March 2, 2009
Hudson Correctional Facility Opens Reentry Unit for Offenders Returning to Capital District
The New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), in conjunction with the Division of Parole and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), opened a specialized “reentry” unit at Hudson Correctional Facility on March 1, 2009 for male inmates due to be released to the Capital District to help prepare them for their transition back to the community.
The Hudson unit is the Department’s third specialized reentry unit, following units that opened at Orleans Correctional Facility in Western New York in August 2007 and October 2008 for Erie and Monroe County releases, respectively.
DOCS plans a fourth reentry unit - and the first for female offenders - at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan this spring for women due to be released back to New York City. These efforts follow an ongoing reentry program that began in 2001 at Queensboro Correctional Facility in Queens, which releases about 4,500 male offenders per year to the New York City area.
Hudson’s 40-bed unit occupies a dormitory at the men’s medium security facility, located in the city of Hudson in Columbia County. It is reserved for inmates due to be released to Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Schenectady counties.
DOCS and the Division of Parole collaborated with Reentry Task Forces from Albany and Rensselaer counties and community-based agencies from Schenectady and Columbia counties to create the transitional dorm. DOCS is transferring eligible inmates who are within three to four months of release from prison for eventual return back to the Capital District and who will benefit from specialized services to help them prepare for successful reintegration to society.
The offenders will meet in person with the parole officers, case workers, potential employers and others from their nearby home county who will form their key support network after release. Preparation for the transition back to society plays a critical role in ex-offenders’ success in obtaining employment and readjusting to their families and communities.
Deputy Secretary to the Governor for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell said: “Our number one goal in criminal justice is always public safety, and successful reentry advances that goal by reducing recidivism and helping former offenders become productive, law-abiding members of their community. The reentry units opened by the Department of Correctional Services, in collaboration with the Division of Parole, are part of a comprehensive strategy that recognizes that a returning offender’s ability to adjust to life outside prison is linked to his or her success in obtaining housing, securing employment, dealing with drug or alcohol dependency and other health-related issues.”
DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “I’m proud that we are expanding upon our Western New York model to benefit the Capital District and, soon, the New York City area. Everyone wins when an offender is properly prepared for a successful return to society – the community, through enhanced public safety; the taxpayers, from productive rather than dependent ex-offenders; and the offenders themselves, by turning their lives around. I believe these reentry units will provide the critical extra boost to offenders as they get ready to return to the community.”
Hank Lemons, interim chairman of the Division of Parole, said: “Expanding our re-entry program to Hudson will give more inmates the opportunity to establish a solid plan for going home. Being closer to home allows individuals to reconnect with communities and families before their release, further enhancing their ability to be successful. Ultimately, this program benefits not only those who choose to become productive members of society, but can have a lasting impact on public safety.”
OASAS Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said: “This collaboration between the criminal justice services and OASAS providers, under the leadership of Governor Paterson, ensures that we treat the drug or alcohol dependence that affects more than 70 percent of the inmate population. With this Hudson initiative and other reentry projects, we are reducing recidivism and saving lives and taxpayers’ money here in New York.”
During their 90- to 120-day stay at the unit, participating inmates will join with a team made up of DOCS and Parole officials, OASAS-certified providers and community- and faith-based agencies to assess each offender’s needs, ranging from possession of necessary documents to employment and housing opportunities and issues surrounding family reunification, on a case-by-case basis. Staff emphasize the inmate’s personal responsibilities in preparation for his return to the community.
Prior to release, participants will:
- Be evaluated for job training, anger management, substance abuse counseling and/or other programs in the community, depending on their needs.
- Be informed about applying for public benefits.
- Practice employability skills.
- Use the Department of Labor’s Career Zone software.
DOCS is eyeing other counties that have developed local reentry task forces as potential partners for future reentry units, including Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga and Orange counties. Like the Orleans and Hudson units, any additional reentry units would supplement the regular reentry programs and services DOCS has run since the 1970s.
Representatives of State agencies, faith-based groups and community substance abuse treatment agencies are expected to come to Hudson to make presentations about their services. DOCS will use existing facility staff to provide services at the new reentry unit. The Division of Parole will use facility staff and parole officers currently assigned in the participating counties to meet with Hudson participants to familiarize them with their parole officers and help determine the needs they may have after release.
So far, the two Orleans reentry units have released 295 inmates who have successfully completed the reentry unit process. More than 70 percent of all inmates need substance abuse treatment and are referred to services in the community.
Deputy Secretary O’Donnell noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Services has developed a network of 13 county re-entry task forces throughout the state which, in 2008, provided assistance to more than 2,000 formerly incarcerated persons, the majority of whom were released from State prison.
The task forces have reported that more than 5,500 service referrals were made for these individuals in 2008 alone for critical services such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment. Governor David A. Paterson’s 2009-10 Executive Budget recommends nearly $3.7 million in funding for the task forces, including $2.8 million in funding that goes directly to community organizations for drug treatment, housing, employment, transportation, mental health and vocational services.
Hudson Correctional Facility Superintendent Jeff McKoy said: “I’m pleased that Commissioner Fischer has chosen Hudson Correctional Facility as the final destination for inmates who will be received from all parts of the State and are returning to the Capital District area upon release. Preparing inmates for their return to their families and communities will involve a collaborative effort by DOCS, the Division of Parole and other State agencies, and equally as importantly, community-based agencies. This re-entry unit will help inmates in their final preparations for their return to the community.”
Community agencies or organizations that wish to assist the Hudson reentry project should contact Hudson’s Supervising Correction Counselor, Roberto Belmonte, at (518) 828-4311, extension 4300.