July 13, 2009
Bayview Correctional Facility Opens Reentry Unit for Female Offenders Returning to New York City, Suburbs
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), has opened a specialized “reentry” unit at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan for female inmates due to be released to the greater New York City metropolitan area to help prepare them for their transition back to the community.
The Bayview unit is the Department’s fourth specialized reentry unit and the first for women. It follows similar units for male offenders that opened at Orleans Correctional Facility in Western New York in August 2007 and October 2008 for Erie (Buffalo) and Monroe (Rochester) County releases, respectively, and at Hudson Correctional Facility in Columbia County in March 2009 for Capital District (Albany-area) releases.
These efforts follow an ongoing reentry initiative 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.
The 40-bed unit at the women’s medium security Bayview Correctional opened on June 29, 2009 with 30 participants.
DOCS is transferring eligible inmates who are within six months of release from prison for eventual return back to New York City, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties), and Westchester and Rockland counties and who will benefit from specialized services to help them prepare for successful reintegration to society. In-person visits by community providers to participating Bayview inmates is crucial in this transition.
The men’s reentry units run 90 days for participants. Bayview’s will run six months because of the extensive needs and issues facing women released from prison, including child care, custody and support and trauma issues.
The offenders will meet in person with the parole officers, case workers, potential employers and others 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: “Through this important collaboration, the Department of Correctional Services and Division of Parole recognize that formerly incarcerated women face unique challenges upon returning to their communities. This new re-entry unit is specifically designed to meet the needs of female inmates by connecting them with a wide range of assistance – including counseling, job training and parenting skills classes – that will enable them to break the cycle of recidivism and rebuild their families. This is a smart criminal justice strategy that will enhance community safety.”
DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “Opening our first specialized unit for women represents a major step for the concept of reentry, which aims to provide offenders with every opportunity to return home ready to lead responsible, productive and crime-free lives. In keeping with the idea that these units are tailored to provide very specific services to help offenders achieve those ends, we worked together to create a unit at Bayview that recognizes the special needs of female offenders.”
Division of Parole Chairwoman and CEO Andrea W. Evans said: “The re-entry program at Bayview is another example of collaboration between state agencies developed to reduce recidivism by working to ease the challenges associated with the transition from prison to society. The program at Bayview will address the needs of women including employment, education, health care, substance abuse and family reunification. This early intervention will offer the helping hand that can keep families together and make our communities safer.”
OASAS Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said: “The Bayview model recognizes the special needs of women, including parenting, child care, health, history of trauma, employment and relationships, that are critical to starting on the path to recovery. The program will extend the re-entry phase to six months to support the many needs of women with addiction histories. This is the first women-specific re-entry model in New York and as part of Governor David A. Paterson’s sentencing reform will provide a forum for the country in addressing the special needs of women recovering from addiction.”
During their six-month stay on 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 her return to the community.
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. 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 Bayview 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 New York City to meet with Bayview participants to familiarize them with their parole officers and help determine the needs they may have after release.