a Green Jobs Corp program, to provide education, training and subsidized employment for up to 75 temporary
assistance recipients and other low-income individuals.
also has contracts with the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) under the HIV Welfare to Work Program
(Working for Change), the Wage Subsidy Program and the Food Stamp Employment Training Program (FSET). Altamont can serve Safety
Net recipients through the FSET and Working for Change Program and non-custodial Safety Net recipients under the Wage Subsidy
Program. In addition, Altamont Program has a VESID counselor on site and provides vocational assessment, job readiness, job
placement, and post-employment support services for VESID-eligible clients. Altamont Program is also licensed through the
New York State Education Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision and offers the following certified training programs: Culinary
Arts, Hospitality and Hotel Services, Custodial Maintenance and Computer Applications.
Career Central, located at 175 Central Avenue in Albany, is the Workforce Investment Board’s (WIB) One
Stop for the County of Albany. The services offered at Career Central include job search assistance (resumes, interviewing);
employee search assistance (for employers); resource library (including computers); free office resources (telephone, fax,
copies); support services; and training. In addition to job search assistance, Career Central offers literacy and skills assessment
utilizing the TABE (Test of Basic Education) and Career Zone.
often receives referrals from Parole and Probation for individuals reentering the community from incarceration. Career Central
provides reentering individuals with assistance in resume writing, interviewing skills, individual counseling and specialized
information that can lead to a certificate of good conduct and/or a certificate of relief from disabilities. Further, staff
educates formerly incarcerated individuals and local businesses on state human rights laws, relevant employer tax credits,
and other matters pertaining to the hiring and treatment of ex-offenders in the workplace. Relationships have been developed
by Career Central with local employers willing to hire formerly incarcerated persons.
One of the biggest challenges to working with formerly incarcerated individuals is the limited resources for
proper training. Most returning inmates have limited skills, education, poor work histories and require a high level of training
and/or schooling to make them more employable. Unfortunately, the funding available for training services is very limited.
Among the primary funding sources for Career Central is Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding. Most ex-offenders are eligible
for only “Adult” WIA training funds, for which Career Central typically receives only a few hundred thousand dollars
annually. In 2008, Career Central was only able to provide training funds for about 80 individuals using “Adult”
WIA funds. In 2009, with the influx of federal stimulus dollars, Career Central was able to provide training to approximately
180 individuals. However, starting in July 2010, the stimulus funds will be gone and WIA funding for “Adults”
is expected to be reduced by another 2% from the previous year.
of the limited funding, Career Central works closely with a variety of agencies throughout the region, including the GED program
offered by the Educational Opportunity Center, in order to connect formerly incarcerated persons with appropriate employment
and educational services.
The Veterans Administration provides employment-related
support to veterans, including those released from incarceration. The VA contracts with Albany Housing Coalition and Altamont
Program for employment services and housing services. In addition, the VA is actively seeking to hire veterans, including
those who are formerly incarcerated.
TASC vocational services are available
through a part-time staff position, with the goal of expanding this to a full-time Work Specialist position.
In partnership with Probation, Parole and DSS, Trinity Institution operates a DPCA-funded LEAP program to
move persons into employment while encouraging positive life changes, addressing family reunification issues and increasing
support to children in these households. As a TANF-funded program, the eligible population is composed of employable parents,
both custodial and non-custodial, with income up to 200% of poverty. Group sessions have included Ready Set Work, Thinking
for a Change (based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles), parenting, and basic financial management. Job search and
case management services are at the core of the program.
The Youth Build
Program, funded through the City of Albany, provides GED, life skills and training in construction trades to persons 16 –
24 years of age. Although a participant does not need to be at risk, the program receives referrals from Probation Parole,
and the courts, as well as self-referrals.
The Center for Employment Opportunities
(CEO) has a newly established office in Albany, funded by New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services with federal
stimulus funds. This office works only with persons having criminal convictions and provides pre-employment training, paid
employment that builds basic skills, supportive job coaching and job placement. Both males and females reentering the community
are provided immediate paid work experience through transitional employment, and assistance in finding and maintaining a full-time
A variety of concerns exist related to the availability of educational,
vocational and employment services.
a) The majority of reentering individuals
lack opportunities to engage in employment-related activities prior to release and therefore must initially access temporary
assistance benefits upon release. Strategies are needed for connecting reentering individuals with vocational and employment-readiness
assessments if they are not entering directly into a job upon release. DOCS is exploring contracting with an entity to perform
job skills assessments at the Hudson Reentry Unit.
b) Information is not
routinely provided to inmates regarding laws that restrict employment based on the nature of a crime, and the potential for
access to Certificates of Relief from Disabilities and Certificates of Good Conduct.
While vocational and employment services are available through a variety of systems and sources, they are not all well known
within the reentry system and capacities specifically targeting the needs of formerly incarcerated persons are limited.
d) Funds available for education and vocational training are generally very limited.
These are areas where many formerly incarcerated persons demonstrate significant needs, as the result of having limited vocational
skills and educational backgrounds, and poor work histories.
individuals face additional obstacles to securing employment as a result of their criminal records, and may be forced to accept
positions for which they are overqualified. Others who were incarcerated at a younger age may have no prior work experience.
f) A number of local employers are known to hire formerly incarcerated
persons. A mechanism to identify these specific entities and connect them with the Case Review Committee is needed.
g) Issues related to payment of child support can become a major barrier to formerly
incarcerated persons securing formal employment. Orders of support continue to build charges while an individual is incarcerated,
until the child reaches 21 years of age. As a result, incarcerated parents can develop considerable arrears. Individuals with
high payment orders and extensive arrears may perceive a disincentive to work, avoiding connection with their children or
seeking formal employment where wages may be taken through garnishment. Further, inmates and formerly incarcerated persons
often do not know or understand the options that may be available to them for requesting modification of their support order.
E. COMMUNITY AND FAITH-BASED SUPPORTIVE
SERVICES, FAMILY AND PEER
It is essential
to look at the entire adjustment process for individuals who have experienced long-term incarceration, including individualized
strategies to assist them in developing a sense of competently belonging to a community or social network. In this context,
community-based supportive services, including faith-based, family and peer supports, are essential components of the local
network of reentry supports. However, the formal system’s knowledge of and coordination with these resources is still
very much in a process of development.
Mentoring programs are an essential
component of effective reentry systems targeting high-risk individuals. Formerly incarcerated persons need support and role
models from a positive peer group. Formerly incarcerated persons are often the most effective mentors, particularly those
who have been in the community long enough to be successful but not so long as to develop a “distance” from understanding
of the reentry experience. Formerly incarcerated persons may be reluctant to participate in programs that involve formerly
incarcerated and other recently released persons, fearful that this could be perceived as “fraternizing”. As the
philosophy of supervising entities has long been to prohibit contact with others with a criminal background, close screening
of potential mentors and retraining of staff are important components of expanding mentoring capacities.
· Wounded Healers is a group of former addicts and criminals who have been clean for at least ten years. They provide
in-reach into prisons and also reach into the community through Altamont Program and 820 River Street, churches, Job Corps
and community events. Wounded Healers routinely receives referrals from Parole, and is also going to begin in-reach at the
Hudson Reentry Unit.
· ROOTS (Reentry Opportunities and Orientation Towards Success) is based on a six point model focused on remaining
drug free, obtaining and maintaining employment, maintaining constructive relationships with Parole/Probation officers, developing
financial, social and civic empowerment, healing with family, and maintaining housing and living circumstances conducive to
reentry. ROOTS uses “modeling” to address issues of motivation and cognitive thinking. Orientations are held on
the last Thursday of each month at Trinity Institution. All participation is voluntary and no fees are required for services.
Parole’s support for the program has been instrumental in promoting initial attendance, after which participants then
generally engage on their own initiative.
· TASC maintains a mentoring program.
· Recovery Network of New York (RNNY) is a peer support group sponsored by the Center for Community Alternatives. RNNY
targets formerly incarcerated persons, persons with a history of addiction and others within at-risk communities seeking economic
and social enrichment. Peer-led services focus on education and employment, civic restoration and social support services.
number of faith-based organizations are involved with providing assistance to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons
and their families. While their impact within communities is significant, they are not well known to providers within the
formal service systems and may therefore be underutilized as sources of support. Included among those with significant prison
in-reach and reentry involvement are the following.
· Prison Fellowship Ministries and
Residents Encounter Christ Prison Ministry, the latter sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese, currently operate primarily
in State prisons.
· Ministry of Justice Prison Reform provides informal counseling to reentering individuals and their families.
· Open Ministries conducts
life skills training for young men and women, and single mothers, and is open to all, including but not limited to formerly
· Friends of Friends Universal Mission Institute is an outreach ministry that provides direct hands-on assistance and
networking with available resources, specific to the needs of an individual. Court advocacy is provided and connections are
maintained with incarcerated persons through visitation and assistance provided with meeting basic needs upon release.
· Teen Esteem is a self-empowerment
program that operates at the Arbor Hill Community Center and targets teens whose parents are incarcerated or have addiction
§ ARISE’s Justice Task Force provides policy advocacy for reentry related issues and maintains representation
on the statewide DCJS Reentry Council.
Family reunification is a major reentry issue. Many returning individuals are estranged from their families.
Families themselves may need to change their life-style in order to provide positive support. When family issues exist and
remain unresolved, returning to this same environment is damaging to a goal of successful reentry. Despite the significance
of targeting services to the family of an incarcerated person, available capacities in Albany County are grossly insufficient
to meet the existing level of need. In addition, preparation work with a family can have implications in many areas. Although
efforts are made by Parole and Probation to encourage the involvement of family members in treatment and other services, these
agencies have jurisdiction only over the parolee and cannot mandate family participation.
Family reunification services are an area of increased emphasis for NYS DOCS and Parole. Through the Transitional
Accountability Plan process, it is anticipated that inmates will begin to work on developing connections with family members
long before the pre-release stage. Reportedly, DOCS and Parole are also involved in development of a specific Family Reunification
Program, although details of its status are pending. A Parenting Program and a Fatherhood Program are now operational within
the Hudson Correctional Facility Reentry Unit, and family members are being invited to participate in Individual Service Plan
(ISP) meetings held pre-release with Reentry Unit inmates. In addition, DOCS is in the process of converting its telephone
systems to accommodate more affordable telephone access between inmates and their families, resolving a major issue area.
Resources available in Albany County to support families of incarcerated and
formerly incarcerated persons include the following.
· Trinity Institution’s Family
and Neighborhood Resource Center is a multi-program site focused on offering services to all members of the community in a
comfortable, family atmosphere. Programs include ROOTS, Job Club, anger management, bicycle repair, exercise classes, a basketball
court and special activities. Programs are offered 7 days a week. Many of the same types of programs are being added at the
Arbor Hill Community Center.
· Prisoner Families of New York, Inc. works directly and primarily with the families and friends of inmates and formerly
incarcerated persons, providing information and referral, support groups, advocacy and assistance with troubleshooting prison
· The Center for Law and Justice, through its Family Justice Services Program, provides legal information and guidance
to individuals facing crisis situations due to involvement with the criminal justice system. The Center facilitates weekly
groups at the Albany Public Library for formerly incarcerated persons and their families, and publishes and distributes resource
guides for formerly incarcerated persons. The Center’s Prevention and Empowerment Program focuses on crime prevention
and leadership development in inner city neighborhoods, through outreach, education, mentoring and empowerment activities.
· Capital District Psychiatric
Center operates a therapeutic support group for children of incarcerated persons.
Big Brothers-Big Sisters provides mentoring of children
of prisoners that can also continue post-release.
· TASC offers a weekly parenting group conducted by a consultant, involving
8-week alternating cycles for women and men.
· Family and Children’s Services of the Capital Region, in conjunction with the City of Albany Department of
Youth and Family Services, operates the Family Resource Center at the Albany One Stop Center, as a one-stop source for family
services, including information, referral, case management and counseling. The program has expressed interest in developing
a reentry connection. Family and Children’s Services is also the operator for this region’s 211 program.
Priority areas of need
associated with community-based, faith-based and family reunification services include the following.
a) Ministries operating within prison facilities have found it difficult to maintain connections with inmates
upon their reentry to the community.
b) Faith-based organizations that
provide support to inmates and formerly incarcerated persons are not well-known in the broader community.
c) Services targeting family reunification are limited and under-funded.
d) The needs of children with incarcerated parents are severely overlooked, with few programs specifically
designed to address their unique needs.
GAPS AND BARRIERS TO SUCCESSFUL REENTRY RELATED TO CRIMINOGENIC NEEDS
TPC model emphasizes the importance of reentry systems having the capacity to address criminogenic needs, as the primary risk
factors that lead to criminal conduct and recidivism among formerly incarcerated persons. The following are recognized as
the primary areas of criminogenic need.
· Anti-social cognition –
How people interact within society and how they view themselves and others.
personality and temperament – Lack of judgment or consideration for others, impulsivity, disregard for societal standards
and the rights of others.
Anti-social associates – Socializing with others who have
Troubled family factors
at school or work settings
Use of leisure time and recreational activities· Presence of substance abuse
Studies have shown that the strongest predictors of parole outcomes are related to the individual’s
intrinsic motivation and willingness to accept responsibility for their behavior. Housing and employment, although important
“survival” needs, have not been shown to be directly related to reentry success or failure. Rather, parole violations
have been associated with the following individual characteristics.
likely to associate with other criminals
§ Less likely to live with a spouse
or to be in a stable supportive relationship
§ Less likely to have a mentor
More likely to use drugs and alcohol
§ Poor management of stress
§ Unrealistic expectations
§ Poor problem-solving skills
§ Impulsivity and feeling of not
being in control§ Perception of parole violations as acceptable responses to their circumstances.
It is important to assess
the extent to which the Albany County reentry system incorporates evidence-based practices that address these areas of criminogenic
need. A number of evidence-based and best practices are commonly employed to address criminogenic needs among incarcerated
and formerly incarcerated persons, including comprehensive assessment and individualized service plan development, motivational
interviewing techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and engagement of the support of an individual’s natural
community, including family, peer and faith-based supports. The following specifically addresses the extent to which these
practices are utilized within Albany County to address the criminogenic needs of reentering persons.
Significant efforts are currently underway within NYS DOCS and Parole to implement comprehensive assessments
and individualized service plan processes throughout the State prison system, through development of a Transitional Accountability
Plan that will follow the individual throughout their incarceration and into the community upon release. Similarly, Albany
County Probation Department utilizes the COMPASS to assess needs and develop related service plans.
Staff at various points throughout the reentry system have been trained in the use of motivational interviewing
techniques. Included are staff of Hudson Correctional Facility Reentry Unit, Albany County Department of Probation, and all
Parole Reentry Officers, both facility and field-based. A limited number of Albany County Department of Mental Health staff
associated with reentry services received some training on criminogenic needs and motivational interviewing, and additional
training opportunities are being actively sought.
There are a number of
CBT models that have been developed to specifically address the antisocial thinking that leads to criminal behavior. The two
models that are being used locally are Thinking for a Change and the NCTI Felony Offender Curriculum. However, the number
of agencies and organizations with staff trained in specific CBT models targeted to the reentry population remain relatively
limited and include Hudson Correctional Facility Reentry Unit, Albany County Probation Department, Altamont Program, TASC
and Trinity Institution. Efforts to develop additional CBT capacities will require consideration of which model(s) is most
appropriate to various needs and circumstances, as well as the need to identify resources for the purchase of training and
In March 2010, Albany County issued an RFP for the purchase
of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) groups as a component of a larger procurement of case management services for high risk/high
needs individuals to be served through the CRTF. Upon implementation, all individuals accepted for CRTF services will be assessed
for criminogenic needs and referred for CBT, as determined appropriate by the Case Review Committee. Group sessions will be
held utilizing a cognitive behavioral change curriculum that is geared to the needs of high-risk, formerly incarcerated persons.
Individuals will participate in group sessions as determined appropriate to their needs, based on their individualized assessment.
The following represent the Albany County Reentry Task Force’s initial
recommendations for priority goals and related strategies to guide the efforts of the Task Force in achieving reentry system
change. This analysis is intended to serve as a “living” document that will evolve as changes occur in relevant
public policies and practices, the knowledge and experience of the Task Force, and conditions related to reentry within Albany
County. Similarly, the recommendations presented herein are fully expected to change and evolve in future years, as the result
of these same forces.
Goal #1: Provide leadership
to the Albany County community for the ongoing planning, development and implementation of a prison reentry service system
that is coordinated, evidence-based, and addresses both the criminogenic and survival needs of formerly incarcerated persons.
§ Develop and maintain
a database of services and resources available to support formerly incarcerated persons returning to Albany County.
§ Work in partnership
with selected community organizations to develop and distribute an informational publication listing resources and services
available to support formerly incarcerated persons returning to Albany County.
Develop mechanisms to continuously update members
of the Albany County Reentry Task Force, including but not limited to the CRTF Case Review Committee, regarding available
service resources. Such may include but not be limited to a “List-serve”, a dedicated website or links to relevant
sites, access to the 211 resource database, and other similar approaches.
Participate in a “system assessment” conducted
under the DCJS Technical Assistance Project, with the goal of identifying, documenting and sharing the value of CRTFs to public
safety and reentry efforts and related best-practices of Task Forces.
Develop a County methodology for using the Department
of Mental Health’s management information system to track and analyze reentry service outcomes for those high risk/high
need formerly incarcerated persons accepted for CRTF services.
Educate the CRTF membership on New York State policy
and legislative issues related to reentry.
Goal #2: Expand the availability of case management services to assist formerly incarcerated persons and their
families in accessing services and resources that support successful reentry and reintegration within the community.
§ Complete procurement
and contracting processes, and implement a CRTF-funded program integrating Case Management Services and Cognitive Behavioral
Therapy, targeting approximately 40 high risk/high need, formerly incarcerated persons annually.
§ Encourage the development by community
agencies and County departments of additional reentry case management capacities for formerly incarcerated persons, as appropriate
§ Reach out to case management providers who are either not currently serving formerly incarcerated persons or whose
focus is not on reentry issues, in order to increase their awareness of the needs of this population and to encourage their
inclusion as eligible consumers, as appropriate.
Goal #3: Increase the availability to formerly
incarcerated persons of safe, affordable housing options, provided through both independent living and supportive, congregate
§ Review and develop an understanding of HUD policies and local public housing authorities’ practices related
to tenancy by formerly incarcerated persons.
§ Advocate with legislative bodies and local public housing authorities to address restrictions imposed on public housing
tenancy for formerly incarcerated persons.
§ Educate and advocate with landlords, housing developers and community agencies regarding the housing needs of reentering
· Work towards development of a full continuum of available and appropriate emergency, transitional and permanent housing
for sex offenders, including but not limited to those with mental health needs.
Explore issues and potential strategies related to
the refusal of insurance companies to insure residential programs that serve Level 3 sex offenders.
#4: Enhance access for formerly incarcerated persons to educational, vocational and employment services, and work opportunities.
· Explore with DOCS the potential for expanding work release programs for persons targeted to return to Albany County.
§ Identify employers
and educational institutions that have demonstrated willingness to hire or enroll formerly incarcerated persons.
· Educate educational
institutions on the needs of formerly incarcerated persons and explore the development of related enrollment incentives.
§ Educate employers
on the needs of formerly incarcerated persons and explore the development of related hiring incentives.
§ Establish a Job Developer position
to focus on developing relationships with employers and identifying potentially available employment opportunities.
§ Explore the development
of specific partnerships and protocols between the CRTF and employment service providers, related to assisting formerly incarcerated
persons to secure and maintain employment.
§ Include preferences for serving formerly incarcerated persons in relevant Albany County RFPs and pursue other grant
opportunities to enhance access to educational, employment services and job opportunities.
#5: Enhance access to treatment and services to address behavioral health needs, including but not limited to alcohol/substance
abuse, mental health, developmental and cognitive behavioral therapy.
§ Include preferences for serving formerly incarcerated persons in relevant Albany County
RFPs and pursue other grant opportunities to enhance the availability of needed behavioral health services.
#6: Expand access to community-based and faith-based supportive services, including mentoring, family reunification, and peer
§ Explore opportunities for CRTF partnership with prison chaplains and faith-based organizations, to provide outreach,
engage and support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons in the reentry process.
· Develop a coalition of faith-based
organizations to coordinate efforts to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons and their families.
· Develop a booklet of faith-based resources.
· Secure funding for and develop a Family Specialist position to provide
outreach, information and assistance to families of incarcerated persons, in order to support family reunification during
the reentry transition period.
Goal #7: Expand the use of evidence-based practices to address the criminogenic
needs of formerly incarcerated persons.
§ Implement a CRTF-funded program of Case Management and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,
targeting approximately 40 high risk/high need, formerly incarcerated persons annually. (See Goal #2 above.)
§ Arrange for training
on Motivational Interviewing to be made available to staff of CRTF member agencies.
Provide enhanced training to Albany County Department
of Mental Health staff related to serving sex offenders, including the possibility of pursuing staff credentialing.