April 25, 2019: State Bar Association Approves Report Addressing Incarceration Release Planning and Programs

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has adopted a report with recommendations regarding policy changes and best practices for effective incarceration release planning and programs. The report was approved at the State Bar’s April 13 House of Delegates meeting in Albany.

“Central to the mission of the State Bar Association is to promote reform in the law, and as the remarkable work of this task force shows, there is plenty more to be done,” said NYSBA President Michael Miller. “This report highlights ways to reduce recidivism by better preparing incarcerated individuals for their release into our communities.”

In 2018, Miller established this task force to recommend policy changes and best practices for effective incarceration release planning programs, to examine existing programs and consider all relevant issues including: options for those released into urban and rural settings, inconsistent rules and limited availability of substance abuse and mental health treatment, housing options, and the impact on recidivism and public safety that results from inadequate release planning.

The task force, in its report, concluded that waiting to plan for re-entry until a person is released – or just before a person is released – is too late. Instead, re-entry planning must begin at the time of arrest, be attentive to a person's individual needs, and strive to incorporate community resources. Further, rehabilitation must be prioritized over punishment.

The task force, co-chaired by NYSBA Secretary Sherry Levin Wallach (Bashian & Farber) and NYSBA Treasurer and President-elect Designee Scott M. Karson (Lamb & Barnosky), identified 17 representative counties based on geographic diversity, diversity of population and demographics, the counties’ urban, suburban or rural character, and the presence of one or more state prisons or county jails.

The following counties were studied: New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx and Richmond (the five counties comprising New York City); Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Albany, Onondaga, Chemung, Oneida, Broome, Franklin, Erie, Monroe and Wyoming. The Task Force also reached out to the Governor’s Office, the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, defender organizations, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York and several programs that provide re-entry services.

The task force also conducted a full-day open meeting last November at NYSBA’s Bar Center in Albany at which representatives of state and local law enforcement and corrections agencies, social services providers, members of not-for-profit re-entry related organizations, advocates for re-entry reform and formerly incarcerated individuals engaged in a frank and extremely useful exchange of ideas. The informative meeting proved to be of great value to the task force.

In its comprehensive report, the task force made 34 recommendations falling into two categories: those that suggest legislative, administrative, or policy change and those that promote best practices. The recommendations span eight substantive sections regarding: experts on re-entry; rights restoration; the financial well-being of people released from prison and the need to facilitate access to public assistance benefits; housing; education and vocational needs; services for those with mental illness returning to the community; persons with sex offense convictions; and funding for pre-release planning and re-entry.

Click here to view the full report.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Christian Nolan 
cnolan@nysba.org
518-487-5536