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July 23, 2009
Manhattan DA Candidate Cy Vance Announces Plan to Reduce Recidivism

Enhancing Reentry Services

by Erin Duggan
Manhattan District Attorney candidate Cy Vance today announced his Plan to Reduce Recidivism: Enhancing Reentry Services, a program to help those leaving incarceration find jobs, housing and essential services, aimed at significantly reducing the instances of repeat offenses. Under Vance?s plan, the Manhattan District Attorney?s Office will look beyond the courtroom to partner with social service organizations to ensure that newly-released former inmates have options and support as they return to their communities. Vance was joined by Doe Fund CEO and President George McDonald, Addicts Rehabilitation Center Foundation CEO/Charity Baptist Church of Christ Rev. Reginald Williams, Friendship Baptist Church Rev. James A. Kilgore, and Pamela Bowens, a woman whom Vance diverted into drug rehabilitation instead of prison while he was an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan DA?s Office.

?Men and women leaving incarceration confront job discrimination, untreated drug dependencies, psychological problems, inadequate education and vocational training and practical hurdles such as lack of housing and transportation. Unresolved, these problems are a recipe for recidivism,? Vance said. ?This is not our justice system functioning well for all. It is unjust because these individuals have served their time and deserve a clean slate. And it is unsafe because leaving recently-released inmates without options encourages them to return to crime. When we are tough on crime, we must also be smart. And as DA I will also continue my decades-long work to find alternatives to incarceration for first-time, non-violent offenders who need rehabilitation, treatment or hospitalization instead of prison.?

In New York State approximately 26,000 individuals are released each year from state prisons, and approximately 4,500 return to Manhattan, according to the NYS Division of Parole. Approximately 38 percent of these individuals are reincarcerated within three years. These individuals often lack necessary job skills and face myriad socio-economic challenges that also include the stigma of a conviction. Without housing, employment and support services, former inmates are left with few options when they leave prison, putting them at increased risk of recidivism.

New York?s prisoner reentry provider community has shown that safe and effective prisoner reentry programs can close this ?revolving door? and significantly improve public safety by preventing new crimes from being committed. Several have participated in District Attorney Robert Morgenthau?s Fair Chance Initiative, which Vance will expand.

Vance?s Plan to Reduce Recidivism includes:

  • Creating a Reentry Director. Vance will create a cabinet-level position responsible for overseeing successful reintegration of former offenders into the community. This position will oversee the development, implementation, oversight and expansion of our reentry program, and work with foundations, organizations, corrections agencies and other governmental agencies.

  • Immediately Engaging Upon Release. Since 30 percent of those released are rearrested within one year, there is a narrow window of opportunity to reach former inmates. Providing services concurrent with release is vital and will be made a top priority of the Manhattan District Attorney?s Office.

  • Focusing on Comprehensive ?Wraparound? Services. The DA?s office will be committed to helping coordinate and promote services. This will involve close collaboration between corrections, parole and service providers, and will be focused on employment-related needs, safe and drug-free transitional housing, and substance abuse treatment for offenders who have a history of chemical abuse. Additional services will include:

    • Drug treatment ? sobriety maintenance and relapse prevention services.

    • Educational assistance ? ranging from pre-GED, to college preparation, to substantial computer skills classes that will provide intensive training and workforce preparation.

    • Financial Literacy ? helping participants manage their earned income and plan for the future.

    • Life Skills ? classes that teach anger management and conflict resolution.

    • Career services ? career development specialists will provide career planning and interview preparation, help locate stable jobs with opportunities for advancement, and monitor progress in the workforce.

  • Promoting immediate transitional employment. Research shows that lack of employment is the chief factor of recidivism.

  • Aggressively pursuing alternatives to incarceration. Diverting first-time non-violent offenders into treatment programs when appropriate can keep a significant number of New Yorkers from beginning the cycle of incarceration. Vance is the only candidate who served on the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, which helped overturn the archaic Rockefeller Drug Laws.

George T. McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund, said: ?With thousands of individuals being released from incarceration into Manhattan every year, safe and effective prisoner reentry must be a central focus of any crime reduction initiative. Cy Vance's plan is comprehensive, building on partnerships with Manhattan's network of experienced, proven service providers while simultaneously increasing awareness of this critical public safety issue.?

Pamela Bowens, a defendant Vance diverted from prison into drug rehabilitation when he was an ADA in Manhattan, said: ?Cy Vance helped save my life. Rehabilitation brought me from a drug addict with no future to a college graduate living a life that helps others. After I was arrested, Cy was smart enough to see that what needed to be fixed was the root of my problem, my addiction. Without the resources Cy was able to get me through the criminal justice system I have no doubt that my first time behind bars would not have been my last.?

Rev. Reginald Williams, of Charity Baptist Church of Christ and CEO of the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Foundation, Inc., said: ?When addicts walk through the doors of rehabilitation centers it is an opportunity to take back a life and to renew the bonds addicts have with their families, friends and coworkers. Cy?s plan provides the opportunity for the incarcerated to reenter society with the tools they need to create their own futures. This plan will give people the chance for positive, productive lives and will help them overcome obstacles they encounter once they leave prison, whether they need drug treatment, educational assistance, career services or financial skills. This is the forward-thinking vision of a man who understands all aspects of the criminal justice system.?

Reverend James A. Kilgore, of Baptist Friendship Church, said: ?Cy Vance has it right ? we cannot afford to turn our backs on those being released from prison. Whatever mistakes they may have committed in the past, these people have a right to forgiveness and a new future. Cy?s plan will go a long way towards ensuring that we take care of our brothers and sisters in a time of need.?

Click here to watch a video of George McDonald endorsing Cy Vance's reentry proposal.


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