Sept. 21, 2015- New York, NY – The Legal Action Center congratulates Governor Andrew Cuomo for the impressive achievements of his Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration during its first year. Governor Cuomo held a press conference today at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to announce twelve major accomplishments of the Council, which promotes collaboration among state, local, and private agencies as well as community groups in order to address a wide range of issues related to successful re-entry, including housing, employment, healthcare, and education. LAC’s Director and President Paul Samuels is a member of the Council.
In its first year, the Council increased access to Medicaid for those who are incarcerated. This is a high priority for LAC as Medicaid coverage is an essential part of ensuring that justice-involved individuals have access to treatment for their addiction, including Medication-Assisted Treatment. The Council also addressed daunting barriers to employment, removing some requirements for licensure and prohibiting applicants for state jobs from being asked about criminal records during the initial application process. It also increased housing opportunities for people with convictions, made it easier to apply to the state for documentation of rehabilitation, and reduced the share of an incarcerated person’s money going to pay fees and other dues, among other accomplishments.
According to Paul Samuels, who attended the press conference, “Governor Cuomo has been a national leader in working to end the pattern of individuals cycling in and out of prison. He has shown tremendous wisdom in leading New York State’s efforts to ensure that justice-involved individuals get a fair chance to rebuild their lives. Many of the reforms recommended by the Council are policies LAC has been fighting to achieve for years. So I am incredibly proud to have participated in the Council and impressed by all that the Council has done during its first year. I look forward to continuing to work with the Council in the coming year to further reduce the obstacles facing those with conviction records.”
Each year, nearly 25,000 people leave New York State prisons and return to the community. They face challenges reintegrating into society including employment and education barriers, untreated mental health and substance use disorders, and homelessness. 40 percent of the formerly incarcerated in New York State recidivate within three years of their release. Of these, three out of four recidivate because of a parole violation rather than a new conviction. Better coordination among state agencies and improved policies designed to help people overcome the challenges of reentry will reduce recidivism and improve the health and safety of communities across the state.
About the Legal Action Center: The Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas.
For four decades, LAC has worked to combat the stigma and prejudice that keep these individuals out of the mainstream of society. The Legal Action Center is committed to helping people reclaim their lives, maintain their dignity, and participate fully in society as productive, responsible citizens.