ALBANY – The State Department of Correction and Community Supervision welcomes the proposals that Governor Kathy Hochul has included in her State of State regarding legislative priorities to help incarcerated people find employment upon release, officials said Thursday.
Hochul announced a new Jail to Jobs initiative in his state-of-the-state address in the Assembly Hall Wednesday afternoon to expand higher education opportunities for incarcerated New Yorkers to acquire additional professional skills and improve employment opportunities after release.
The initiative also aims to help reduce recidivism rates and increase public safety.
“Obviously, the department has continually reviewed and added training programs to what is available to those incarcerated in preparation for their return to the community,” DOCCS spokesperson Thomas Mailey said in a statement. Thursday.
The new initiative will allow incarcerated people to obtain training to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
“Vocational training and education all contribute positively to an individual’s successful reintegration into the community and there is substantial evidence to support these programs and the impact they have on reducing recidivism,” added Mailey.
DOCCS and the State Criminal Justice Services Division will this year train 100 state parole officers and reintegration specialists in career planning and placement to help former incarcerates reintegrate into their families and their community successfully. The state’s 700 parole officers will receive training by 2023.
“Rehabilitation of incarcerated people begins upon entry into prison when they are assessed and referred into specific programs to meet their rehabilitation needs,” Mailey said. “This program continues for the duration of their sentence, in addition to reintegration services such as education, preparation for employment, community resources, drug addiction and post-release supervision rules.”
The programs of the department include guidance and counseling services, library and legal library services, religious services, educational and vocational training, drug and alcohol treatment, family development, among others, he said.
Hochul will propose amending the state constitution as part of the Jail to Jobs plan to enable public-private partnerships to enable hybrid work release programs in state prisons. The programs would be voluntary and pay competitive salaries while training inmates with professional skills.
Inmates who participate in correctional education programs are 43% less likely to be charged with criminal offenses upon release and 13% more likely to get and keep a job.
Taxpayers save about $ 5 for every $ 1 invested in education in prison, which reduces recidivism rates, according to the governor’s office.
“There is no justice in a system that continues to unduly punish those formerly incarcerated who have served their sentences and paid their debts to society,” Hochul said in a statement prepared on the new initiative. “We know how the right education, opportunity or college degree can uplift any New Yorker no matter where you are from, which is why we must harness the power of education to help people in the olden days. incarcerated to reinstate, while ensuring justice the system itself does not stand in the way of someone trying to improve their life.
The governor also pledged to amend the state constitution to allow a public-private partnership to expand the possibilities of prison work.
The ministry is encouraged by the proposals, officials said.
“We believe this legislation will bring positive results as it will allow us to tap into the private sector and partner with the many businesses and individuals who want to do something constructive for incarcerated people,” Mailey said.
Hochul will be proposing legislation this session to increase the number of incarcerated people who qualify to participate in educational release. Inmates can be released for educational, work, or related purposes for up to 14 hours a day under current state law, but the majority of people behind bars who are enrolled in university are not eligible because of the nature of their crime.
The governor will ask DOCCS to review and expand current professional programming. The department conducts on-site visits to colleges, businesses and trade schools as part of its professional programs on an ongoing basis, Mailey said.
Hochul’s speech did not include any incentives or reforms for prison officers or prison staff.
Representatives from the State Police and Corrections Association said Thursday that the union generally does not respond to the governor’s speech on the state of the state and declined to comment.
NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers did not return a request for comment.
On Thursday, leaders of the New York State Police Benevolent Association expressed disappointment. Hochul’s legislative priorities did not include proposals to help state law enforcement invest in overcoming staff shortages, which impact their ability to respond to people in need of assistance. mental health intervention.
“We are losing officers every day across the state to local law enforcement agencies that offer better pensions and better compensation, creating serious staff and experience shortages that will prevent us from being able to respond to demands. people facing mental health crises ”, Police Benevolent Association. of New York State President Manny Vilar said Thursday. “…” As Governor Hochul prepares to submit his budget to the state legislature, PBANYS respectfully urges him to include the 20-year retirement as a critical part of implementing his agenda for a New Healthier, safer, cleaner and fairer York for all residents ”,
New York State Park Police, New York State University Police and State Department of Environmental Conservation officers and Rangers operated for nearly three years without a contract. Agencies are one of the few police agencies in New York City that do not have a 20-year retirement benefit.
Vilar said staffing levels remained dangerously low for several reasons established under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, such as his decision in 2019 to merge State Park Police with soldiers from the New York State Police. , resulting in the absence of a state park police academy since the spring of this year. .
The park’s police force has grown from 387 to 190 officers amid an exponential increase in the number of visitors to the park during the COVID-19 pandemic, the union president said.
“Due to former Governor Cuomo, members of PBANYS are working under outdated contracts, which creates a big pay gap with municipal and state law enforcement,” Vilar said. “In addition, poor recruitment, the lack of courses in academies and an outdated retirement system that prompts PBANYS agents to seek jobs from other agencies have led to a mass exodus of PBANYS member agencies. These losses are unsustainable and threaten public health and safety. “
Hochul recently expressed support for negotiating a 20-year pension for all PBA members – a discussion the union is prepared to have, Vilar said.
“Gov. Hochul’s signal that she wants to work with our union is a refreshing change in the way Albany has traditionally worked and a clear sign that she shares our commitment to doing all we can to keep New Yorkers healthy and healthy. security, ”he said. “No one who risks their life to protect and serve New Yorkers should be forced to make the difficult choice between staying with the agency they love or providing for their family.”