Finding a job in today’s economy is difficult enough for a college graduate. Imagine how difficult it is for an offender who has just been released from prison and is trying to re-establish himself in the community. Eventually, many of the more than 60,000 offenders currently incarcerated in the New York State prison system will return to our communities under some form of probation or parole supervision. Sadly, many will be back in prison within three years due to a new arrest or parole violation. This cycle of failure is devastating to the offenders, their families and their neighborhoods.As District Attorney, I recognized the need for law enforcement and community service providers to work together to find a solution to the problem of recidivism. Toward that end, I developed a program called ComALERT – Community and Law Enforcement Resources Together. ComALERT represents a coalition of service providers who help released offenders by counseling them on a host of issues ranging from housing, education, and employment to physical and mental health, and substance abuse. ComALERT provides the help these ex-offenders need in order to resist the temptation to return to a life of crime.
ComALERT reduces crime and also makes good economic sense. Each time a person is re-arrested and sent to jail, it costs taxpayers $192 a day to house him. Contrast that with the $43 a day per client spent by one member of our coalition – the Doe Fund – which provides ex-offenders with civic-modeled transitional employment and housing.
ComALERT provides rapid assessments, referrals, on-going case management and re-entry services for up to nine months. Participants must be on parole for at least six months, and must be motivated to become self-sufficient, gainfully employed, and drug-free.
Charles J. Hynes