New York State Criminal Justice Policy Advocacy

About Our Programs

For more than three decades the Legal Action Center has advocated for smarter, more effective criminal justice policies, including sentencing reform and expansion of alternatives to incarceration (ATI) and related programs, probation, and alcohol and drug treatment and prevention. LAC works closely with key state and city policy makers, including the Governor's office, State Legislature, Mayor's Office and City Council, as well as many other advocates and service providers.

Details from our latest work are below; see our the 2009-10 session Summary for all the updates from that session.

Budget Advocacy
It is critically important for New York to maintain funding for ATI/reentry and other criminal justice agencies that have played a significant part in achieving the lowest crime rates in generations. LAC plays a leading role in advocating for maintaining this funding by:

  • Drafting position papers on why funding should be sustained and expanded for ATI/reentry and other community corrections programs.
  • Meeting regularly with key executive and legislative staff, service providers, and other advocates to discuss key budget issues, including the importance of continued state funding and identification of other possible resources.
  • Educating policymakers about the critical role of community correction programs by compiling program specific information demonstrating the disruptive impact of budget cuts on services provided by ATI/reentry and public safety programs.

Roundup for FY 2012
After a multifaceted campaign that included calls to Council members and a rousing rally at City Hall, lawmakers have passed a budget that would allot $3.35 million to ATI/reentry services for the 2012 fiscal year!

In light of Governor Cuomo's budget proposed 8% cut to ATI, reentry and probation, we were thrilled to announce that for the current year, ATI/reentry will receive additional $1.5 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Bryne funds, in addition to what was allocated last year. This means a total of $2.88 million allocated for ATI/Reentry for the 2012 fiscal year.

LAC thanks legislators, law enforcement officials and other city and state leaders for their commitment to a "smart on crime" future for New York -- and our supporters, for helping make our voice heard when we needed you most. We will continue to update you as details emerge.

For details from our work in the 2010-11 session, please see our Budget Central page.

Promoting a Fair and Effective Criminal Justice System
As a member of the New York ATI/Reentry Coalition, LAC plays a leading role in New York City and State by working with ATI/reentry and other criminal justice agencies to advocate for the continued use and expansion of community-based alternatives and effective reentry services for appropriate individuals.

Helping People With Criminal Records Successfully Re-enter Society

  • ATI, Probation & Welfare Initiative: After helping to develop New York State's innovative program to move appropriate individuals in ATI and probation programs from welfare to work, LAC has provided ongoing advocacy and technical assistance to support that initiative's continuing success.
  • Transitional Medicaid: LAC is working with New York State and City to make it easier for individuals exiting prison or other parts of the criminal justice system to obtain medical care and other services that will improve their chances of successful re-entry. Currently most individuals leaving jail or prison cannot apply for Medicaid until after their release, causing gaps that endanger their health, contribute to an increased risk of relapse and cost the state money in for care when they are sicker and more expensive to treat.
  • Improving Supervision and Reintegration of People With Criminal Records: Many parole and probation officers do not have the information or resources they need to provide effective assistance to the individuals they supervise. LAC is working with the state and city toward improved practices to maximize the likelihood that people in the criminal justice system re-enter society successfully.
  • Legal Barriers: "After Prison: Roadblocks to Reentry," is widely recognized as the first-ever comprehensive compilation of data from the 50 states about legal barriers facing people with criminal records, including state barriers in the areas of employment, public assistance & food stamps, access to records for non-criminal justice purposes, voting, drivers’ license privileges, foster and adoptive parental rights, and public housing. Click here for the full report.
Read our reentry bills for the 2010-11 session.

Reforming the Rockefeller-Era Drug Laws

After 35 years of research and advocacy, we were proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with state lawmakers in April 2009 to celebrate the newly passed reforms of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. LAC had worked to reform those laws – long seen as overly harsh and counterproductive – ever since they were enacted, over 35 years ago. The new laws adopt a much smarter and more effective response to drug-related crime, moving away from harsh mandatory minimum sentences and making our communities safer by helping to break the cycle of drug use and crime.

Since the new law was put into place, our attention has turned to keeping track of the trends in diversion and focusing on successful implementation:

  • We were one of just a handful of agencies invited to testify in December 2010 before the Assembly Standing Committees on Codes, Corrections, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. At the hearing, on implementation and funding of the legislation, we discussed the trends and opportunities that ATI/reentry programs could seize upon to enable eligible individuals to be diverted into appropriate treatment.
  • We have been working with treatment providers, advocacy groups, and government agencies to track how the diversion of individuals into community-based treatment is going, what the trends are, and whether sufficient resources have been allocated to meet the demand for treatment services.
  • One provision that we worked hard to ensure was included in drug law reform was a provision that gives judges the discretion to conditionally seal some nonviolent criminal convictions after individuals have completed a “court sanctioned treatment program.” Because the number of sealings has been low so far -- only 18 individuals had conditional seals processed by OCA and DCJS as of September 30, 2010, DCJS says -- we are working with Legal Aid to develop a network of pro bono firms willing to represent individuals eligible to have their records conditionally sealed.


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