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Programs -> Albany

New Beginnings Program at

Albany County Correctional and 
Rehabilitative Services Center

(the county jail for Albany County)

The information on this page was gathered in interviews with Elena Kilcullen done by Darby Larkin. Anything in quotes is a quote from Elena in that interview. Go to this page to read about the research methodology.

  

Words that are bold, blue, and underlined are links that will scroll to another place on this webpage, open another page of this website in another tab, or open an external webpage in another tab.

**A note from the author: Part of my purpose in creating this website is to recognize that anyone can be involved in reentry work, and get involved in the criminal justice system through reentry programs. This ESPECIALLY means people with current or past justice-involvement. I hope sharing this information about the many forms of reentry programs and the many ways to build them helps other people to build and expand programs for folks with justice-involvement and heal our communities from the pain of mass incarceration. This information is meant to be adapted to each local context and resources.**

Overview of Two Reentry Programs in Albany
These are the two programs in Albany that I researched, and where on this website to read about them.

Reentry Services for Inmates in Albany Correctional Facility

Everyone incarcerated at Albany County Correctional and Rehabilitative Services Center is assessed for reentry needs immediately after booking. Then, they work with a case worker and their counselors to plan for their release from jail. This program is called New Beginnings.

These reentry services, and the individual reentry plans for every single person, are overseen by Elena Kilcullen, Assistant Director of Programs at the jail.

She built this program from the ground-up while attending graduate school. She combined her own life experience, extensive research, and an inside look at Albany's existing programs to create New Beginnings with the support of the Albany County Sheriff and some of her professors. Her journey to build it is explained throughout the page below!

S.H.I.P. - Sheriff's Homeless Improvement Program

Albany County Sheriff Apple turned an empty wing of the correctional facility into a transitional housing program for homeless men who experience difficulty accessing other housing resources.

 

 SHIP offers a clean, safe, and independent living environment with support for accessing services and resources in the community and a successful transition into their own permanent housing. 

Intro/Links

New Beginnings Program in Albany Correctional Facility

Built by Elena Kilcullen in 2019

Elena built the reentry infrastructure that offers comprehensive, holistic reentry planning to every inmate in Albany County jail from the ground up. I call this 'reentry infrastructure' because the New Beginnings program is a part of the jail now - Elena has changed how the jail operates by focusing incarceration on reentry. At every step while someone is incarcerated at the jail, they are encouraged to think about and plan for their reentry and given tools and assistance to do that. 

New Beginnings
Image by Rob Martinez

Elena Kilcullen - Assistant Director of Programs
at Albany Correctional Facility

Meet the person changing reentry and corrections in Albany county. She's the hub in Albany County that connects all the services and programs in the area together. Anyone can go to her looking for any kind of services, and she can point them in the right direction.

    

“I consider myself like a go-to person for services. Like I might not directly provide you with the service, but I'm going to ask you a million questions and I'm going to get you somebody that you absolutely do need to provide you those services. That you probably would not know where to find on your own.” 

  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of asking for help in the first place…One takes a little bit of effort, one takes a lot of effort and it's very discouraging, so let's do the one that takes a little bit of effort.” The New Beginnings assessment and Elena during her reentry meetings specifically offer people different types of services, rather than expecting them to know what they want and need. "Whereas now upon intake you're asked, do you need this, this, this...If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on.”
  • While working on the reentry manual, Elena developed her idea of a person to act as the 'hub' for services in Albany. Specifically, she wanted to create a hub for people leaving incarceration - to help them while they were incarcerated. She used her social work classes and projects to research reentry and reentry programs, and pulled a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model.
    The hub would be someone to connect all the information about agencies and services and benefits, and help others navigate all of them. “That's what I wanted to change…I wanted to make it In-House [in the jail]…you know [inmates are] sitting in a box, then they go home and they're like ‘what do I do with myself?’ No! That planning needs to start as soon as they get here." "So I did a lot of research while I was a social work student on different models of how [reentry] programs function and how I can integrate those models into an in-house program at a facility" Some of this research came from a supervisor at an internship she had held with Prisoners Legal Services, which included dozens and dozens of models of reentry programs across the country. She drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model, a model of working with justice-involved people that involves constantly updating itself and updating the agency based on the current needs of the people they work with. "A huge part of that model is the program testing itself...and adjusting its service provisions based on the demographic of people that we're getting presently and the things that they specifically need"
  • Next, Elena turned her research and ideas into a formal proposal for a new reentry program to run from inside Albany County jail - all while still working on her dual graduate education.
    Elena brings new, fresh ideas backed by both recent and long-standing research in the field. Combining her college advocacy, childhood commitment to supporting others, and this extensive research, Elena is a perfect example of how young people and people new to the field can launch an inspiring career in reentry.
  • As always, Elena thought even bigger: this reentry manual wasn't just helpful for people coming out of incarceration, it was helpful for anyone in the community. So, she sent it to everyone she could possibly think of.
    "And then, what I did was I just tried to connect with anybody I could possibly think of to disseminate it, because at that point, I didn't care if you were coming out of DOCCS or not...You could have not committed a crime your entire life and yet you're homeless or you're very poor or you're hungry...I want you to be able to have this information. So I sent it to Schenectady police department...Albany PD, some of the officers have it there, the public defender's office, the office of indigent services, the Albany Public Library System, places in Troy, DSS in Schenectady...anywhere I could think of that I could connect with that serves poor people...I disseminated it to every single Professor I'd ever had” "The way I formatted the reentry manual...I want someone who has absolutely nothing to be able to read this and figure out how to get something"
  • In her social work program, she worked with a professor in Albany who saw what she was thinking and loved it. The professor came up with the idea for Elena to create a reentry manual for people transitioning to Albany from incarceration. This was the first Resource Guide.
    “I did one of my internships at my social work program...[my professor said] you're going to create a reentry manual for the district for people coming out of [state prisons]. So I made one for Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties...because in my head...[Albany, Schenectady, and Troy] are the three main hot spots for community violence and incarceration in our district...I basically spent an entire academic year creating this reentry manual for the three counties.
  • Elena had grown up around the racial injustice present in the criminal justice system, as well as the advocacy to combat it, through her father’s work. Entering college at SUNY New Paltz, she wanted to explore her own racial identity as well as race and identity in America. Through the Scholars Mentorship Program she decided she wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the criminal justice system.
    “And I happen to be in this like very weird identity situation being biracial, where I am... ancestral-wise I am... enslaved person and a slave owner together because of where my family's from...A lot of my ancestral history has a lot to do with slavery” Elena was part of the Scholars Mentorship program at SUNY New Paltz. This involved lots of courses focused on systems of oppression, during a time of intense turmoil with many highly publicized incidents of police violence against racial minorities. The Scholars Mentorship program was designed by New Paltz to investigate why the school had such an “abysmal” graduation rate for students of color and support students of color to combat the drop-out rate. Starting freshman year, students join courses on ‘advancement of academics’ that specifically talk about systems of oppression that are up against people and students of color in the U.S. Students are also paired with an adult and a student mentor so they have a “very obvious and available support system” from the beginning of their education. Elena’s advisor had a PhD in Black Studies from the only university in America that has a program for it. She encouraged Elena to take courses in Black Studies to explore her own identity. Her education happened in the context of all the racial turmoil of these years. This when a lot of cases of police violence against people of color, especially men, were being prosecuted. The tension spread to New Paltz and there was some racist graffiti sprayed around campus about Emmet Till. “I learned a lot about...the black identity in America as a whole and where I stood as a piece of that...so what I decided was that I wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the context of, especially the criminal justice system, because it was such like a hot topic and such a traumatic topic at the time”
  • Her mother was a teacher and her father was a social worker who worked with crime victims and formerly incarcerated folks in Alternative to Incarceration programs. She was raised to solve problems, and always had a passion for advocating on behalf of people who were marginalized.
    "My mom always taught me...you see a need, and then you fill it. And you figure out how to fill it, and you figure out...how to tell people how to fill it...and all of the legwork that goes into that. And then you present it to them, and then they [love you] because you did their job." “I was always one of those kids who wanted to advocate against something that’s unfair or for someone or something that’s marginalized...I always wanted to yell at people - which is why I went to law school! I want to yell at people on behalf of other people”
  • In 2015, Elena finished her undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz and moved further north to attend Albany Law School and UAlbany. She pursued a joint degree with a Master's in Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (J.D. - law degree) and expanded her advocacy.
    “I was always one of those kids who wanted to…advocate against something that was unfair, right? Or advocate for somebody who is marginalized or an animal that was marginalized…I always wanted to yell at people. Which is why I went to law school, I want to yell at people on behalf of other people” "When I went to Grad school I started to expand that [advocacy] more. I was part of the Latin American Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association, we started to do things advocacy-wise there."
  • Through this advocacy, she found her true passion at Riker's Island. She interned with the Legal Aid Society, who was collecting evidence for a class action lawsuit against Riker's, DOCCS, and a specific CO for repeated sexual abuse and the protection of this abuse by Riker's and DOCCS. Legal Aid Society picked her to interview women at Riker's. She realized she loved working in Corrections and with folks who were incarcerated - just maybe not FOR Corrections.
    "We were trying to get a serial rapist...it was crazy" "My actual job was like secret? It was very investigative...everyone thought I was a Public Defenders Intern... I was a Civil Legal Intern...we were collecting evidence, so that we could put a class action suit against...Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections and a particular corrections officer" "They saw that I had a psychology and trauma based background, and they also saw that I was a social work student, so they were like you! You have the skills to be able to gather this information without traumatizing the crap out of our clients...when our clients are traumatized…you can de-escalate the situation..."you're gonna go in and you're gonna talk to all the witnesses and then, when we have depositions with the victims, you're going to be there. So that if you notice them start to freak out you're going to pause the deposition and you're going to do, like, breathing exercises and shit. That was my job" "So that's where I started my love for working with people who are incarcerated...it was there that I realized I really loved working in corrections - maybe not FOR corrections, maybe advocating through corrections, but I liked working with inmates. I was never scared to be at Rikers, I was never scared to be in any of the facilities - even when there were like lockdowns..."
  • At a huge protest at SUNY New Paltz in response to the decision in the Michael Brown court case, Elena was sure: "I belong doing this in some capacity."
    Within two hours of the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict (grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson), the Black Student Association at SUNY New Paltz organized a huge protest march. It had both local police presence watching the student group, and university police protecting the group. "The march down from the school campus to the courthouse and then we had a moment of silence for the however many minutes he was dead on the floor in the public in broad daylight...and that was kind of the major moment for me, where I was like 'I belong doing this in some capacity'” Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Read more about the situation and the court case here at History.com.
  • When Elena had left NYC for college, she had planned to learn as much as she could to bring the knowledge back home to the city. But as she lived, drove through, and worked in Upstate New York, she realized she had way more ideas from the city to bring to Upstate (and not much from Upstate to bring to the city). So, she decided to stay in Upstate for a while.
    "My initial plan when I came up here was to gather all the experience and education that I possibly could and bring it back home. but I realized that I had really not a whole lot to bring back home, but I had a lot from back home to bring up here." "...being from NYC and a mother who's a teacher and a dad who's a social worker who works with crime victims and also people who were formerly incarcerated and within Alternative to Incarceration programs, I know all the reentry services that are in the five boroughs in New York City. And then I came up here. And there was none of that.” “So I decided to stay here...after maybe my second year of my grad program. Because you know I would drive through Second Street, and you know Sheridan and Orange Street, and I'm looking around at the big red X's and all of these condemned buildings and all of these people and I'm realizing how similar it is up here, to the stuff that I grew up around in the South Bronx. Except in the South Bronx we actually have services. Up here, we have not a whole lot. We have DSS and that's it.”
  • Ben talked to the Colonel about providing MAT by looking at Albany County jail's program and policies.
    When this tragedy happened, Ben talked to the Colonel. The jail didn't have any prescriber for MAT medications or policies about providing MAT. Ben proposed he and the administration at Saratoga County jail should have a conversation with Albany County jail, because they already had an extensive MAT program. Ben suggested they should take a look at Albany's policies for MAT and tour their program.
  • Creating an MAT program was prompted by a tragedy.
    Within the span of 2 months, 4 inmates left Saratoga County jail and died on the same day of their release from an opioid overdose. All 4 inmates had gone into the jail on MAT and been forced off because the jail did not have any way to provide MAT.
  • Saratoga County jail instituted a MAT program not long after using the $60,000 grant from NYS OASAS that every county jail in New York State received, and immediately saw their contraband problems cut in half.
    Ben explained the main people willing to get a felony charge for introduction of contraband were the people who had legal prescriptions for Suboxone in the community and had boxes of it at home, but were forced to be sick and withdraw at the jail because they didn't offer it. The jail used that grant from OASAS to contract with the person already working in the jail to prescribe psychological medications.
  • The jail administration attended an MAT and Corrections forum that showcased different MAT programs, discussed the need for MAT, and explained the massive contraband reduction.
    After looking at Albany's program, there was an MAT and Corrections forum meeting in Clifton Park, not far from Saratoga. Ben and some administrators at Saratoga County jail attended and listened to presentations by other county jails, the doctor and MAT prescriber for Riker's Island jail, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative for NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, and some individuals who had lived experience with addiction and MAT (including Ben himself). The Riker's Island MAT prescriber explained that when Riker's instituted an MAT program, the amount of contraband coming into the jail dropped. The main drug coming into jails is Suboxone - because it's tiny, and because so many people have supplies at home from their prescription but are forced off it when they go to jail. So, they ask their family and friends to smuggle it into the jail to avoid getting sick from withdrawal from their prescribed Suboxone.
  • The jail started with continuation, but from the start they had high hopes for inducting inmates too. Ben argued they needed to go slowly and build up the capacity in the community to provide MAT so no one was forced off MAT right after being released from jail.
    The Saratoga County Sheriff and jail administration wanted to be able to induct inmates onto MAT (write new prescriptions for MAT, not just continue existing prescriptions) within 2 years of starting the program. Ben explained they needed "to build this backwards" because it would be irresponsible to induce inmates on MAT with no provider to take them and continue the script once they're released. The waits to see an MAT provider in the community are 2-6 weeks, meaning someone could be forced to be sick from withdrawal from Suboxone immediately after release from jail while waiting to see a provider. This was too dangerous, especially when the period immediately after release from jail already hold an incredibly high risk for overdose and death.
  • Carrie, an outreach worker from the hospital, two supervisors at Baywood, and an administrator from AHI drafted a proposal to start a reentry program in Warren and Washington County jails.
    Carrie, an outreach worker from the local hospital, and three employees from Baywood met to begin drafting a proposal to send to AHI. They talked to the Undersheriff and the Corrections Lieutenant from Warren County jails. They supported the idea but didn't get involved in the process. The proposal was for a reentry planning program for Warren and Washington County jails. The two counties are very similar, and neither one had any services outside of the legally mandated social workers and medical staff and very small programs to provide MAT. The proposal talked a lot about the needs identified in the SIM Workshop: “We had some data, but not a lot. We just knew, anecdotally, there was a need.” The proposal itself asked for funds for the salary of one full time employee, a laptop, and some marketing materials. There was no evaluation built into the proposal, no reporting measures, no data tracking - "just here's what we want to do generally and where the money will go." Carrie explained that like a lot of smaller, new programs, the proposal was thrown together based on what they knew the county needed and how they hoped to fill that need. “Yeah, if you're looking for as far as like, it was really well formatted or really well thought out, it wasn't. As I think you'll find with many new programs... like it is not [well thought out] oftentimes... [Requests for Proposals] come out and you're scrambling to get data or narratives together. Just be like, let's just, just throw something out there." "We still didn't have, like, how we were going to determine recidivism - which we still don't. We have no reporting measures."
  • Amanda started getting ready to run the program at Warren County jail. She got clearances, talked to the social worker, and created the forms she would use.
    Amanda and some other employees at Baywood went through fingerprinting and got 'clearances' (passing a security clearance) to go into the jail. Warren County jail was ready to accept Amanda regularly, so she started coordinating with the nurse and social worker who were working there. Medical and social work services in both jails are contracted to an outside agency. The social worker positions at both jails have a really high rate of turnover, but every time a new social worker comes in Amanda makes sure to meet and coordinate with them. The nurse at Warren County jail was there for a few years when ABLE started, so Amanda utilized her like a 'point person' in the jail to get ABLE going. Amanda sat down with a supervisor at Baywood to create forms for her to use while meeting with clients in the jail. Her position is HIPAA compliant, so clients have to sign a Release of Information for her to speak with anyone (service providers, agencies, family, friends, etc) on behalf of the client. Amanda and her supervisor created consent forms for clients to join ABLE, releases of information, and assessment forms.
  • Now that the GAINS Center was coming to run the SIM Mapping Workshop, Carrie Wright built a huge coalition of people and agencies in the community to get involved.
    Carrie is a master organizer. She talked to a ton of different people, at a ton of different agencies, and got them to agree to participate in the SIM workshop and contribute their experience. She wanted a variety of service providers and social service organizations in the community to get involved, help identify the needs of the community, and collaboratively talk about solutions. At the time, there was no community group, email chain, or Facebook group that connected all these people in Warren County. Instead, Carrie had to contact each individual person and agency separately. “...that was like so many emails...at that time there was no group, like I was emailing judges, I was emailing probation I would email...everyone to...explain [the SIM]...I mean they gave you like information like what you want to send out here's like a one page document on what the SIM is. So it was really...grassroots ground up” Quoted from interview with Carrie Wright
  • They got the grant! The staff at Baywood immediately went to Amanda to tell her about the plan.
    The DSRIP grant through AHI paid one full time employee for a year and a half, along with the laptop and marketing materials. As Amanda describes it, at 3:30pm on a Thursday while she was headed out of the Baywood Office, she was called into a meeting with her boss, her boss's boss, and that boss's boss. She immediately thought she was being fired or something horrible. Instead, they said they had this grant for a reentry program, and they wanted her to do it. Amanda was thrilled - "Anything to be able to go into the jails." Quote from Darby Larkin's interview with Amanda Zeno.
  • Carrie and some other service providers from Law Enforcement and Lunch saw a grant offer put out by AHI looking to fund a reentry program - the exact thing the SIM had identified as a huge issue in Warren County.
    AHI was offering a grant to start a reentry program in Upstate New York. Carrie talked about it in one of the Law Enforcement and Lunch meetings with a few other service providers - an outreach worker at the local hospital was involved, as well as two supervisors at Baywood. The Baywood supervisors knew how much Amanda wanted to work in the jails, and they decided to write a proposal.
  • Then Amanda started going into Warren County jail! It was truly "trial by fire" trying to figure out how to move through the jail, when she could come in, how to meet with people, and how the program would work. After some initial problems, Amanda made some changes and kept going.
    The Warren County Corrections Lieutenant had told Amanda she could come into the jail anytime between 6am and 10pm! She quickly realized, though, this was not how things really worked inside the jail. Officers wouldn't or couldn't escort her through the jail and she couldn't meet with inmates during mealtimes, while medications were being passed out, if a disciplinary issue was happening, or during shift change. In Warren County jail, this actually leaves a very short window where Amanda can come in to meet with people - a little less than 3 hours each weekday morning and possibly one hour in the afternoon. The COs who escorted her began educating her on the jail's schedule: “Frontline officers have been really good about telling me the do's and don'ts of 'you're allowed to do this' and 'you're allowed to come now.'” There was another problem. All the beautiful forms they had made for Amanda to use were all electronic, but the jail did not allow any electronics inside the jail. Amanda made some changes, and proceeded with determination!
  • The results of the SIM were clear: reentry needs (needs of people coming out of the county jail) repeatedly came up as a huge issue, and an easy one to start working on.
    The SIM results showed over and over again that there was a huge gap in services for people coming out of the jail and other justice-involved people in the community. It also identified what Carrie called "low hanging fruit" - things that were pretty easy to implement and existed in a lot of places. A basic reentry program to provide reentry planning services was a huge "low hanging fruit" for Warren County.
  • What started it all: the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM). Through a massive community collaboration, several organizations came together to conduct a SIM Mapping Workshop funded by a large social service agency in Upstate NY. A SIM maps out the major areas of social need and gaps in services in a community.
    What is a SIM Mapping Workshop?? Sequential Intercept Model: shows how people with mental health and substance use disorders enter and move through the criminal justice system ​SIM Mapping Workshop: a workshop using a statistical tool that identifies services, programs, and resources that are missing in a community, and helps develop a local strategic action plan to address those needs and divert people with mental and substance use disorders away from the justice system and toward treatment using evidence-based practices More reading about the SIM and SIM Mapping How did this happen? Local leadership at People USA* saw that the GAINS Center* was offering SIM Mapping Workshops to counties across the country. Working with some members of the Warren and Washington Counties government Office of Community Services, they applied for Warren County. Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Office of Community Services, was a leader in the initiative. Warren County was denied by the GAINS Center the first time for the funding to perform the SIM. Leadership at the Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) heard about the initiative and offered to pay for it. With the backing of AHI, they were accepted. The GAINS Center would run a SIM Mapping Workshop for Warren County! * The GAINS Center is a part of the federal mental health agency SAMHSA and works on improving access to services for justice-involved people with mental health or substance use problems. * People USA is a national and global organization working on crisis response and mental health services that is peer-run (run by people who have coped with the same issues they work on). * DSRIP was a project by the New York State government to redesign healthcare in New York to reduce Medicaid costs and unnecessary hospitalizations. This was mostly done by giving grants to large agencies (like AHI) to give that money out to smaller agencies for projects that worked towards DSRIP's goal. AHI is a major recipient of state funding to distribute to other agencies for social service projects across the Adirondacks, including DSRIP. AHI provided DSRIP* funds for the SIM. (Information on this early timeline gained from Carrie Wright)
  • A year later, Carrie came back to the Office of Community Services and started a new community meeting: Law Enforcement and Lunch.
    About a year after leaving, Carrie came back to work for the Office of Community Services again and immediately started organizing again. Law Enforcement and Lunch was a monthly meeting to connect service providers working with mental health and substance use, law enforcement, and corrections officials. It was meant for these folks to check-in about what was happening in the community, to talk about programs going on, and needs being identified in the community and in the jail. The Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant for Warren County were once again interested and attended many of these meetings.
  • Immediately after the SIM, there were a lot of conversations with those local social service agencies who had participated and with the Warren County Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant - especially reentry programs. Carrie helped organize a lot of them. But when she briefly left the Office of Community Services, the conversations fizzled out and no action was taken.
    Like I said, Carrie is a master organizer. Most people working in social service agencies didn't have the extra time to set meetings and collaborate, and there weren't any government departments or law enforcement personnel focused on building coalitions at the time. So Carrie did it herself! She organized meetings and connected people to collaborate on a variety of social issues, including talking about the results of the SIM. When she left the Office of Community Services, these conversations and collaborations kind of fizzled out.
  • Currently run a reentry program?
    You could read this Guidebook to reflect on the steps you took to build your program, or get ideas for how to make your program stronger by implementing or honing any of these areas.
  • Sheriff or other government or county worker ​​interested in reentry programs?
    This Guidebook can give you a sense of the work and process it takes to create a reentry program, and how other programs have worked through it before. You can get ideas for resource distribution to strengthen a community-based program or utilize the community to make an institutional program stronger.
  • Policymaker or government worker?
    ​You could use this Guidebook to understand the perspective of frontline workers and the resources, time, and stress it takes to build a new reentry program. These examples could give you a better perspective on the grants, departments, regulations, or other areas you control.
  • Thinking about starting a reentry program or in the process of creating one?
    You could read this Guidebook to get a sense of the steps you'll need to take, get ideas for ways to solve problems that come up, and help you develop that program faster and more efficiently.
  • Now, you'll meet with Elena to talk about your plan for reentry - and Elena will work with you to make sure it's a safe and healthy plan.
    Elena will sit down with you in the jail to talk about your plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment to structure these meetings and reentry plans. She'll figure out from you what you already have planned, then go over all the categories on the New Beginnings assessment to make sure you have these needs met, or make a plan with you to meet them. For example, if you're interested in an educational program, she'll check if you have a plan for how to get it. If not, she'll talk to you about the options and you'll figure out together what you'd like to pursue. Every person is the expert on themselves - what Elena can add is her experience working with lots of currently and formerly incarcerated folks before and her extensive knowledge of the programs, services, and agencies in the area. This includes everything from government benefits, recovery groups, mental health resources, childcare services, veterans programs, and housing options - including their eligibility criteria and application process. She can suggest things you may not have thought of or things you didn't know existed and give you more information. Elena can make sure your plan for reentry is safe and healthy: Based on her prior experience and her "strategic info-gathering", Elena can ask questions and make sure your plan is safe. For example, she once worked with a man who said he had a place to live because he was going back home. But Elena had seen in his past a pattern of 'criminal contempt' charges (violations of a restraining order) and family violence. So she asked him "do you actually have a safe place to go?" After talking about it, the man was open to other housing options. Elena explained her mindset about these questions: "I don't really know the nature of their relationship I just know that it's toxic all around objectively, so you know if he can get away from her or if he can be kept away from her...the better off they probably will both be."
  • New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment: This is a tool Elena developed herself to structure the meeting - it helps you go through the major areas of need that most people have, and that affect success after release.
    See a blank copy of the assessment below. This is a tool Elena developed herself when she first built the reentry infrastructure of the jail. It lists out the major categories of 'needs' in reentry - the main categories of basic needs to survive, things people usually need when being released from incarceration, and things that are often harmful to success or can cause recidivism. She developed the categories based on extensive research about reentry, recidivism, and social needs while she was a joint Master's in Social Work-Juris Doctorate (law degree) student. The column "Need Met By" is for the things a person already has set up. Elena fills this out based on her "strategic info-gathering" and her meetings with an inmate. For example, if someone already has an apartment set up then their housing need is met by that apartment. Or, if a person's counselor in the jail has set up a counseling appointment in the community for them, that need is met already. The column "Still Needs Attention" is for the needs that are not met and what a person needs to set up for their release from jail. For example, if they're interested in addiction and recovery services of some kind but don't have any appointments or any connections with an agency, that still needs attention.
  • Elena decides when to meet with you based on your level of need - for most people, this is 2 weeks before they're released.
    If/When you receive a sentence but will not be going to state prison: When you're sentenced, Elena will reach out to you either by meeting with you or, during COVID-19 shutdowns, send you a letter in the jail. She'll remind you how long your sentence is, and tell you she's going to meet with you closer to your release date to talk about your reentry. She'll encourage you to start thinking about your plans for release, so you have some questions to ask her when you meet. If you'll be incarcerated for a short time before you're released: If you'll be incarcerated around 6 weeks or less, Elena will meet with you to begin planning for reentry around 2 weeks before your release date (also known as "out date"). This is because a shorter period of time makes you less likely to be evicted if you have an apartment. On average, individuals who have a solid living situation often only need about 2 weeks to build and set up a reentry plan, because "...generally, they don't need a lot of things that require a lot of preparation time" If Elena learns you may be homeless upon release: Elena will reach out as soon as possible to discuss this with you, because housing needs are the most difficult and time consuming to address. Her goal is to help you find the right fit for you to promote your long-term stability and keep you healthy and safe. Plus, "if they qualify for SHIP next door, then you know that's an easy bed to fill...it's also just like a really good program next door, like they're very supportive. It's not just a homeless shelter..." If you're a "Mental Health 5" or a "Medical 5": These are categories used by the jail to identify someone's level of mental health or medical needs. Level 5 is the highest level of need, meaning your mental health or your medical needs affect your "ability to function in your everyday life." The jail has dedicated housing for both Medical 5s and Mental Health 5s, and the staff in these units will begin a reentry plan with you. Elena works very closely with the staff of these units and combines her knowledge with theirs to figure out a reentry plan that works best for you: “because you know, obviously the mental health counselors are going to have a certain area of expertise and connections that I won’t, and then obviously I will have a certain area of expertise and connections that they won’t - so together, we create something a lot more holistic”
  • Before meeting with you: Elena does some "strategic info gathering" to get an idea of things you might be interested in when you're released.
    Before meeting with you to talk about what you'll need when you're released, Elena will gather some information from your ISU consultation, paper files, your rap sheet (history of your arrests), and by talking to counselors you've interacted with to understand what you might possibly need and how you've acted at the jail. She explains: "There's a lot of person-specific things that...determine someone's level of need, even if they don't realize it." So, she'll look through paper files and rap sheets, sometimes 10 years into the past, to get a picture of what you may have been doing, what may have been harmful to your success, and what she might be able to offer you to help. "I'll start to create a pattern of things that scream instability to me, that I can then come to them being like 'hey I noticed this, do you need this? Is this something that would help you? Because usually when I see this, this is what's happening behind the scenes. And then we can have a conversation about that." She has a lot of experience working with people in jail, has done a lot of research, and has that real-time information on the needs of the jail population as a whole from the ISU Consultation data. So she's able to explain to you what she's seen happen to other people based on things she sees in your situation. "In the beginning the inmate might be like 'noo, no I'm fine!', but, you know, after the conversation they're like 'you know what, maybe I do need this.' And then, you know, I've got them."
  • Ben meets with someone in the jail to help with reentry for the first time - and does more than even he thought he could do.
    The Family Support Navigator is asked by an inmate's family to visit their son in the jail because he was really struggling. Brendan, not having any prior jail experience, asked Ben to visit the son. Not only did Ben meet with the man and help him cope with being in jail, he talked to him about treatment options, and worked with his lawyer to get the man transferred to a treatment center as an Alternative to Incarceration. He realizes his passion and his potential, and applies for CRPA Academy trainings. A CRPA is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate - someone who has been through addiction and is now living in recovery, and can formally work and be employed to help other people entering and living in recovery. CRPAs operate in a 'peer' role, meaning they can connect more emotionally and personally with clients than a clinical counselor and offer more services because of different ethical requirements. They still maintain boundaries with clients, but can be more of a mentor or even a friend than a counselor can.
  • Demand for Ben's services explodes - Ben and Brendan make a video and a proposal to the Sheriff and Colonel.
    As this man tells other inmates in the jail about Ben and the work he did, and the man's family tells other community members, people start reaching out. Purely through word of mouth, dozens of family members begin asking Ben to see their incarcerated family member in Saratoga County Jail. Ben is volunteering, not receiving any compensation, and visiting inmates during their alloted visit times (which takes visit time away from being able to see their families). Ben and the Family Support Navigator decide to make a video about what Ben can offer that can be shown in the jail. They also make a proposal to the jail's Colonel for Ben to be able to meet with anyone in the jail, not just the people who can get visits. This is only about 1/5th of the jail's population and takes up precious visit time. They set a meeting with the Sheriff, Colonel, and a few Lieutenants, play the video about Ben's services, and read the proposal. The Sheriff asks Ben who pays him, and discovers he's been volunteering all this time. He offers to pay Ben $500 a week out of the inmate commissary fund.
  • It starts with Ben's last experience in Saratoga County Jail...
    Ben lived in active addiction for 24 years and was in and out of jail and prison for 10 of those years. Saratoga County Jail was the last jail he was incarcerated in. He was used to cycling in and out of jail with nothing - no house, no job, no services, and no help. He was used to hearing the COs tell him he'd never stop and one day they'd lock him up forever. But instead something clicked that time - he largely credits the books The Starfish Story and Man's Search for Meaning as changing his life. He had never really seen the impact his actions had on his family and others around him, until this moment. He finally decided he wanted something different - he knew he needed something better if he was going to live another month. He had tried recovery before, and had especially liked Healing Springs peer recovery center - but hadn't fully committed to living in recovery before.
  • He sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator at Healing Springs and asks to get involved.
    As it turns out, the Family Support Navigator at The Prevention Council had been working on getting approval from the Sheriff to have an informational table for the Families Recover Together program in the visit waiting room at the jail. Ben sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator announcing he had received approval for the table. Ben comments 'how do I get a seat at that table?' and the Navigator invites him along! Ben talked extensively about how these community groups and connections were absolutely NECESSARY throughout every moment of the jail programs, and also his own recovery.
  • The value of Ben's program is seen - he is hired by Healing Springs and the jail officially employs him.
    In September of 2019, Healing Springs sees the usefulness of Ben's program and hires him. Now his salary is split between the Inmate Commissary Fund and Healing Springs. At Healing Springs, he's also started a program to train and supervise new CRPAs.
  • Ben commits to living in recovery, starts attending meetings, and working on local jail reform.
    Ben throws himself into recovery. He goes back to Healing Springs peer recovery center, and starts attending meetings. He also joins Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga (RAIS), a community group advocating for community-based recovery as an arm of the Prevention Council (preventing addiction in Saratoga). At RAIS, Ben announces he would like to have a conversation about Saratoga County Jail and the total lack of recovery services, or any services, there. Very quickly, a subcommittee was formed of people interested in reforming the jail and improving services and reentry resources. Right off the bat, it included Ben, the Captain of the Sheriff's Department, a local grant writer, the Saratoga coroner, and some local volunteers. The subcommittee tried to find the right contact within the jail to talk to about starting a program.
  • The Sheriff and the Colonel approve the proposal and Ben sets up his services in the jail.
    He is allowed to work in the Booking area of the jail, giving him more room and privacy, and allowed to meet with any inmates in the jail. The Sheriff also agrees to play the CRPA video about Ben's services every Saturday in every TV in the jail. Sign-up sheets for Ben's CRPA Initiative are put up in every pod of the jail. These are shown on the Saratoga page in the Resources section. When Ben goes to the jail, he gives a list to the Corrections Officer working in Booking that day and the officer brings the inmate to Ben's desk. He creates intake forms to standardize his meetings with new clients, Releases of Information to protect clients' privacy, note forms for his own use during meetings, and other necessary paperwork (these are also shown under Resources). He also creates an Excel spreadsheet to track his work with an eye for future funding opportunities - as he said, "let's document deliverables and outcomes so that I can get a grant".
  • He starts "taking resource meetings with every agency [he] can get [his] hands on".
    Ben knew he needed to make connections and relationships with as many community agencies as possible. He wanted to get his name out into the community because he wasn't backed by any agency - he wasn't hired by a recovery center and the jail could only hire him as an independent contractor, not hire him as an employee, because he has felony convictions on his record. When referring clients from the jail to community agencies, making appointments for clients, or trying to secure Alternative to Incarceration programs, no one knew who he was or if they could trust him. He starts calling agencies and introducing himself and the work he's doing. He also asks them about the services they provide - to work with the jail population, he needs to know what's available to help his clients. "So as I intake these inmates and needs arise, I'm finding that I don't know the solution and that can't happen. You know what I mean, I need to be able to fill the needs" He expands the meetings he's attending and starts requesting resource meetings to learn more about local agencies. This includes recovery and mental health groups, the RAIS leadership committee, St. Luke's Recovery Resource Center Board (a church that started a resource center), Columbia County Chatham Cares, Albany Diocese for Recovery Commission, baseball games with Albany and Saratoga Sheriff's Departments...any one that could possibly contribute to his knowledge. Soon he starts hosting meetings too, and joining the leadership boards and committees of many of these organizations.
  • If you're just interested in learning about reentry:
    I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing things happening in NYS!! This website is also a celebration of the people who provide reentry services, so please take a look at whatever interests you and appreciate the extremely hard work that goes into this field. You can also find something interesting on this website and apply it to your local community. Maybe you donate some food, clothes, or time to a reentry program in your community, write a letter to your local representative or Sheriff's Department asking them to dedicate more resources to reentry, hire people with a history of incarceration at your business, or maybe you just change the way you think and talk about justice-involved people.
  • If you are interested in reentry but have never worked in the field:
    You can also see it's possible to get involved! You don't need a specific degree or 10 years of relevant work experience to create a reentry program - in fact, we need fresh, outside perspectives to contribute to reentry. What we need most is more reentry programs, and there are so many ways you can get involved. I hope reading about other people who didn't have experience working in a jail makes it seem less scary and difficult. And, I hope you get some ideas and motivation from this website to jump in and get involved.
  • If you're someone already working in a reentry program:
    This website will give you ideas on how to strengthen your program, or ways to expand your services. My hope is that you find something on this website that will improve your program in some way and adapt it to your situation! On an emotional note, I hope you feel better about your work and find other providers you'd like to collaborate or chat with - like in the Community Forum that will soon be added to this website!
  • If you have a history of incarceration:
    This website shows you it's possible for you to change the conditions you experienced. You probably have a lot of things you would've liked to change during your incarceration, things that harmed your recovery or your mental health or harmed your chances of success. You also hopefully have things that helped you and made you feel more prepared to leave jail. You have the power to change things for other people so they can be more successful. You absolutely can create a program that would've helped you. Your experience and perspective are needed to change the way the criminal justice system treats people, and I hope you see from this website that you can do that.
  • If you are involved in government or policy:
    This website will show you the ways community members work extremely hard, every day, sometimes with no institutional or governmental support, to bring necessary and life-saving services to people that are being failed by our institutions and systems. You'll also see the ways some institutions and government departments have made an immense commitment to help provide those necessary services. You'll see the ways reentry programs challenge our criminal justice system, and the ways our systems change to be more accountable and helpful to the communities they serve. You will read about the places government has hurt people, and the places it has helped them. This should prompt you to look at your own community, and see how you could help in the effort to provide and expand reentry services and respond to harm and crime in the community by helping people heal so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, this website proves to you the importance of reentry programs.
  • An ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about what you'll need when you're released to "assess your needs from the jump."
    The consultation "start[s] the process to assess your needs from the jump" - these are the needs you would have if you were released tomorrow. Instead of requiring you to ask for each individual thing you may need, the ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about your specific needs in these categories: Housing Are you homeless? Where are you living? Do you think you can stay there? ​Transportation If you were released tomorrow, would you have a way to get home? Clothing Do you have or need clothes? Any clothes, or specifically business or work attire? Food Do you usually get enough food? Were you accessing food resources like a food bank or SNAP? Identification Do you have access to a photo ID, a SNAP benefits card, your birth certificate, and/or your social security card? Mental health Do you have a history of counseling, mental health care, or medications? Do you have any diagnoses? Do you want to see a counselor in the jail or once you're released? ISU workers specifically ask this last question, about seeing a counselor, even if the person answers no to all other question - sometimes they still want to see a counselor or aren't comfortable answering the first questions.​ Substance Use/Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery Do you have a substance use disorder? Would you like to cut down on your substance use? Have you ever accessed recovery resources and are you interested in them after you're released? ​Veteran status If someone reports veteran status, the jail can get a Release of Information to speak with the Veterans Administration (VA) and connect the person with VA services! Before COVID-19, there was also a VA representative who would go into the jail and talk to people about the services available in the community. Medical needs Are there any immediate medical needs (sprained ankle, migraines, diabetes, etc)? Do you have a Primary Care doctor, or any other kind of doctor? Do you use, need, or want any specialty medical care when you’re released or while you’re incarcerated? Do you have insurance? Did you have insurance before, and do you know if it will continue or lapse? Do you want Medicaid when you are released? ​ *While booked into the jail, people are covered by Inpatient Medicaid - if they had employer-sponsored insurance before coming to jail, it is almost certainly going to lapse (end). There are 3-4 specialists at the jail who have a license to enroll people into Medicaid services before they're released!​*
  • The Benefits of Collecting and Logging This Information
    Sharing info with other clinicians: sometimes the person who does your consultation won't be your caseworker for the rest of your stay, so instead of going through the entire process again, exhausting both you and the worker, and potentially re-traumatizing you by getting all the details of your pre-incarceration life all over again Tracking this info over time: For people who come back to jail, especially those who come back to jail often, clinicians can see over time, is a person's situation getting consistently worse? Are they having the same type of problems consistently? Are there things that weren't focused on much in their last reentry plan that ended up being a problem and should be addressed in the next reentry plan? This is discussed more in the section below on someone coming back to jail, but this information makes sure there is a record somewhere of how someone is doing over time - which can be life saving At the level of the entire jail: Tracking this information allows the jail to know what their population is dealing with as a whole, and adjust their services to match the needs of the population in real time. This includes services in the jail, like mental health or substance use treatment, as well as what should be planned for in reentry. "before bail reform we had a lot of low level [charges], and so there was not a whole lot of violence that we needed to take care of because most of those folks [with violent charges] would go to DOCCS [state prison]...Now what we're seeing, for example, starting probably two summers ago with the rising gun violence, is all of that gang related stuff coming back...because of the model I chose [to assess and track this information]...we can continuously adjust our service provision" At the macro-level: now Elena has aggregate information and statistics for the entire jail population, allowing really innovative data tracking With this data, the jail can report what percentage of their population was homeless when they came into jail, unemployed, needed addiction care, mental health care, insurance, and several other metrics. This can be used by the jail, the county, the community, and even the state to understand trends in the community in real time, inform decisions about resources and funding.
  • If someone comes BACK to jail after being out in the community, the New Beginnings program is set up to pick up where they left off. They can have the same counselors, the same case worker, and still meet with Elena for reentry planning. Collecting and logging that ISU Consultation information also allows staff to keep track of changes in people's lives and situations and intervene if they're getting worse.
    Because of how New Beginnings is set up, if someone becomes incarcerated in Albany again they can "pick up where they left off" in treatment and reentry planning. The goal is that every time someone comes back, they will have the same counselors and the same case worker: “We remember the people that are coming in and they don’t have to start from the beginning...[the ISU workers] know you forward, backward, and sideways. They know you by every crime you’ve ever committed, they know you by every incident, they know you by every need you’ve ever expressed to them… or every family death they’ve ever had to process to help you…every crisis, every breakdown” People who experience incarceration often do not have a regular doctor of any kind, or steady support and communication with family or friends, so this ability for workers at the jail to see patterns and trends can be life saving. “If they’re coming in more and more and they’re just regressing and getting worse [then] we can have an intervention” For example, if someone's drug problem is getting worse and worse and their health is deteriorating, there's someone at the jail who will interact with them who can keep track of this trend and talk to them about it. And, the ISU Consultation data keeps track of a lot relevant information. “When you first came here you looked like this, you weighed this much…what's going on, how can we help?”
  • Now Elena starts setting up services, making appointments, and connecting you with organizations in the community based on all this information.
    Elena is deeply committed to finding the right fit for each person and she makes sure every reentry plan is very individualized. When connecting a client with a new service provider, for example a new mental health counselor, she talks extensively with clients about the kind of person they would be most comfortable with meeting. She also does her own research to understand the background, philosophy, and style of each service provider in the community. That, way she can match people to a service provider who will understand them better. Her philosophy is to go the extra mile to find someone her clients will actually enjoy working with: “I try to find people that …my clients want to go to, and that matters” ​ Elena will ask a lot of in-depth questions to figure out what will be the best fit for you and what will make you as comfortable as possible. "If you want to see a counselor, what kind of counselor do you want to see? Do you want them to be a woman also? Do you want them to be black, do you want them to be Hispanic, do you want them to be able to speak Spanish? Like any of those things will make it that much easier for that person to open up to that service provider, so I do ask those questions and I try to find the best solution I can. Because good Lord sometimes it's real difficult. It shouldn't be but unfortunately it is." Elena can get you information on any program, agency, organization, or service you may be interested in. She can also directly connect you with those resources by making appointments, getting you a bed in a residential program or housing program, getting you in contact with an agency, or even (before COVID-19) bringing someone from an organization into the jail to meet with you before you are released. This builds the connection you have with these services, making it easier to stay connected once you are released back to the community and connecting you with someone else who can support and help you during that transition.
  • Sometimes clients will work with Elena to make a reentry plan, but don't seem committed to following it. Then she and other ISU workers will sit down with the person and figure out what they're ready for.
    Sometimes clients agree with and make the reentry plan, and Elena and ISU workers set up services, but the person doesn't seem totally committed to following through. Elena and the other ISU workers work with clients as much as possible to help them make safe choices and develop a plan, but they can't force anyone into anything. "That’s the only thing I think that I can ask from my clients, that they try something that they haven’t tried before, because clearly what they’re trying isn’t healthy for them" Elena will talk with a person's counselors and case worker in the jail to get a sense of what they've said about being released back to the community and if they seem like they'll follow through. If not, she can arrange a meeting with the client and the other ISU staff involved to sit the person down and see what's going on. For example, if Elena has gotten a client a spot in a program or a residential facility, but they don't seem like they'll follow through. Her and other ISU staff might meet with the person and ask them to either commit to the program, or give up their spot - because someone else might really be able to use it.
  • Sometimes people are blunt about wanting to return to the behaviors and choices that got them in jail in the first place, and have no interest in creating a reentry plan. Then Elena focuses on harm reduction and offering tools and resources to encourage you to be as safe as possible.
    Harm reduction: Elena and the other ISU workers will work with clients as much as possible to find the safest, healthiest, best plan for them. Sometimes, there is a point where it's clear people are set on what they're going to do and any more talking, explaining, begging, or convincing will not change their mind (and might make the situation worse). In that case, the focus changes to harm reduction. Harm reduction is taking the situation where someone will make unhealthy, unsafe, or illegal decisions, and trying to help them be as safe as possible. "My goal is that you survive to live another day when you leave the facility, and that you’re safe in whatever subjective mindset that happens to be in" For Elena, harm reduction is about meeting the person where they're at and providing resources and healthy options for whatever situation the person is committed to entering. If the person will potentially make dangerous or unhealthy choices, she wants to "quell the severity of the situation" and offer safe decisions and safe options. “I can’t stop you from going back home to your abusive partner, but I'm going to give you a lifeline if you need it - if you find yourself in a rough spot. I'm going to give you an option to make a good choice instead of a bad choice…then maybe in that moment you’ll make the good choice, you’ll see that phone number and you’ll call...or you’ll remember that this shelter is here and you’ll walk away from the situation and leave instead of putting your hands on that person” She'll offer tools and resources to encourage as much safety as possible in those dangerous situations people might be in once they're back in the community. "you’re addicted to this, if you use needles - here’s a place that provides clean needles, a place that tests your heroin…that you can get clean water"
  • I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice - in New York State and nationwide.
    The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies.   To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website. ReentryToolsNY presents original research on several reentry programs specifically for jail populations in Upstate NY, as well as research and other publications to help the growth of reentry programs across the country.

Elena's journey to build New Beginnings was heavily influenced by her college experience as well as her childhood growing up in New York City with her parents.

Click the + for more information!

Elena Kilcullen

DEFINITIONS

"ISU": Inmate Services Unit - this is the team of clinical staff that Elena oversees in the jail

  

"New Beginnings": The name of the reentry program in Albany jail, which Elena Kilcullen created

   

"Out date": Release date - the estimated date you will be released from jail

 

"DOCCS": Department of Corrections and Community Supervision - the New York State government department that controls all the state prisons and parole.

  

"DSS": Department of Social Services - in New York State, the agency in each county state-mandated to provide government benefits and programs like Temporary Assistance (including federal welfare), SNAP, Medicaid, Child Support Collection and Enforcement, and Adult and Child Protective Services. 

  

"Aggregate": The 'whole' - information that is 'aggregated' takes individual information and makes it anonymous and about an entire population. For example, surveys about individuals' drinking habits become statistics about the drinking habits of the whole population.

"Inmate": Throughout this website, I use the terms 'inmate', 'currently or formerly incarcerated person/folks', and 'justice-involved individual', but will not use the terms 'convict', 'felon', etc. A lot of changing is happening in New York State to recognize that people should not be defined by justice-involvement, and terms like 'justice-involved individual' are becoming more common. I still use the word 'inmate' occasionally in this website to match the most common language in many counties in Upstate New York to refer to currently incarcerated folks while they are incarcerated, and the population of incarcerated folks in a jail. However, I want to recognize the humanity and the value of these individuals far outside of what the term 'inmate' conveys.

Definitions
Overview

Overview of the New Beginnings Program

New Beginnings is revolutionary in several ways.

    

The program is active, instead of reactive - at every step during incarceration, people in Albany County jail are offered services, offered assistance to plan for their reentry, offered tools and options to make healthier, better choices. Everything is explained, including the different types of services they may qualify for and the differences between them. Elena and the staff at the Inmate Services Unit (ISU) connect with each person one-on-one and really get to know them. For some incarcerated folks this may be the only positive person in their life and the only person advocating for them to make healthier choices. Jail services are the only lifeline for many people, and Elena makes sure that opportunity is not wasted.

  

The program is also in-house - Elena works inside the jail with a team at the ISU to connect with each person consistently throughout their incarceration. This transforms incarceration from a punishment, a time to sit and do nothing (as it is in many jails across the country), into a dynamic time to address the things preventing someone from being successful and plan for their reentry to the community with active help.

  

New Beginnings changes individuals' lives as well as the jail institution and local criminal justice system - Elena drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model in Criminology and Criminal Justice. This model changes the institution/system according to the needs of the people it serves, in real time. Her ISU Consultation allows Elena and the jail to respond to changing needs in the incarcerated population, as well as report out that information on an aggregate level for the jail, the government, and the community to change how they respond to crime and social problems.

  

This includes several components:

  

First,comprehensive assessment is done for every new person booked into the jail, known as the "ISU Consultation". The assessment not only seeks information about what that person will need when they're released and macro-level information for the jail about the changing needs of the local justice-involved population in real time, but also helps focus every single person and the entire jail on preparing for reentry to the community

  

Next, Elena does some strategic info-gathering before she meets with a person. She reads all their paper files, their rap sheet, and any paperwork the jail may have on them. She's looking for anything in the person's life that "screams instability", anything that may harm their chances of success. Anything she finds, she'll talk with the incarcerated person about and see if there are any services, programs, or options that could help. 

  

Then, she can meet with the person and start building a reentry plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment, a tool she created to outline the major areas of need and risk factors for recidivism. This ensures that every person at least discusses how they'll meet each need - housing, mental health, addiction, clothing, and transportation are some of the categories. Elena helps the person develop a plan for each need using her extensive knowledge of all the resources in the area.

  

Based on the reentry plan, Elena can start setting up services for people to work with once they're released. This includes making appointments, connecting people with service providers or agencies even while they're incarcerated, and helping them with applications. If someone is not interested in services or is blunt about wanting to return to an unhealthy or criminal lifestyle, she switches to harm reduction. That way the person is still provided as many healthy options and ideas as possible, in the hopes it will make them more likely to choose a healthier path.

  

New Beginnings even has a plan if someone comes back to jail. They can pick up right where they left off with Elena and the ISU, hopefully continuously making progress toward healthier choices, reducing barriers to success, and ultimately a more successful lifestyle. The jail staff get to know people "forward, backward, and sideways" and know what they've tried in the past, what's worked, what has not worked, and what a person may be open to trying.

  

Jail providers are often the only medical, mental health, addiction, and life skills providers a person sees - and the only person rooting for them to be successful. Elena has made full use of this opportunity, and led the ISU to actively help folks make healthier, safer choices and remove the barriers to their succe.

Below find more information about each step and each component of New Beginnings!
Inmate Services Unit

Elena runs the Inmate Services Unit - a team of clinical staff who provide services to all the inmates in the jail.
"[I] help to oversee our caseworkers and specialists who have basically every single inmate on their caseloads"

She helps those caseworkers to create reentry plans for every inmate in the jail. While those caseworkers track very specific information for their clients to help make a personalized reentry plan, Elena tracks the services available in the area and what's needed to connect with them - for example the insurance restrictions, if they're taking new clients, and what type of clients they serve. Just tracking services and finding out where to go for different needs is a huge job in any community - Elena explains why she helps alleviate this burden for her clients.
“Who is even taking new patients at this point??... if I want to give up finding a psychiatrist, I can only imagine…the [stress of that] for one of my clients”

ISU
Image by Austin Neill

New Beginnings Resource Guide

The Resource Guide lists all the agencies, services, resources, and programs available in Albany County and beyond, and helps explain what they are and how to access them. It's given to everyone incarcerated at Albany County in the form of a tablet program that Elena created. It's a way everyone can plan for their reentry and get ideas for what they might need and want anytime during their incarceration, and even directly contact them (the tablet program has working links and contact options!!). It even includes the services provided in-house at the jail for people to read about. 

The idea for New Beginnings started while Elena was in grad school. She realized what Albany was missing most was a 'hub' of resources and services. Someone or something that could connect everything together and help people find and connect with the things that might help them.

  

"We have a lot of agencies that provide services, but what we don't have is a connecting network, so that people can navigate that...the problem is that no one's ever really sat down and was like, how do we bring access to these resources that already exist in our community? So that's where I come in."

  

And the Resource Guide was just the beginning.

Resource Guide
Image by Austin Neill
  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of asking for help in the first place…One takes a little bit of effort, one takes a lot of effort and it's very discouraging, so let's do the one that takes a little bit of effort.” The New Beginnings assessment and Elena during her reentry meetings specifically offer people different types of services, rather than expecting them to know what they want and need. "Whereas now upon intake you're asked, do you need this, this, this...If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on.”
  • While working on the reentry manual, Elena developed her idea of a person to act as the 'hub' for services in Albany. Specifically, she wanted to create a hub for people leaving incarceration - to help them while they were incarcerated. She used her social work classes and projects to research reentry and reentry programs, and pulled a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model.
    The hub would be someone to connect all the information about agencies and services and benefits, and help others navigate all of them. “That's what I wanted to change…I wanted to make it In-House [in the jail]…you know [inmates are] sitting in a box, then they go home and they're like ‘what do I do with myself?’ No! That planning needs to start as soon as they get here." "So I did a lot of research while I was a social work student on different models of how [reentry] programs function and how I can integrate those models into an in-house program at a facility" Some of this research came from a supervisor at an internship she had held with Prisoners Legal Services, which included dozens and dozens of models of reentry programs across the country. She drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model, a model of working with justice-involved people that involves constantly updating itself and updating the agency based on the current needs of the people they work with. "A huge part of that model is the program testing itself...and adjusting its service provisions based on the demographic of people that we're getting presently and the things that they specifically need"
  • Next, Elena turned her research and ideas into a formal proposal for a new reentry program to run from inside Albany County jail - all while still working on her dual graduate education.
    Elena brings new, fresh ideas backed by both recent and long-standing research in the field. Combining her college advocacy, childhood commitment to supporting others, and this extensive research, Elena is a perfect example of how young people and people new to the field can launch an inspiring career in reentry.
  • As always, Elena thought even bigger: this reentry manual wasn't just helpful for people coming out of incarceration, it was helpful for anyone in the community. So, she sent it to everyone she could possibly think of.
    "And then, what I did was I just tried to connect with anybody I could possibly think of to disseminate it, because at that point, I didn't care if you were coming out of DOCCS or not...You could have not committed a crime your entire life and yet you're homeless or you're very poor or you're hungry...I want you to be able to have this information. So I sent it to Schenectady police department...Albany PD, some of the officers have it there, the public defender's office, the office of indigent services, the Albany Public Library System, places in Troy, DSS in Schenectady...anywhere I could think of that I could connect with that serves poor people...I disseminated it to every single Professor I'd ever had” "The way I formatted the reentry manual...I want someone who has absolutely nothing to be able to read this and figure out how to get something"
  • In her social work program, she worked with a professor in Albany who saw what she was thinking and loved it. The professor came up with the idea for Elena to create a reentry manual for people transitioning to Albany from incarceration. This was the first Resource Guide.
    “I did one of my internships at my social work program...[my professor said] you're going to create a reentry manual for the district for people coming out of [state prisons]. So I made one for Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties...because in my head...[Albany, Schenectady, and Troy] are the three main hot spots for community violence and incarceration in our district...I basically spent an entire academic year creating this reentry manual for the three counties.
  • Elena had grown up around the racial injustice present in the criminal justice system, as well as the advocacy to combat it, through her father’s work. Entering college at SUNY New Paltz, she wanted to explore her own racial identity as well as race and identity in America. Through the Scholars Mentorship Program she decided she wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the criminal justice system.
    “And I happen to be in this like very weird identity situation being biracial, where I am... ancestral-wise I am... enslaved person and a slave owner together because of where my family's from...A lot of my ancestral history has a lot to do with slavery” Elena was part of the Scholars Mentorship program at SUNY New Paltz. This involved lots of courses focused on systems of oppression, during a time of intense turmoil with many highly publicized incidents of police violence against racial minorities. The Scholars Mentorship program was designed by New Paltz to investigate why the school had such an “abysmal” graduation rate for students of color and support students of color to combat the drop-out rate. Starting freshman year, students join courses on ‘advancement of academics’ that specifically talk about systems of oppression that are up against people and students of color in the U.S. Students are also paired with an adult and a student mentor so they have a “very obvious and available support system” from the beginning of their education. Elena’s advisor had a PhD in Black Studies from the only university in America that has a program for it. She encouraged Elena to take courses in Black Studies to explore her own identity. Her education happened in the context of all the racial turmoil of these years. This when a lot of cases of police violence against people of color, especially men, were being prosecuted. The tension spread to New Paltz and there was some racist graffiti sprayed around campus about Emmet Till. “I learned a lot about...the black identity in America as a whole and where I stood as a piece of that...so what I decided was that I wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the context of, especially the criminal justice system, because it was such like a hot topic and such a traumatic topic at the time”
  • Her mother was a teacher and her father was a social worker who worked with crime victims and formerly incarcerated folks in Alternative to Incarceration programs. She was raised to solve problems, and always had a passion for advocating on behalf of people who were marginalized.
    "My mom always taught me...you see a need, and then you fill it. And you figure out how to fill it, and you figure out...how to tell people how to fill it...and all of the legwork that goes into that. And then you present it to them, and then they [love you] because you did their job." “I was always one of those kids who wanted to advocate against something that’s unfair or for someone or something that’s marginalized...I always wanted to yell at people - which is why I went to law school! I want to yell at people on behalf of other people”
  • In 2015, Elena finished her undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz and moved further north to attend Albany Law School and UAlbany. She pursued a joint degree with a Master's in Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (J.D. - law degree) and expanded her advocacy.
    “I was always one of those kids who wanted to…advocate against something that was unfair, right? Or advocate for somebody who is marginalized or an animal that was marginalized…I always wanted to yell at people. Which is why I went to law school, I want to yell at people on behalf of other people” "When I went to Grad school I started to expand that [advocacy] more. I was part of the Latin American Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association, we started to do things advocacy-wise there."
  • Through this advocacy, she found her true passion at Riker's Island. She interned with the Legal Aid Society, who was collecting evidence for a class action lawsuit against Riker's, DOCCS, and a specific CO for repeated sexual abuse and the protection of this abuse by Riker's and DOCCS. Legal Aid Society picked her to interview women at Riker's. She realized she loved working in Corrections and with folks who were incarcerated - just maybe not FOR Corrections.
    "We were trying to get a serial rapist...it was crazy" "My actual job was like secret? It was very investigative...everyone thought I was a Public Defenders Intern... I was a Civil Legal Intern...we were collecting evidence, so that we could put a class action suit against...Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections and a particular corrections officer" "They saw that I had a psychology and trauma based background, and they also saw that I was a social work student, so they were like you! You have the skills to be able to gather this information without traumatizing the crap out of our clients...when our clients are traumatized…you can de-escalate the situation..."you're gonna go in and you're gonna talk to all the witnesses and then, when we have depositions with the victims, you're going to be there. So that if you notice them start to freak out you're going to pause the deposition and you're going to do, like, breathing exercises and shit. That was my job" "So that's where I started my love for working with people who are incarcerated...it was there that I realized I really loved working in corrections - maybe not FOR corrections, maybe advocating through corrections, but I liked working with inmates. I was never scared to be at Rikers, I was never scared to be in any of the facilities - even when there were like lockdowns..."
  • At a huge protest at SUNY New Paltz in response to the decision in the Michael Brown court case, Elena was sure: "I belong doing this in some capacity."
    Within two hours of the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict (grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson), the Black Student Association at SUNY New Paltz organized a huge protest march. It had both local police presence watching the student group, and university police protecting the group. "The march down from the school campus to the courthouse and then we had a moment of silence for the however many minutes he was dead on the floor in the public in broad daylight...and that was kind of the major moment for me, where I was like 'I belong doing this in some capacity'” Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Read more about the situation and the court case here at History.com.
  • When Elena had left NYC for college, she had planned to learn as much as she could to bring the knowledge back home to the city. But as she lived, drove through, and worked in Upstate New York, she realized she had way more ideas from the city to bring to Upstate (and not much from Upstate to bring to the city). So, she decided to stay in Upstate for a while.
    "My initial plan when I came up here was to gather all the experience and education that I possibly could and bring it back home. but I realized that I had really not a whole lot to bring back home, but I had a lot from back home to bring up here." "...being from NYC and a mother who's a teacher and a dad who's a social worker who works with crime victims and also people who were formerly incarcerated and within Alternative to Incarceration programs, I know all the reentry services that are in the five boroughs in New York City. And then I came up here. And there was none of that.” “So I decided to stay here...after maybe my second year of my grad program. Because you know I would drive through Second Street, and you know Sheridan and Orange Street, and I'm looking around at the big red X's and all of these condemned buildings and all of these people and I'm realizing how similar it is up here, to the stuff that I grew up around in the South Bronx. Except in the South Bronx we actually have services. Up here, we have not a whole lot. We have DSS and that's it.”
  • Ben talked to the Colonel about providing MAT by looking at Albany County jail's program and policies.
    When this tragedy happened, Ben talked to the Colonel. The jail didn't have any prescriber for MAT medications or policies about providing MAT. Ben proposed he and the administration at Saratoga County jail should have a conversation with Albany County jail, because they already had an extensive MAT program. Ben suggested they should take a look at Albany's policies for MAT and tour their program.
  • Creating an MAT program was prompted by a tragedy.
    Within the span of 2 months, 4 inmates left Saratoga County jail and died on the same day of their release from an opioid overdose. All 4 inmates had gone into the jail on MAT and been forced off because the jail did not have any way to provide MAT.
  • Saratoga County jail instituted a MAT program not long after using the $60,000 grant from NYS OASAS that every county jail in New York State received, and immediately saw their contraband problems cut in half.
    Ben explained the main people willing to get a felony charge for introduction of contraband were the people who had legal prescriptions for Suboxone in the community and had boxes of it at home, but were forced to be sick and withdraw at the jail because they didn't offer it. The jail used that grant from OASAS to contract with the person already working in the jail to prescribe psychological medications.
  • The jail administration attended an MAT and Corrections forum that showcased different MAT programs, discussed the need for MAT, and explained the massive contraband reduction.
    After looking at Albany's program, there was an MAT and Corrections forum meeting in Clifton Park, not far from Saratoga. Ben and some administrators at Saratoga County jail attended and listened to presentations by other county jails, the doctor and MAT prescriber for Riker's Island jail, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative for NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, and some individuals who had lived experience with addiction and MAT (including Ben himself). The Riker's Island MAT prescriber explained that when Riker's instituted an MAT program, the amount of contraband coming into the jail dropped. The main drug coming into jails is Suboxone - because it's tiny, and because so many people have supplies at home from their prescription but are forced off it when they go to jail. So, they ask their family and friends to smuggle it into the jail to avoid getting sick from withdrawal from their prescribed Suboxone.
  • The jail started with continuation, but from the start they had high hopes for inducting inmates too. Ben argued they needed to go slowly and build up the capacity in the community to provide MAT so no one was forced off MAT right after being released from jail.
    The Saratoga County Sheriff and jail administration wanted to be able to induct inmates onto MAT (write new prescriptions for MAT, not just continue existing prescriptions) within 2 years of starting the program. Ben explained they needed "to build this backwards" because it would be irresponsible to induce inmates on MAT with no provider to take them and continue the script once they're released. The waits to see an MAT provider in the community are 2-6 weeks, meaning someone could be forced to be sick from withdrawal from Suboxone immediately after release from jail while waiting to see a provider. This was too dangerous, especially when the period immediately after release from jail already hold an incredibly high risk for overdose and death.
  • Carrie, an outreach worker from the hospital, two supervisors at Baywood, and an administrator from AHI drafted a proposal to start a reentry program in Warren and Washington County jails.
    Carrie, an outreach worker from the local hospital, and three employees from Baywood met to begin drafting a proposal to send to AHI. They talked to the Undersheriff and the Corrections Lieutenant from Warren County jails. They supported the idea but didn't get involved in the process. The proposal was for a reentry planning program for Warren and Washington County jails. The two counties are very similar, and neither one had any services outside of the legally mandated social workers and medical staff and very small programs to provide MAT. The proposal talked a lot about the needs identified in the SIM Workshop: “We had some data, but not a lot. We just knew, anecdotally, there was a need.” The proposal itself asked for funds for the salary of one full time employee, a laptop, and some marketing materials. There was no evaluation built into the proposal, no reporting measures, no data tracking - "just here's what we want to do generally and where the money will go." Carrie explained that like a lot of smaller, new programs, the proposal was thrown together based on what they knew the county needed and how they hoped to fill that need. “Yeah, if you're looking for as far as like, it was really well formatted or really well thought out, it wasn't. As I think you'll find with many new programs... like it is not [well thought out] oftentimes... [Requests for Proposals] come out and you're scrambling to get data or narratives together. Just be like, let's just, just throw something out there." "We still didn't have, like, how we were going to determine recidivism - which we still don't. We have no reporting measures."
  • Amanda started getting ready to run the program at Warren County jail. She got clearances, talked to the social worker, and created the forms she would use.
    Amanda and some other employees at Baywood went through fingerprinting and got 'clearances' (passing a security clearance) to go into the jail. Warren County jail was ready to accept Amanda regularly, so she started coordinating with the nurse and social worker who were working there. Medical and social work services in both jails are contracted to an outside agency. The social worker positions at both jails have a really high rate of turnover, but every time a new social worker comes in Amanda makes sure to meet and coordinate with them. The nurse at Warren County jail was there for a few years when ABLE started, so Amanda utilized her like a 'point person' in the jail to get ABLE going. Amanda sat down with a supervisor at Baywood to create forms for her to use while meeting with clients in the jail. Her position is HIPAA compliant, so clients have to sign a Release of Information for her to speak with anyone (service providers, agencies, family, friends, etc) on behalf of the client. Amanda and her supervisor created consent forms for clients to join ABLE, releases of information, and assessment forms.
  • Now that the GAINS Center was coming to run the SIM Mapping Workshop, Carrie Wright built a huge coalition of people and agencies in the community to get involved.
    Carrie is a master organizer. She talked to a ton of different people, at a ton of different agencies, and got them to agree to participate in the SIM workshop and contribute their experience. She wanted a variety of service providers and social service organizations in the community to get involved, help identify the needs of the community, and collaboratively talk about solutions. At the time, there was no community group, email chain, or Facebook group that connected all these people in Warren County. Instead, Carrie had to contact each individual person and agency separately. “...that was like so many emails...at that time there was no group, like I was emailing judges, I was emailing probation I would email...everyone to...explain [the SIM]...I mean they gave you like information like what you want to send out here's like a one page document on what the SIM is. So it was really...grassroots ground up” Quoted from interview with Carrie Wright
  • They got the grant! The staff at Baywood immediately went to Amanda to tell her about the plan.
    The DSRIP grant through AHI paid one full time employee for a year and a half, along with the laptop and marketing materials. As Amanda describes it, at 3:30pm on a Thursday while she was headed out of the Baywood Office, she was called into a meeting with her boss, her boss's boss, and that boss's boss. She immediately thought she was being fired or something horrible. Instead, they said they had this grant for a reentry program, and they wanted her to do it. Amanda was thrilled - "Anything to be able to go into the jails." Quote from Darby Larkin's interview with Amanda Zeno.
  • Carrie and some other service providers from Law Enforcement and Lunch saw a grant offer put out by AHI looking to fund a reentry program - the exact thing the SIM had identified as a huge issue in Warren County.
    AHI was offering a grant to start a reentry program in Upstate New York. Carrie talked about it in one of the Law Enforcement and Lunch meetings with a few other service providers - an outreach worker at the local hospital was involved, as well as two supervisors at Baywood. The Baywood supervisors knew how much Amanda wanted to work in the jails, and they decided to write a proposal.
  • Then Amanda started going into Warren County jail! It was truly "trial by fire" trying to figure out how to move through the jail, when she could come in, how to meet with people, and how the program would work. After some initial problems, Amanda made some changes and kept going.
    The Warren County Corrections Lieutenant had told Amanda she could come into the jail anytime between 6am and 10pm! She quickly realized, though, this was not how things really worked inside the jail. Officers wouldn't or couldn't escort her through the jail and she couldn't meet with inmates during mealtimes, while medications were being passed out, if a disciplinary issue was happening, or during shift change. In Warren County jail, this actually leaves a very short window where Amanda can come in to meet with people - a little less than 3 hours each weekday morning and possibly one hour in the afternoon. The COs who escorted her began educating her on the jail's schedule: “Frontline officers have been really good about telling me the do's and don'ts of 'you're allowed to do this' and 'you're allowed to come now.'” There was another problem. All the beautiful forms they had made for Amanda to use were all electronic, but the jail did not allow any electronics inside the jail. Amanda made some changes, and proceeded with determination!
  • The results of the SIM were clear: reentry needs (needs of people coming out of the county jail) repeatedly came up as a huge issue, and an easy one to start working on.
    The SIM results showed over and over again that there was a huge gap in services for people coming out of the jail and other justice-involved people in the community. It also identified what Carrie called "low hanging fruit" - things that were pretty easy to implement and existed in a lot of places. A basic reentry program to provide reentry planning services was a huge "low hanging fruit" for Warren County.
  • What started it all: the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM). Through a massive community collaboration, several organizations came together to conduct a SIM Mapping Workshop funded by a large social service agency in Upstate NY. A SIM maps out the major areas of social need and gaps in services in a community.
    What is a SIM Mapping Workshop?? Sequential Intercept Model: shows how people with mental health and substance use disorders enter and move through the criminal justice system ​SIM Mapping Workshop: a workshop using a statistical tool that identifies services, programs, and resources that are missing in a community, and helps develop a local strategic action plan to address those needs and divert people with mental and substance use disorders away from the justice system and toward treatment using evidence-based practices More reading about the SIM and SIM Mapping How did this happen? Local leadership at People USA* saw that the GAINS Center* was offering SIM Mapping Workshops to counties across the country. Working with some members of the Warren and Washington Counties government Office of Community Services, they applied for Warren County. Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Office of Community Services, was a leader in the initiative. Warren County was denied by the GAINS Center the first time for the funding to perform the SIM. Leadership at the Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) heard about the initiative and offered to pay for it. With the backing of AHI, they were accepted. The GAINS Center would run a SIM Mapping Workshop for Warren County! * The GAINS Center is a part of the federal mental health agency SAMHSA and works on improving access to services for justice-involved people with mental health or substance use problems. * People USA is a national and global organization working on crisis response and mental health services that is peer-run (run by people who have coped with the same issues they work on). * DSRIP was a project by the New York State government to redesign healthcare in New York to reduce Medicaid costs and unnecessary hospitalizations. This was mostly done by giving grants to large agencies (like AHI) to give that money out to smaller agencies for projects that worked towards DSRIP's goal. AHI is a major recipient of state funding to distribute to other agencies for social service projects across the Adirondacks, including DSRIP. AHI provided DSRIP* funds for the SIM. (Information on this early timeline gained from Carrie Wright)
  • A year later, Carrie came back to the Office of Community Services and started a new community meeting: Law Enforcement and Lunch.
    About a year after leaving, Carrie came back to work for the Office of Community Services again and immediately started organizing again. Law Enforcement and Lunch was a monthly meeting to connect service providers working with mental health and substance use, law enforcement, and corrections officials. It was meant for these folks to check-in about what was happening in the community, to talk about programs going on, and needs being identified in the community and in the jail. The Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant for Warren County were once again interested and attended many of these meetings.
  • Immediately after the SIM, there were a lot of conversations with those local social service agencies who had participated and with the Warren County Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant - especially reentry programs. Carrie helped organize a lot of them. But when she briefly left the Office of Community Services, the conversations fizzled out and no action was taken.
    Like I said, Carrie is a master organizer. Most people working in social service agencies didn't have the extra time to set meetings and collaborate, and there weren't any government departments or law enforcement personnel focused on building coalitions at the time. So Carrie did it herself! She organized meetings and connected people to collaborate on a variety of social issues, including talking about the results of the SIM. When she left the Office of Community Services, these conversations and collaborations kind of fizzled out.
  • Currently run a reentry program?
    You could read this Guidebook to reflect on the steps you took to build your program, or get ideas for how to make your program stronger by implementing or honing any of these areas.
  • Sheriff or other government or county worker ​​interested in reentry programs?
    This Guidebook can give you a sense of the work and process it takes to create a reentry program, and how other programs have worked through it before. You can get ideas for resource distribution to strengthen a community-based program or utilize the community to make an institutional program stronger.
  • Policymaker or government worker?
    ​You could use this Guidebook to understand the perspective of frontline workers and the resources, time, and stress it takes to build a new reentry program. These examples could give you a better perspective on the grants, departments, regulations, or other areas you control.
  • Thinking about starting a reentry program or in the process of creating one?
    You could read this Guidebook to get a sense of the steps you'll need to take, get ideas for ways to solve problems that come up, and help you develop that program faster and more efficiently.
  • Now, you'll meet with Elena to talk about your plan for reentry - and Elena will work with you to make sure it's a safe and healthy plan.
    Elena will sit down with you in the jail to talk about your plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment to structure these meetings and reentry plans. She'll figure out from you what you already have planned, then go over all the categories on the New Beginnings assessment to make sure you have these needs met, or make a plan with you to meet them. For example, if you're interested in an educational program, she'll check if you have a plan for how to get it. If not, she'll talk to you about the options and you'll figure out together what you'd like to pursue. Every person is the expert on themselves - what Elena can add is her experience working with lots of currently and formerly incarcerated folks before and her extensive knowledge of the programs, services, and agencies in the area. This includes everything from government benefits, recovery groups, mental health resources, childcare services, veterans programs, and housing options - including their eligibility criteria and application process. She can suggest things you may not have thought of or things you didn't know existed and give you more information. Elena can make sure your plan for reentry is safe and healthy: Based on her prior experience and her "strategic info-gathering", Elena can ask questions and make sure your plan is safe. For example, she once worked with a man who said he had a place to live because he was going back home. But Elena had seen in his past a pattern of 'criminal contempt' charges (violations of a restraining order) and family violence. So she asked him "do you actually have a safe place to go?" After talking about it, the man was open to other housing options. Elena explained her mindset about these questions: "I don't really know the nature of their relationship I just know that it's toxic all around objectively, so you know if he can get away from her or if he can be kept away from her...the better off they probably will both be."
  • New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment: This is a tool Elena developed herself to structure the meeting - it helps you go through the major areas of need that most people have, and that affect success after release.
    See a blank copy of the assessment below. This is a tool Elena developed herself when she first built the reentry infrastructure of the jail. It lists out the major categories of 'needs' in reentry - the main categories of basic needs to survive, things people usually need when being released from incarceration, and things that are often harmful to success or can cause recidivism. She developed the categories based on extensive research about reentry, recidivism, and social needs while she was a joint Master's in Social Work-Juris Doctorate (law degree) student. The column "Need Met By" is for the things a person already has set up. Elena fills this out based on her "strategic info-gathering" and her meetings with an inmate. For example, if someone already has an apartment set up then their housing need is met by that apartment. Or, if a person's counselor in the jail has set up a counseling appointment in the community for them, that need is met already. The column "Still Needs Attention" is for the needs that are not met and what a person needs to set up for their release from jail. For example, if they're interested in addiction and recovery services of some kind but don't have any appointments or any connections with an agency, that still needs attention.
  • Elena decides when to meet with you based on your level of need - for most people, this is 2 weeks before they're released.
    If/When you receive a sentence but will not be going to state prison: When you're sentenced, Elena will reach out to you either by meeting with you or, during COVID-19 shutdowns, send you a letter in the jail. She'll remind you how long your sentence is, and tell you she's going to meet with you closer to your release date to talk about your reentry. She'll encourage you to start thinking about your plans for release, so you have some questions to ask her when you meet. If you'll be incarcerated for a short time before you're released: If you'll be incarcerated around 6 weeks or less, Elena will meet with you to begin planning for reentry around 2 weeks before your release date (also known as "out date"). This is because a shorter period of time makes you less likely to be evicted if you have an apartment. On average, individuals who have a solid living situation often only need about 2 weeks to build and set up a reentry plan, because "...generally, they don't need a lot of things that require a lot of preparation time" If Elena learns you may be homeless upon release: Elena will reach out as soon as possible to discuss this with you, because housing needs are the most difficult and time consuming to address. Her goal is to help you find the right fit for you to promote your long-term stability and keep you healthy and safe. Plus, "if they qualify for SHIP next door, then you know that's an easy bed to fill...it's also just like a really good program next door, like they're very supportive. It's not just a homeless shelter..." If you're a "Mental Health 5" or a "Medical 5": These are categories used by the jail to identify someone's level of mental health or medical needs. Level 5 is the highest level of need, meaning your mental health or your medical needs affect your "ability to function in your everyday life." The jail has dedicated housing for both Medical 5s and Mental Health 5s, and the staff in these units will begin a reentry plan with you. Elena works very closely with the staff of these units and combines her knowledge with theirs to figure out a reentry plan that works best for you: “because you know, obviously the mental health counselors are going to have a certain area of expertise and connections that I won’t, and then obviously I will have a certain area of expertise and connections that they won’t - so together, we create something a lot more holistic”
  • Before meeting with you: Elena does some "strategic info gathering" to get an idea of things you might be interested in when you're released.
    Before meeting with you to talk about what you'll need when you're released, Elena will gather some information from your ISU consultation, paper files, your rap sheet (history of your arrests), and by talking to counselors you've interacted with to understand what you might possibly need and how you've acted at the jail. She explains: "There's a lot of person-specific things that...determine someone's level of need, even if they don't realize it." So, she'll look through paper files and rap sheets, sometimes 10 years into the past, to get a picture of what you may have been doing, what may have been harmful to your success, and what she might be able to offer you to help. "I'll start to create a pattern of things that scream instability to me, that I can then come to them being like 'hey I noticed this, do you need this? Is this something that would help you? Because usually when I see this, this is what's happening behind the scenes. And then we can have a conversation about that." She has a lot of experience working with people in jail, has done a lot of research, and has that real-time information on the needs of the jail population as a whole from the ISU Consultation data. So she's able to explain to you what she's seen happen to other people based on things she sees in your situation. "In the beginning the inmate might be like 'noo, no I'm fine!', but, you know, after the conversation they're like 'you know what, maybe I do need this.' And then, you know, I've got them."
  • Ben meets with someone in the jail to help with reentry for the first time - and does more than even he thought he could do.
    The Family Support Navigator is asked by an inmate's family to visit their son in the jail because he was really struggling. Brendan, not having any prior jail experience, asked Ben to visit the son. Not only did Ben meet with the man and help him cope with being in jail, he talked to him about treatment options, and worked with his lawyer to get the man transferred to a treatment center as an Alternative to Incarceration. He realizes his passion and his potential, and applies for CRPA Academy trainings. A CRPA is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate - someone who has been through addiction and is now living in recovery, and can formally work and be employed to help other people entering and living in recovery. CRPAs operate in a 'peer' role, meaning they can connect more emotionally and personally with clients than a clinical counselor and offer more services because of different ethical requirements. They still maintain boundaries with clients, but can be more of a mentor or even a friend than a counselor can.
  • Demand for Ben's services explodes - Ben and Brendan make a video and a proposal to the Sheriff and Colonel.
    As this man tells other inmates in the jail about Ben and the work he did, and the man's family tells other community members, people start reaching out. Purely through word of mouth, dozens of family members begin asking Ben to see their incarcerated family member in Saratoga County Jail. Ben is volunteering, not receiving any compensation, and visiting inmates during their alloted visit times (which takes visit time away from being able to see their families). Ben and the Family Support Navigator decide to make a video about what Ben can offer that can be shown in the jail. They also make a proposal to the jail's Colonel for Ben to be able to meet with anyone in the jail, not just the people who can get visits. This is only about 1/5th of the jail's population and takes up precious visit time. They set a meeting with the Sheriff, Colonel, and a few Lieutenants, play the video about Ben's services, and read the proposal. The Sheriff asks Ben who pays him, and discovers he's been volunteering all this time. He offers to pay Ben $500 a week out of the inmate commissary fund.
  • It starts with Ben's last experience in Saratoga County Jail...
    Ben lived in active addiction for 24 years and was in and out of jail and prison for 10 of those years. Saratoga County Jail was the last jail he was incarcerated in. He was used to cycling in and out of jail with nothing - no house, no job, no services, and no help. He was used to hearing the COs tell him he'd never stop and one day they'd lock him up forever. But instead something clicked that time - he largely credits the books The Starfish Story and Man's Search for Meaning as changing his life. He had never really seen the impact his actions had on his family and others around him, until this moment. He finally decided he wanted something different - he knew he needed something better if he was going to live another month. He had tried recovery before, and had especially liked Healing Springs peer recovery center - but hadn't fully committed to living in recovery before.
  • He sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator at Healing Springs and asks to get involved.
    As it turns out, the Family Support Navigator at The Prevention Council had been working on getting approval from the Sheriff to have an informational table for the Families Recover Together program in the visit waiting room at the jail. Ben sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator announcing he had received approval for the table. Ben comments 'how do I get a seat at that table?' and the Navigator invites him along! Ben talked extensively about how these community groups and connections were absolutely NECESSARY throughout every moment of the jail programs, and also his own recovery.
  • The value of Ben's program is seen - he is hired by Healing Springs and the jail officially employs him.
    In September of 2019, Healing Springs sees the usefulness of Ben's program and hires him. Now his salary is split between the Inmate Commissary Fund and Healing Springs. At Healing Springs, he's also started a program to train and supervise new CRPAs.
  • Ben commits to living in recovery, starts attending meetings, and working on local jail reform.
    Ben throws himself into recovery. He goes back to Healing Springs peer recovery center, and starts attending meetings. He also joins Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga (RAIS), a community group advocating for community-based recovery as an arm of the Prevention Council (preventing addiction in Saratoga). At RAIS, Ben announces he would like to have a conversation about Saratoga County Jail and the total lack of recovery services, or any services, there. Very quickly, a subcommittee was formed of people interested in reforming the jail and improving services and reentry resources. Right off the bat, it included Ben, the Captain of the Sheriff's Department, a local grant writer, the Saratoga coroner, and some local volunteers. The subcommittee tried to find the right contact within the jail to talk to about starting a program.
  • The Sheriff and the Colonel approve the proposal and Ben sets up his services in the jail.
    He is allowed to work in the Booking area of the jail, giving him more room and privacy, and allowed to meet with any inmates in the jail. The Sheriff also agrees to play the CRPA video about Ben's services every Saturday in every TV in the jail. Sign-up sheets for Ben's CRPA Initiative are put up in every pod of the jail. These are shown on the Saratoga page in the Resources section. When Ben goes to the jail, he gives a list to the Corrections Officer working in Booking that day and the officer brings the inmate to Ben's desk. He creates intake forms to standardize his meetings with new clients, Releases of Information to protect clients' privacy, note forms for his own use during meetings, and other necessary paperwork (these are also shown under Resources). He also creates an Excel spreadsheet to track his work with an eye for future funding opportunities - as he said, "let's document deliverables and outcomes so that I can get a grant".
  • He starts "taking resource meetings with every agency [he] can get [his] hands on".
    Ben knew he needed to make connections and relationships with as many community agencies as possible. He wanted to get his name out into the community because he wasn't backed by any agency - he wasn't hired by a recovery center and the jail could only hire him as an independent contractor, not hire him as an employee, because he has felony convictions on his record. When referring clients from the jail to community agencies, making appointments for clients, or trying to secure Alternative to Incarceration programs, no one knew who he was or if they could trust him. He starts calling agencies and introducing himself and the work he's doing. He also asks them about the services they provide - to work with the jail population, he needs to know what's available to help his clients. "So as I intake these inmates and needs arise, I'm finding that I don't know the solution and that can't happen. You know what I mean, I need to be able to fill the needs" He expands the meetings he's attending and starts requesting resource meetings to learn more about local agencies. This includes recovery and mental health groups, the RAIS leadership committee, St. Luke's Recovery Resource Center Board (a church that started a resource center), Columbia County Chatham Cares, Albany Diocese for Recovery Commission, baseball games with Albany and Saratoga Sheriff's Departments...any one that could possibly contribute to his knowledge. Soon he starts hosting meetings too, and joining the leadership boards and committees of many of these organizations.
  • If you're just interested in learning about reentry:
    I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing things happening in NYS!! This website is also a celebration of the people who provide reentry services, so please take a look at whatever interests you and appreciate the extremely hard work that goes into this field. You can also find something interesting on this website and apply it to your local community. Maybe you donate some food, clothes, or time to a reentry program in your community, write a letter to your local representative or Sheriff's Department asking them to dedicate more resources to reentry, hire people with a history of incarceration at your business, or maybe you just change the way you think and talk about justice-involved people.
  • If you are interested in reentry but have never worked in the field:
    You can also see it's possible to get involved! You don't need a specific degree or 10 years of relevant work experience to create a reentry program - in fact, we need fresh, outside perspectives to contribute to reentry. What we need most is more reentry programs, and there are so many ways you can get involved. I hope reading about other people who didn't have experience working in a jail makes it seem less scary and difficult. And, I hope you get some ideas and motivation from this website to jump in and get involved.
  • If you're someone already working in a reentry program:
    This website will give you ideas on how to strengthen your program, or ways to expand your services. My hope is that you find something on this website that will improve your program in some way and adapt it to your situation! On an emotional note, I hope you feel better about your work and find other providers you'd like to collaborate or chat with - like in the Community Forum that will soon be added to this website!
  • If you have a history of incarceration:
    This website shows you it's possible for you to change the conditions you experienced. You probably have a lot of things you would've liked to change during your incarceration, things that harmed your recovery or your mental health or harmed your chances of success. You also hopefully have things that helped you and made you feel more prepared to leave jail. You have the power to change things for other people so they can be more successful. You absolutely can create a program that would've helped you. Your experience and perspective are needed to change the way the criminal justice system treats people, and I hope you see from this website that you can do that.
  • If you are involved in government or policy:
    This website will show you the ways community members work extremely hard, every day, sometimes with no institutional or governmental support, to bring necessary and life-saving services to people that are being failed by our institutions and systems. You'll also see the ways some institutions and government departments have made an immense commitment to help provide those necessary services. You'll see the ways reentry programs challenge our criminal justice system, and the ways our systems change to be more accountable and helpful to the communities they serve. You will read about the places government has hurt people, and the places it has helped them. This should prompt you to look at your own community, and see how you could help in the effort to provide and expand reentry services and respond to harm and crime in the community by helping people heal so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, this website proves to you the importance of reentry programs.
  • An ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about what you'll need when you're released to "assess your needs from the jump."
    The consultation "start[s] the process to assess your needs from the jump" - these are the needs you would have if you were released tomorrow. Instead of requiring you to ask for each individual thing you may need, the ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about your specific needs in these categories: Housing Are you homeless? Where are you living? Do you think you can stay there? ​Transportation If you were released tomorrow, would you have a way to get home? Clothing Do you have or need clothes? Any clothes, or specifically business or work attire? Food Do you usually get enough food? Were you accessing food resources like a food bank or SNAP? Identification Do you have access to a photo ID, a SNAP benefits card, your birth certificate, and/or your social security card? Mental health Do you have a history of counseling, mental health care, or medications? Do you have any diagnoses? Do you want to see a counselor in the jail or once you're released? ISU workers specifically ask this last question, about seeing a counselor, even if the person answers no to all other question - sometimes they still want to see a counselor or aren't comfortable answering the first questions.​ Substance Use/Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery Do you have a substance use disorder? Would you like to cut down on your substance use? Have you ever accessed recovery resources and are you interested in them after you're released? ​Veteran status If someone reports veteran status, the jail can get a Release of Information to speak with the Veterans Administration (VA) and connect the person with VA services! Before COVID-19, there was also a VA representative who would go into the jail and talk to people about the services available in the community. Medical needs Are there any immediate medical needs (sprained ankle, migraines, diabetes, etc)? Do you have a Primary Care doctor, or any other kind of doctor? Do you use, need, or want any specialty medical care when you’re released or while you’re incarcerated? Do you have insurance? Did you have insurance before, and do you know if it will continue or lapse? Do you want Medicaid when you are released? ​ *While booked into the jail, people are covered by Inpatient Medicaid - if they had employer-sponsored insurance before coming to jail, it is almost certainly going to lapse (end). There are 3-4 specialists at the jail who have a license to enroll people into Medicaid services before they're released!​*
  • The Benefits of Collecting and Logging This Information
    Sharing info with other clinicians: sometimes the person who does your consultation won't be your caseworker for the rest of your stay, so instead of going through the entire process again, exhausting both you and the worker, and potentially re-traumatizing you by getting all the details of your pre-incarceration life all over again Tracking this info over time: For people who come back to jail, especially those who come back to jail often, clinicians can see over time, is a person's situation getting consistently worse? Are they having the same type of problems consistently? Are there things that weren't focused on much in their last reentry plan that ended up being a problem and should be addressed in the next reentry plan? This is discussed more in the section below on someone coming back to jail, but this information makes sure there is a record somewhere of how someone is doing over time - which can be life saving At the level of the entire jail: Tracking this information allows the jail to know what their population is dealing with as a whole, and adjust their services to match the needs of the population in real time. This includes services in the jail, like mental health or substance use treatment, as well as what should be planned for in reentry. "before bail reform we had a lot of low level [charges], and so there was not a whole lot of violence that we needed to take care of because most of those folks [with violent charges] would go to DOCCS [state prison]...Now what we're seeing, for example, starting probably two summers ago with the rising gun violence, is all of that gang related stuff coming back...because of the model I chose [to assess and track this information]...we can continuously adjust our service provision" At the macro-level: now Elena has aggregate information and statistics for the entire jail population, allowing really innovative data tracking With this data, the jail can report what percentage of their population was homeless when they came into jail, unemployed, needed addiction care, mental health care, insurance, and several other metrics. This can be used by the jail, the county, the community, and even the state to understand trends in the community in real time, inform decisions about resources and funding.
  • If someone comes BACK to jail after being out in the community, the New Beginnings program is set up to pick up where they left off. They can have the same counselors, the same case worker, and still meet with Elena for reentry planning. Collecting and logging that ISU Consultation information also allows staff to keep track of changes in people's lives and situations and intervene if they're getting worse.
    Because of how New Beginnings is set up, if someone becomes incarcerated in Albany again they can "pick up where they left off" in treatment and reentry planning. The goal is that every time someone comes back, they will have the same counselors and the same case worker: “We remember the people that are coming in and they don’t have to start from the beginning...[the ISU workers] know you forward, backward, and sideways. They know you by every crime you’ve ever committed, they know you by every incident, they know you by every need you’ve ever expressed to them… or every family death they’ve ever had to process to help you…every crisis, every breakdown” People who experience incarceration often do not have a regular doctor of any kind, or steady support and communication with family or friends, so this ability for workers at the jail to see patterns and trends can be life saving. “If they’re coming in more and more and they’re just regressing and getting worse [then] we can have an intervention” For example, if someone's drug problem is getting worse and worse and their health is deteriorating, there's someone at the jail who will interact with them who can keep track of this trend and talk to them about it. And, the ISU Consultation data keeps track of a lot relevant information. “When you first came here you looked like this, you weighed this much…what's going on, how can we help?”
  • Now Elena starts setting up services, making appointments, and connecting you with organizations in the community based on all this information.
    Elena is deeply committed to finding the right fit for each person and she makes sure every reentry plan is very individualized. When connecting a client with a new service provider, for example a new mental health counselor, she talks extensively with clients about the kind of person they would be most comfortable with meeting. She also does her own research to understand the background, philosophy, and style of each service provider in the community. That, way she can match people to a service provider who will understand them better. Her philosophy is to go the extra mile to find someone her clients will actually enjoy working with: “I try to find people that …my clients want to go to, and that matters” ​ Elena will ask a lot of in-depth questions to figure out what will be the best fit for you and what will make you as comfortable as possible. "If you want to see a counselor, what kind of counselor do you want to see? Do you want them to be a woman also? Do you want them to be black, do you want them to be Hispanic, do you want them to be able to speak Spanish? Like any of those things will make it that much easier for that person to open up to that service provider, so I do ask those questions and I try to find the best solution I can. Because good Lord sometimes it's real difficult. It shouldn't be but unfortunately it is." Elena can get you information on any program, agency, organization, or service you may be interested in. She can also directly connect you with those resources by making appointments, getting you a bed in a residential program or housing program, getting you in contact with an agency, or even (before COVID-19) bringing someone from an organization into the jail to meet with you before you are released. This builds the connection you have with these services, making it easier to stay connected once you are released back to the community and connecting you with someone else who can support and help you during that transition.
  • Sometimes clients will work with Elena to make a reentry plan, but don't seem committed to following it. Then she and other ISU workers will sit down with the person and figure out what they're ready for.
    Sometimes clients agree with and make the reentry plan, and Elena and ISU workers set up services, but the person doesn't seem totally committed to following through. Elena and the other ISU workers work with clients as much as possible to help them make safe choices and develop a plan, but they can't force anyone into anything. "That’s the only thing I think that I can ask from my clients, that they try something that they haven’t tried before, because clearly what they’re trying isn’t healthy for them" Elena will talk with a person's counselors and case worker in the jail to get a sense of what they've said about being released back to the community and if they seem like they'll follow through. If not, she can arrange a meeting with the client and the other ISU staff involved to sit the person down and see what's going on. For example, if Elena has gotten a client a spot in a program or a residential facility, but they don't seem like they'll follow through. Her and other ISU staff might meet with the person and ask them to either commit to the program, or give up their spot - because someone else might really be able to use it.
  • Sometimes people are blunt about wanting to return to the behaviors and choices that got them in jail in the first place, and have no interest in creating a reentry plan. Then Elena focuses on harm reduction and offering tools and resources to encourage you to be as safe as possible.
    Harm reduction: Elena and the other ISU workers will work with clients as much as possible to find the safest, healthiest, best plan for them. Sometimes, there is a point where it's clear people are set on what they're going to do and any more talking, explaining, begging, or convincing will not change their mind (and might make the situation worse). In that case, the focus changes to harm reduction. Harm reduction is taking the situation where someone will make unhealthy, unsafe, or illegal decisions, and trying to help them be as safe as possible. "My goal is that you survive to live another day when you leave the facility, and that you’re safe in whatever subjective mindset that happens to be in" For Elena, harm reduction is about meeting the person where they're at and providing resources and healthy options for whatever situation the person is committed to entering. If the person will potentially make dangerous or unhealthy choices, she wants to "quell the severity of the situation" and offer safe decisions and safe options. “I can’t stop you from going back home to your abusive partner, but I'm going to give you a lifeline if you need it - if you find yourself in a rough spot. I'm going to give you an option to make a good choice instead of a bad choice…then maybe in that moment you’ll make the good choice, you’ll see that phone number and you’ll call...or you’ll remember that this shelter is here and you’ll walk away from the situation and leave instead of putting your hands on that person” She'll offer tools and resources to encourage as much safety as possible in those dangerous situations people might be in once they're back in the community. "you’re addicted to this, if you use needles - here’s a place that provides clean needles, a place that tests your heroin…that you can get clean water"
  • I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice - in New York State and nationwide.
    The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies.   To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website. ReentryToolsNY presents original research on several reentry programs specifically for jail populations in Upstate NY, as well as research and other publications to help the growth of reentry programs across the country.

How did Elena build the Resource Guide,
and how did it help her develop the idea for New Beginnings?

Click the + for more information!

Creating a hub

How does New Beginnings work?

  

At Albany County jail, reentry is a focus throughout someone's entire stay at the jail. To give all the details of the full program, I've written out below the journey of someone being incarcerated at Albany's jail from booking to release. Click on the '+' on the right to expand the box and read more about what happens during each step and the work Elena and the clinical staff do to prepare people for reentry.

First, someone is brought to the jail...

Booking

First, you get booked into the facility. You go through typical booking procedures common to all NYS jails - security staff (COs) ask if you're sick and need medical attention, you get a TB test, and they decide your security classification.

Either at the end of that day or the next day, an Inmate Services Unit (ISU) worker will meet with you and perform a consultation.

  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of asking for help in the first place…One takes a little bit of effort, one takes a lot of effort and it's very discouraging, so let's do the one that takes a little bit of effort.” The New Beginnings assessment and Elena during her reentry meetings specifically offer people different types of services, rather than expecting them to know what they want and need. "Whereas now upon intake you're asked, do you need this, this, this...If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on.”
  • While working on the reentry manual, Elena developed her idea of a person to act as the 'hub' for services in Albany. Specifically, she wanted to create a hub for people leaving incarceration - to help them while they were incarcerated. She used her social work classes and projects to research reentry and reentry programs, and pulled a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model.
    The hub would be someone to connect all the information about agencies and services and benefits, and help others navigate all of them. “That's what I wanted to change…I wanted to make it In-House [in the jail]…you know [inmates are] sitting in a box, then they go home and they're like ‘what do I do with myself?’ No! That planning needs to start as soon as they get here." "So I did a lot of research while I was a social work student on different models of how [reentry] programs function and how I can integrate those models into an in-house program at a facility" Some of this research came from a supervisor at an internship she had held with Prisoners Legal Services, which included dozens and dozens of models of reentry programs across the country. She drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model, a model of working with justice-involved people that involves constantly updating itself and updating the agency based on the current needs of the people they work with. "A huge part of that model is the program testing itself...and adjusting its service provisions based on the demographic of people that we're getting presently and the things that they specifically need"
  • Next, Elena turned her research and ideas into a formal proposal for a new reentry program to run from inside Albany County jail - all while still working on her dual graduate education.
    Elena brings new, fresh ideas backed by both recent and long-standing research in the field. Combining her college advocacy, childhood commitment to supporting others, and this extensive research, Elena is a perfect example of how young people and people new to the field can launch an inspiring career in reentry.
  • As always, Elena thought even bigger: this reentry manual wasn't just helpful for people coming out of incarceration, it was helpful for anyone in the community. So, she sent it to everyone she could possibly think of.
    "And then, what I did was I just tried to connect with anybody I could possibly think of to disseminate it, because at that point, I didn't care if you were coming out of DOCCS or not...You could have not committed a crime your entire life and yet you're homeless or you're very poor or you're hungry...I want you to be able to have this information. So I sent it to Schenectady police department...Albany PD, some of the officers have it there, the public defender's office, the office of indigent services, the Albany Public Library System, places in Troy, DSS in Schenectady...anywhere I could think of that I could connect with that serves poor people...I disseminated it to every single Professor I'd ever had” "The way I formatted the reentry manual...I want someone who has absolutely nothing to be able to read this and figure out how to get something"
  • In her social work program, she worked with a professor in Albany who saw what she was thinking and loved it. The professor came up with the idea for Elena to create a reentry manual for people transitioning to Albany from incarceration. This was the first Resource Guide.
    “I did one of my internships at my social work program...[my professor said] you're going to create a reentry manual for the district for people coming out of [state prisons]. So I made one for Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties...because in my head...[Albany, Schenectady, and Troy] are the three main hot spots for community violence and incarceration in our district...I basically spent an entire academic year creating this reentry manual for the three counties.
  • Elena had grown up around the racial injustice present in the criminal justice system, as well as the advocacy to combat it, through her father’s work. Entering college at SUNY New Paltz, she wanted to explore her own racial identity as well as race and identity in America. Through the Scholars Mentorship Program she decided she wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the criminal justice system.
    “And I happen to be in this like very weird identity situation being biracial, where I am... ancestral-wise I am... enslaved person and a slave owner together because of where my family's from...A lot of my ancestral history has a lot to do with slavery” Elena was part of the Scholars Mentorship program at SUNY New Paltz. This involved lots of courses focused on systems of oppression, during a time of intense turmoil with many highly publicized incidents of police violence against racial minorities. The Scholars Mentorship program was designed by New Paltz to investigate why the school had such an “abysmal” graduation rate for students of color and support students of color to combat the drop-out rate. Starting freshman year, students join courses on ‘advancement of academics’ that specifically talk about systems of oppression that are up against people and students of color in the U.S. Students are also paired with an adult and a student mentor so they have a “very obvious and available support system” from the beginning of their education. Elena’s advisor had a PhD in Black Studies from the only university in America that has a program for it. She encouraged Elena to take courses in Black Studies to explore her own identity. Her education happened in the context of all the racial turmoil of these years. This when a lot of cases of police violence against people of color, especially men, were being prosecuted. The tension spread to New Paltz and there was some racist graffiti sprayed around campus about Emmet Till. “I learned a lot about...the black identity in America as a whole and where I stood as a piece of that...so what I decided was that I wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the context of, especially the criminal justice system, because it was such like a hot topic and such a traumatic topic at the time”
  • Her mother was a teacher and her father was a social worker who worked with crime victims and formerly incarcerated folks in Alternative to Incarceration programs. She was raised to solve problems, and always had a passion for advocating on behalf of people who were marginalized.
    "My mom always taught me...you see a need, and then you fill it. And you figure out how to fill it, and you figure out...how to tell people how to fill it...and all of the legwork that goes into that. And then you present it to them, and then they [love you] because you did their job." “I was always one of those kids who wanted to advocate against something that’s unfair or for someone or something that’s marginalized...I always wanted to yell at people - which is why I went to law school! I want to yell at people on behalf of other people”
  • In 2015, Elena finished her undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz and moved further north to attend Albany Law School and UAlbany. She pursued a joint degree with a Master's in Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (J.D. - law degree) and expanded her advocacy.
    “I was always one of those kids who wanted to…advocate against something that was unfair, right? Or advocate for somebody who is marginalized or an animal that was marginalized…I always wanted to yell at people. Which is why I went to law school, I want to yell at people on behalf of other people” "When I went to Grad school I started to expand that [advocacy] more. I was part of the Latin American Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association, we started to do things advocacy-wise there."
  • Through this advocacy, she found her true passion at Riker's Island. She interned with the Legal Aid Society, who was collecting evidence for a class action lawsuit against Riker's, DOCCS, and a specific CO for repeated sexual abuse and the protection of this abuse by Riker's and DOCCS. Legal Aid Society picked her to interview women at Riker's. She realized she loved working in Corrections and with folks who were incarcerated - just maybe not FOR Corrections.
    "We were trying to get a serial rapist...it was crazy" "My actual job was like secret? It was very investigative...everyone thought I was a Public Defenders Intern... I was a Civil Legal Intern...we were collecting evidence, so that we could put a class action suit against...Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections and a particular corrections officer" "They saw that I had a psychology and trauma based background, and they also saw that I was a social work student, so they were like you! You have the skills to be able to gather this information without traumatizing the crap out of our clients...when our clients are traumatized…you can de-escalate the situation..."you're gonna go in and you're gonna talk to all the witnesses and then, when we have depositions with the victims, you're going to be there. So that if you notice them start to freak out you're going to pause the deposition and you're going to do, like, breathing exercises and shit. That was my job" "So that's where I started my love for working with people who are incarcerated...it was there that I realized I really loved working in corrections - maybe not FOR corrections, maybe advocating through corrections, but I liked working with inmates. I was never scared to be at Rikers, I was never scared to be in any of the facilities - even when there were like lockdowns..."
  • At a huge protest at SUNY New Paltz in response to the decision in the Michael Brown court case, Elena was sure: "I belong doing this in some capacity."
    Within two hours of the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict (grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson), the Black Student Association at SUNY New Paltz organized a huge protest march. It had both local police presence watching the student group, and university police protecting the group. "The march down from the school campus to the courthouse and then we had a moment of silence for the however many minutes he was dead on the floor in the public in broad daylight...and that was kind of the major moment for me, where I was like 'I belong doing this in some capacity'” Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Read more about the situation and the court case here at History.com.
  • When Elena had left NYC for college, she had planned to learn as much as she could to bring the knowledge back home to the city. But as she lived, drove through, and worked in Upstate New York, she realized she had way more ideas from the city to bring to Upstate (and not much from Upstate to bring to the city). So, she decided to stay in Upstate for a while.
    "My initial plan when I came up here was to gather all the experience and education that I possibly could and bring it back home. but I realized that I had really not a whole lot to bring back home, but I had a lot from back home to bring up here." "...being from NYC and a mother who's a teacher and a dad who's a social worker who works with crime victims and also people who were formerly incarcerated and within Alternative to Incarceration programs, I know all the reentry services that are in the five boroughs in New York City. And then I came up here. And there was none of that.” “So I decided to stay here...after maybe my second year of my grad program. Because you know I would drive through Second Street, and you know Sheridan and Orange Street, and I'm looking around at the big red X's and all of these condemned buildings and all of these people and I'm realizing how similar it is up here, to the stuff that I grew up around in the South Bronx. Except in the South Bronx we actually have services. Up here, we have not a whole lot. We have DSS and that's it.”
  • Ben talked to the Colonel about providing MAT by looking at Albany County jail's program and policies.
    When this tragedy happened, Ben talked to the Colonel. The jail didn't have any prescriber for MAT medications or policies about providing MAT. Ben proposed he and the administration at Saratoga County jail should have a conversation with Albany County jail, because they already had an extensive MAT program. Ben suggested they should take a look at Albany's policies for MAT and tour their program.
  • Creating an MAT program was prompted by a tragedy.
    Within the span of 2 months, 4 inmates left Saratoga County jail and died on the same day of their release from an opioid overdose. All 4 inmates had gone into the jail on MAT and been forced off because the jail did not have any way to provide MAT.
  • Saratoga County jail instituted a MAT program not long after using the $60,000 grant from NYS OASAS that every county jail in New York State received, and immediately saw their contraband problems cut in half.
    Ben explained the main people willing to get a felony charge for introduction of contraband were the people who had legal prescriptions for Suboxone in the community and had boxes of it at home, but were forced to be sick and withdraw at the jail because they didn't offer it. The jail used that grant from OASAS to contract with the person already working in the jail to prescribe psychological medications.
  • The jail administration attended an MAT and Corrections forum that showcased different MAT programs, discussed the need for MAT, and explained the massive contraband reduction.
    After looking at Albany's program, there was an MAT and Corrections forum meeting in Clifton Park, not far from Saratoga. Ben and some administrators at Saratoga County jail attended and listened to presentations by other county jails, the doctor and MAT prescriber for Riker's Island jail, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative for NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, and some individuals who had lived experience with addiction and MAT (including Ben himself). The Riker's Island MAT prescriber explained that when Riker's instituted an MAT program, the amount of contraband coming into the jail dropped. The main drug coming into jails is Suboxone - because it's tiny, and because so many people have supplies at home from their prescription but are forced off it when they go to jail. So, they ask their family and friends to smuggle it into the jail to avoid getting sick from withdrawal from their prescribed Suboxone.
  • The jail started with continuation, but from the start they had high hopes for inducting inmates too. Ben argued they needed to go slowly and build up the capacity in the community to provide MAT so no one was forced off MAT right after being released from jail.
    The Saratoga County Sheriff and jail administration wanted to be able to induct inmates onto MAT (write new prescriptions for MAT, not just continue existing prescriptions) within 2 years of starting the program. Ben explained they needed "to build this backwards" because it would be irresponsible to induce inmates on MAT with no provider to take them and continue the script once they're released. The waits to see an MAT provider in the community are 2-6 weeks, meaning someone could be forced to be sick from withdrawal from Suboxone immediately after release from jail while waiting to see a provider. This was too dangerous, especially when the period immediately after release from jail already hold an incredibly high risk for overdose and death.
  • Carrie, an outreach worker from the hospital, two supervisors at Baywood, and an administrator from AHI drafted a proposal to start a reentry program in Warren and Washington County jails.
    Carrie, an outreach worker from the local hospital, and three employees from Baywood met to begin drafting a proposal to send to AHI. They talked to the Undersheriff and the Corrections Lieutenant from Warren County jails. They supported the idea but didn't get involved in the process. The proposal was for a reentry planning program for Warren and Washington County jails. The two counties are very similar, and neither one had any services outside of the legally mandated social workers and medical staff and very small programs to provide MAT. The proposal talked a lot about the needs identified in the SIM Workshop: “We had some data, but not a lot. We just knew, anecdotally, there was a need.” The proposal itself asked for funds for the salary of one full time employee, a laptop, and some marketing materials. There was no evaluation built into the proposal, no reporting measures, no data tracking - "just here's what we want to do generally and where the money will go." Carrie explained that like a lot of smaller, new programs, the proposal was thrown together based on what they knew the county needed and how they hoped to fill that need. “Yeah, if you're looking for as far as like, it was really well formatted or really well thought out, it wasn't. As I think you'll find with many new programs... like it is not [well thought out] oftentimes... [Requests for Proposals] come out and you're scrambling to get data or narratives together. Just be like, let's just, just throw something out there." "We still didn't have, like, how we were going to determine recidivism - which we still don't. We have no reporting measures."
  • Amanda started getting ready to run the program at Warren County jail. She got clearances, talked to the social worker, and created the forms she would use.
    Amanda and some other employees at Baywood went through fingerprinting and got 'clearances' (passing a security clearance) to go into the jail. Warren County jail was ready to accept Amanda regularly, so she started coordinating with the nurse and social worker who were working there. Medical and social work services in both jails are contracted to an outside agency. The social worker positions at both jails have a really high rate of turnover, but every time a new social worker comes in Amanda makes sure to meet and coordinate with them. The nurse at Warren County jail was there for a few years when ABLE started, so Amanda utilized her like a 'point person' in the jail to get ABLE going. Amanda sat down with a supervisor at Baywood to create forms for her to use while meeting with clients in the jail. Her position is HIPAA compliant, so clients have to sign a Release of Information for her to speak with anyone (service providers, agencies, family, friends, etc) on behalf of the client. Amanda and her supervisor created consent forms for clients to join ABLE, releases of information, and assessment forms.
  • Now that the GAINS Center was coming to run the SIM Mapping Workshop, Carrie Wright built a huge coalition of people and agencies in the community to get involved.
    Carrie is a master organizer. She talked to a ton of different people, at a ton of different agencies, and got them to agree to participate in the SIM workshop and contribute their experience. She wanted a variety of service providers and social service organizations in the community to get involved, help identify the needs of the community, and collaboratively talk about solutions. At the time, there was no community group, email chain, or Facebook group that connected all these people in Warren County. Instead, Carrie had to contact each individual person and agency separately. “...that was like so many emails...at that time there was no group, like I was emailing judges, I was emailing probation I would email...everyone to...explain [the SIM]...I mean they gave you like information like what you want to send out here's like a one page document on what the SIM is. So it was really...grassroots ground up” Quoted from interview with Carrie Wright
  • They got the grant! The staff at Baywood immediately went to Amanda to tell her about the plan.
    The DSRIP grant through AHI paid one full time employee for a year and a half, along with the laptop and marketing materials. As Amanda describes it, at 3:30pm on a Thursday while she was headed out of the Baywood Office, she was called into a meeting with her boss, her boss's boss, and that boss's boss. She immediately thought she was being fired or something horrible. Instead, they said they had this grant for a reentry program, and they wanted her to do it. Amanda was thrilled - "Anything to be able to go into the jails." Quote from Darby Larkin's interview with Amanda Zeno.
  • Carrie and some other service providers from Law Enforcement and Lunch saw a grant offer put out by AHI looking to fund a reentry program - the exact thing the SIM had identified as a huge issue in Warren County.
    AHI was offering a grant to start a reentry program in Upstate New York. Carrie talked about it in one of the Law Enforcement and Lunch meetings with a few other service providers - an outreach worker at the local hospital was involved, as well as two supervisors at Baywood. The Baywood supervisors knew how much Amanda wanted to work in the jails, and they decided to write a proposal.
  • Then Amanda started going into Warren County jail! It was truly "trial by fire" trying to figure out how to move through the jail, when she could come in, how to meet with people, and how the program would work. After some initial problems, Amanda made some changes and kept going.
    The Warren County Corrections Lieutenant had told Amanda she could come into the jail anytime between 6am and 10pm! She quickly realized, though, this was not how things really worked inside the jail. Officers wouldn't or couldn't escort her through the jail and she couldn't meet with inmates during mealtimes, while medications were being passed out, if a disciplinary issue was happening, or during shift change. In Warren County jail, this actually leaves a very short window where Amanda can come in to meet with people - a little less than 3 hours each weekday morning and possibly one hour in the afternoon. The COs who escorted her began educating her on the jail's schedule: “Frontline officers have been really good about telling me the do's and don'ts of 'you're allowed to do this' and 'you're allowed to come now.'” There was another problem. All the beautiful forms they had made for Amanda to use were all electronic, but the jail did not allow any electronics inside the jail. Amanda made some changes, and proceeded with determination!
  • The results of the SIM were clear: reentry needs (needs of people coming out of the county jail) repeatedly came up as a huge issue, and an easy one to start working on.
    The SIM results showed over and over again that there was a huge gap in services for people coming out of the jail and other justice-involved people in the community. It also identified what Carrie called "low hanging fruit" - things that were pretty easy to implement and existed in a lot of places. A basic reentry program to provide reentry planning services was a huge "low hanging fruit" for Warren County.
  • What started it all: the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM). Through a massive community collaboration, several organizations came together to conduct a SIM Mapping Workshop funded by a large social service agency in Upstate NY. A SIM maps out the major areas of social need and gaps in services in a community.
    What is a SIM Mapping Workshop?? Sequential Intercept Model: shows how people with mental health and substance use disorders enter and move through the criminal justice system ​SIM Mapping Workshop: a workshop using a statistical tool that identifies services, programs, and resources that are missing in a community, and helps develop a local strategic action plan to address those needs and divert people with mental and substance use disorders away from the justice system and toward treatment using evidence-based practices More reading about the SIM and SIM Mapping How did this happen? Local leadership at People USA* saw that the GAINS Center* was offering SIM Mapping Workshops to counties across the country. Working with some members of the Warren and Washington Counties government Office of Community Services, they applied for Warren County. Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Office of Community Services, was a leader in the initiative. Warren County was denied by the GAINS Center the first time for the funding to perform the SIM. Leadership at the Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) heard about the initiative and offered to pay for it. With the backing of AHI, they were accepted. The GAINS Center would run a SIM Mapping Workshop for Warren County! * The GAINS Center is a part of the federal mental health agency SAMHSA and works on improving access to services for justice-involved people with mental health or substance use problems. * People USA is a national and global organization working on crisis response and mental health services that is peer-run (run by people who have coped with the same issues they work on). * DSRIP was a project by the New York State government to redesign healthcare in New York to reduce Medicaid costs and unnecessary hospitalizations. This was mostly done by giving grants to large agencies (like AHI) to give that money out to smaller agencies for projects that worked towards DSRIP's goal. AHI is a major recipient of state funding to distribute to other agencies for social service projects across the Adirondacks, including DSRIP. AHI provided DSRIP* funds for the SIM. (Information on this early timeline gained from Carrie Wright)
  • A year later, Carrie came back to the Office of Community Services and started a new community meeting: Law Enforcement and Lunch.
    About a year after leaving, Carrie came back to work for the Office of Community Services again and immediately started organizing again. Law Enforcement and Lunch was a monthly meeting to connect service providers working with mental health and substance use, law enforcement, and corrections officials. It was meant for these folks to check-in about what was happening in the community, to talk about programs going on, and needs being identified in the community and in the jail. The Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant for Warren County were once again interested and attended many of these meetings.
  • Immediately after the SIM, there were a lot of conversations with those local social service agencies who had participated and with the Warren County Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant - especially reentry programs. Carrie helped organize a lot of them. But when she briefly left the Office of Community Services, the conversations fizzled out and no action was taken.
    Like I said, Carrie is a master organizer. Most people working in social service agencies didn't have the extra time to set meetings and collaborate, and there weren't any government departments or law enforcement personnel focused on building coalitions at the time. So Carrie did it herself! She organized meetings and connected people to collaborate on a variety of social issues, including talking about the results of the SIM. When she left the Office of Community Services, these conversations and collaborations kind of fizzled out.
  • Currently run a reentry program?
    You could read this Guidebook to reflect on the steps you took to build your program, or get ideas for how to make your program stronger by implementing or honing any of these areas.
  • Sheriff or other government or county worker ​​interested in reentry programs?
    This Guidebook can give you a sense of the work and process it takes to create a reentry program, and how other programs have worked through it before. You can get ideas for resource distribution to strengthen a community-based program or utilize the community to make an institutional program stronger.
  • Policymaker or government worker?
    ​You could use this Guidebook to understand the perspective of frontline workers and the resources, time, and stress it takes to build a new reentry program. These examples could give you a better perspective on the grants, departments, regulations, or other areas you control.
  • Thinking about starting a reentry program or in the process of creating one?
    You could read this Guidebook to get a sense of the steps you'll need to take, get ideas for ways to solve problems that come up, and help you develop that program faster and more efficiently.
  • Now, you'll meet with Elena to talk about your plan for reentry - and Elena will work with you to make sure it's a safe and healthy plan.
    Elena will sit down with you in the jail to talk about your plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment to structure these meetings and reentry plans. She'll figure out from you what you already have planned, then go over all the categories on the New Beginnings assessment to make sure you have these needs met, or make a plan with you to meet them. For example, if you're interested in an educational program, she'll check if you have a plan for how to get it. If not, she'll talk to you about the options and you'll figure out together what you'd like to pursue. Every person is the expert on themselves - what Elena can add is her experience working with lots of currently and formerly incarcerated folks before and her extensive knowledge of the programs, services, and agencies in the area. This includes everything from government benefits, recovery groups, mental health resources, childcare services, veterans programs, and housing options - including their eligibility criteria and application process. She can suggest things you may not have thought of or things you didn't know existed and give you more information. Elena can make sure your plan for reentry is safe and healthy: Based on her prior experience and her "strategic info-gathering", Elena can ask questions and make sure your plan is safe. For example, she once worked with a man who said he had a place to live because he was going back home. But Elena had seen in his past a pattern of 'criminal contempt' charges (violations of a restraining order) and family violence. So she asked him "do you actually have a safe place to go?" After talking about it, the man was open to other housing options. Elena explained her mindset about these questions: "I don't really know the nature of their relationship I just know that it's toxic all around objectively, so you know if he can get away from her or if he can be kept away from her...the better off they probably will both be."
  • New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment: This is a tool Elena developed herself to structure the meeting - it helps you go through the major areas of need that most people have, and that affect success after release.
    See a blank copy of the assessment below. This is a tool Elena developed herself when she first built the reentry infrastructure of the jail. It lists out the major categories of 'needs' in reentry - the main categories of basic needs to survive, things people usually need when being released from incarceration, and things that are often harmful to success or can cause recidivism. She developed the categories based on extensive research about reentry, recidivism, and social needs while she was a joint Master's in Social Work-Juris Doctorate (law degree) student. The column "Need Met By" is for the things a person already has set up. Elena fills this out based on her "strategic info-gathering" and her meetings with an inmate. For example, if someone already has an apartment set up then their housing need is met by that apartment. Or, if a person's counselor in the jail has set up a counseling appointment in the community for them, that need is met already. The column "Still Needs Attention" is for the needs that are not met and what a person needs to set up for their release from jail. For example, if they're interested in addiction and recovery services of some kind but don't have any appointments or any connections with an agency, that still needs attention.
  • Elena decides when to meet with you based on your level of need - for most people, this is 2 weeks before they're released.
    If/When you receive a sentence but will not be going to state prison: When you're sentenced, Elena will reach out to you either by meeting with you or, during COVID-19 shutdowns, send you a letter in the jail. She'll remind you how long your sentence is, and tell you she's going to meet with you closer to your release date to talk about your reentry. She'll encourage you to start thinking about your plans for release, so you have some questions to ask her when you meet. If you'll be incarcerated for a short time before you're released: If you'll be incarcerated around 6 weeks or less, Elena will meet with you to begin planning for reentry around 2 weeks before your release date (also known as "out date"). This is because a shorter period of time makes you less likely to be evicted if you have an apartment. On average, individuals who have a solid living situation often only need about 2 weeks to build and set up a reentry plan, because "...generally, they don't need a lot of things that require a lot of preparation time" If Elena learns you may be homeless upon release: Elena will reach out as soon as possible to discuss this with you, because housing needs are the most difficult and time consuming to address. Her goal is to help you find the right fit for you to promote your long-term stability and keep you healthy and safe. Plus, "if they qualify for SHIP next door, then you know that's an easy bed to fill...it's also just like a really good program next door, like they're very supportive. It's not just a homeless shelter..." If you're a "Mental Health 5" or a "Medical 5": These are categories used by the jail to identify someone's level of mental health or medical needs. Level 5 is the highest level of need, meaning your mental health or your medical needs affect your "ability to function in your everyday life." The jail has dedicated housing for both Medical 5s and Mental Health 5s, and the staff in these units will begin a reentry plan with you. Elena works very closely with the staff of these units and combines her knowledge with theirs to figure out a reentry plan that works best for you: “because you know, obviously the mental health counselors are going to have a certain area of expertise and connections that I won’t, and then obviously I will have a certain area of expertise and connections that they won’t - so together, we create something a lot more holistic”
  • Before meeting with you: Elena does some "strategic info gathering" to get an idea of things you might be interested in when you're released.
    Before meeting with you to talk about what you'll need when you're released, Elena will gather some information from your ISU consultation, paper files, your rap sheet (history of your arrests), and by talking to counselors you've interacted with to understand what you might possibly need and how you've acted at the jail. She explains: "There's a lot of person-specific things that...determine someone's level of need, even if they don't realize it." So, she'll look through paper files and rap sheets, sometimes 10 years into the past, to get a picture of what you may have been doing, what may have been harmful to your success, and what she might be able to offer you to help. "I'll start to create a pattern of things that scream instability to me, that I can then come to them being like 'hey I noticed this, do you need this? Is this something that would help you? Because usually when I see this, this is what's happening behind the scenes. And then we can have a conversation about that." She has a lot of experience working with people in jail, has done a lot of research, and has that real-time information on the needs of the jail population as a whole from the ISU Consultation data. So she's able to explain to you what she's seen happen to other people based on things she sees in your situation. "In the beginning the inmate might be like 'noo, no I'm fine!', but, you know, after the conversation they're like 'you know what, maybe I do need this.' And then, you know, I've got them."
  • Ben meets with someone in the jail to help with reentry for the first time - and does more than even he thought he could do.
    The Family Support Navigator is asked by an inmate's family to visit their son in the jail because he was really struggling. Brendan, not having any prior jail experience, asked Ben to visit the son. Not only did Ben meet with the man and help him cope with being in jail, he talked to him about treatment options, and worked with his lawyer to get the man transferred to a treatment center as an Alternative to Incarceration. He realizes his passion and his potential, and applies for CRPA Academy trainings. A CRPA is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate - someone who has been through addiction and is now living in recovery, and can formally work and be employed to help other people entering and living in recovery. CRPAs operate in a 'peer' role, meaning they can connect more emotionally and personally with clients than a clinical counselor and offer more services because of different ethical requirements. They still maintain boundaries with clients, but can be more of a mentor or even a friend than a counselor can.
  • Demand for Ben's services explodes - Ben and Brendan make a video and a proposal to the Sheriff and Colonel.
    As this man tells other inmates in the jail about Ben and the work he did, and the man's family tells other community members, people start reaching out. Purely through word of mouth, dozens of family members begin asking Ben to see their incarcerated family member in Saratoga County Jail. Ben is volunteering, not receiving any compensation, and visiting inmates during their alloted visit times (which takes visit time away from being able to see their families). Ben and the Family Support Navigator decide to make a video about what Ben can offer that can be shown in the jail. They also make a proposal to the jail's Colonel for Ben to be able to meet with anyone in the jail, not just the people who can get visits. This is only about 1/5th of the jail's population and takes up precious visit time. They set a meeting with the Sheriff, Colonel, and a few Lieutenants, play the video about Ben's services, and read the proposal. The Sheriff asks Ben who pays him, and discovers he's been volunteering all this time. He offers to pay Ben $500 a week out of the inmate commissary fund.
  • It starts with Ben's last experience in Saratoga County Jail...
    Ben lived in active addiction for 24 years and was in and out of jail and prison for 10 of those years. Saratoga County Jail was the last jail he was incarcerated in. He was used to cycling in and out of jail with nothing - no house, no job, no services, and no help. He was used to hearing the COs tell him he'd never stop and one day they'd lock him up forever. But instead something clicked that time - he largely credits the books The Starfish Story and Man's Search for Meaning as changing his life. He had never really seen the impact his actions had on his family and others around him, until this moment. He finally decided he wanted something different - he knew he needed something better if he was going to live another month. He had tried recovery before, and had especially liked Healing Springs peer recovery center - but hadn't fully committed to living in recovery before.
  • He sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator at Healing Springs and asks to get involved.
    As it turns out, the Family Support Navigator at The Prevention Council had been working on getting approval from the Sheriff to have an informational table for the Families Recover Together program in the visit waiting room at the jail. Ben sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator announcing he had received approval for the table. Ben comments 'how do I get a seat at that table?' and the Navigator invites him along! Ben talked extensively about how these community groups and connections were absolutely NECESSARY throughout every moment of the jail programs, and also his own recovery.
  • The value of Ben's program is seen - he is hired by Healing Springs and the jail officially employs him.
    In September of 2019, Healing Springs sees the usefulness of Ben's program and hires him. Now his salary is split between the Inmate Commissary Fund and Healing Springs. At Healing Springs, he's also started a program to train and supervise new CRPAs.
  • Ben commits to living in recovery, starts attending meetings, and working on local jail reform.
    Ben throws himself into recovery. He goes back to Healing Springs peer recovery center, and starts attending meetings. He also joins Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga (RAIS), a community group advocating for community-based recovery as an arm of the Prevention Council (preventing addiction in Saratoga). At RAIS, Ben announces he would like to have a conversation about Saratoga County Jail and the total lack of recovery services, or any services, there. Very quickly, a subcommittee was formed of people interested in reforming the jail and improving services and reentry resources. Right off the bat, it included Ben, the Captain of the Sheriff's Department, a local grant writer, the Saratoga coroner, and some local volunteers. The subcommittee tried to find the right contact within the jail to talk to about starting a program.
  • The Sheriff and the Colonel approve the proposal and Ben sets up his services in the jail.
    He is allowed to work in the Booking area of the jail, giving him more room and privacy, and allowed to meet with any inmates in the jail. The Sheriff also agrees to play the CRPA video about Ben's services every Saturday in every TV in the jail. Sign-up sheets for Ben's CRPA Initiative are put up in every pod of the jail. These are shown on the Saratoga page in the Resources section. When Ben goes to the jail, he gives a list to the Corrections Officer working in Booking that day and the officer brings the inmate to Ben's desk. He creates intake forms to standardize his meetings with new clients, Releases of Information to protect clients' privacy, note forms for his own use during meetings, and other necessary paperwork (these are also shown under Resources). He also creates an Excel spreadsheet to track his work with an eye for future funding opportunities - as he said, "let's document deliverables and outcomes so that I can get a grant".
  • He starts "taking resource meetings with every agency [he] can get [his] hands on".
    Ben knew he needed to make connections and relationships with as many community agencies as possible. He wanted to get his name out into the community because he wasn't backed by any agency - he wasn't hired by a recovery center and the jail could only hire him as an independent contractor, not hire him as an employee, because he has felony convictions on his record. When referring clients from the jail to community agencies, making appointments for clients, or trying to secure Alternative to Incarceration programs, no one knew who he was or if they could trust him. He starts calling agencies and introducing himself and the work he's doing. He also asks them about the services they provide - to work with the jail population, he needs to know what's available to help his clients. "So as I intake these inmates and needs arise, I'm finding that I don't know the solution and that can't happen. You know what I mean, I need to be able to fill the needs" He expands the meetings he's attending and starts requesting resource meetings to learn more about local agencies. This includes recovery and mental health groups, the RAIS leadership committee, St. Luke's Recovery Resource Center Board (a church that started a resource center), Columbia County Chatham Cares, Albany Diocese for Recovery Commission, baseball games with Albany and Saratoga Sheriff's Departments...any one that could possibly contribute to his knowledge. Soon he starts hosting meetings too, and joining the leadership boards and committees of many of these organizations.
  • If you're just interested in learning about reentry:
    I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing things happening in NYS!! This website is also a celebration of the people who provide reentry services, so please take a look at whatever interests you and appreciate the extremely hard work that goes into this field. You can also find something interesting on this website and apply it to your local community. Maybe you donate some food, clothes, or time to a reentry program in your community, write a letter to your local representative or Sheriff's Department asking them to dedicate more resources to reentry, hire people with a history of incarceration at your business, or maybe you just change the way you think and talk about justice-involved people.
  • If you are interested in reentry but have never worked in the field:
    You can also see it's possible to get involved! You don't need a specific degree or 10 years of relevant work experience to create a reentry program - in fact, we need fresh, outside perspectives to contribute to reentry. What we need most is more reentry programs, and there are so many ways you can get involved. I hope reading about other people who didn't have experience working in a jail makes it seem less scary and difficult. And, I hope you get some ideas and motivation from this website to jump in and get involved.
  • If you're someone already working in a reentry program:
    This website will give you ideas on how to strengthen your program, or ways to expand your services. My hope is that you find something on this website that will improve your program in some way and adapt it to your situation! On an emotional note, I hope you feel better about your work and find other providers you'd like to collaborate or chat with - like in the Community Forum that will soon be added to this website!
  • If you have a history of incarceration:
    This website shows you it's possible for you to change the conditions you experienced. You probably have a lot of things you would've liked to change during your incarceration, things that harmed your recovery or your mental health or harmed your chances of success. You also hopefully have things that helped you and made you feel more prepared to leave jail. You have the power to change things for other people so they can be more successful. You absolutely can create a program that would've helped you. Your experience and perspective are needed to change the way the criminal justice system treats people, and I hope you see from this website that you can do that.
  • If you are involved in government or policy:
    This website will show you the ways community members work extremely hard, every day, sometimes with no institutional or governmental support, to bring necessary and life-saving services to people that are being failed by our institutions and systems. You'll also see the ways some institutions and government departments have made an immense commitment to help provide those necessary services. You'll see the ways reentry programs challenge our criminal justice system, and the ways our systems change to be more accountable and helpful to the communities they serve. You will read about the places government has hurt people, and the places it has helped them. This should prompt you to look at your own community, and see how you could help in the effort to provide and expand reentry services and respond to harm and crime in the community by helping people heal so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, this website proves to you the importance of reentry programs.
  • An ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about what you'll need when you're released to "assess your needs from the jump."
    The consultation "start[s] the process to assess your needs from the jump" - these are the needs you would have if you were released tomorrow. Instead of requiring you to ask for each individual thing you may need, the ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about your specific needs in these categories: Housing Are you homeless? Where are you living? Do you think you can stay there? ​Transportation If you were released tomorrow, would you have a way to get home? Clothing Do you have or need clothes? Any clothes, or specifically business or work attire? Food Do you usually get enough food? Were you accessing food resources like a food bank or SNAP? Identification Do you have access to a photo ID, a SNAP benefits card, your birth certificate, and/or your social security card? Mental health Do you have a history of counseling, mental health care, or medications? Do you have any diagnoses? Do you want to see a counselor in the jail or once you're released? ISU workers specifically ask this last question, about seeing a counselor, even if the person answers no to all other question - sometimes they still want to see a counselor or aren't comfortable answering the first questions.​ Substance Use/Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery Do you have a substance use disorder? Would you like to cut down on your substance use? Have you ever accessed recovery resources and are you interested in them after you're released? ​Veteran status If someone reports veteran status, the jail can get a Release of Information to speak with the Veterans Administration (VA) and connect the person with VA services! Before COVID-19, there was also a VA representative who would go into the jail and talk to people about the services available in the community. Medical needs Are there any immediate medical needs (sprained ankle, migraines, diabetes, etc)? Do you have a Primary Care doctor, or any other kind of doctor? Do you use, need, or want any specialty medical care when you’re released or while you’re incarcerated? Do you have insurance? Did you have insurance before, and do you know if it will continue or lapse? Do you want Medicaid when you are released? ​ *While booked into the jail, people are covered by Inpatient Medicaid - if they had employer-sponsored insurance before coming to jail, it is almost certainly going to lapse (end). There are 3-4 specialists at the jail who have a license to enroll people into Medicaid services before they're released!​*
  • The Benefits of Collecting and Logging This Information
    Sharing info with other clinicians: sometimes the person who does your consultation won't be your caseworker for the rest of your stay, so instead of going through the entire process again, exhausting both you and the worker, and potentially re-traumatizing you by getting all the details of your pre-incarceration life all over again Tracking this info over time: For people who come back to jail, especially those who come back to jail often, clinicians can see over time, is a person's situation getting consistently worse? Are they having the same type of problems consistently? Are there things that weren't focused on much in their last reentry plan that ended up being a problem and should be addressed in the next reentry plan? This is discussed more in the section below on someone coming back to jail, but this information makes sure there is a record somewhere of how someone is doing over time - which can be life saving At the level of the entire jail: Tracking this information allows the jail to know what their population is dealing with as a whole, and adjust their services to match the needs of the population in real time. This includes services in the jail, like mental health or substance use treatment, as well as what should be planned for in reentry. "before bail reform we had a lot of low level [charges], and so there was not a whole lot of violence that we needed to take care of because most of those folks [with violent charges] would go to DOCCS [state prison]...Now what we're seeing, for example, starting probably two summers ago with the rising gun violence, is all of that gang related stuff coming back...because of the model I chose [to assess and track this information]...we can continuously adjust our service provision" At the macro-level: now Elena has aggregate information and statistics for the entire jail population, allowing really innovative data tracking With this data, the jail can report what percentage of their population was homeless when they came into jail, unemployed, needed addiction care, mental health care, insurance, and several other metrics. This can be used by the jail, the county, the community, and even the state to understand trends in the community in real time, inform decisions about resources and funding.
  • If someone comes BACK to jail after being out in the community, the New Beginnings program is set up to pick up where they left off. They can have the same counselors, the same case worker, and still meet with Elena for reentry planning. Collecting and logging that ISU Consultation information also allows staff to keep track of changes in people's lives and situations and intervene if they're getting worse.
    Because of how New Beginnings is set up, if someone becomes incarcerated in Albany again they can "pick up where they left off" in treatment and reentry planning. The goal is that every time someone comes back, they will have the same counselors and the same case worker: “We remember the people that are coming in and they don’t have to start from the beginning...[the ISU workers] know you forward, backward, and sideways. They know you by every crime you’ve ever committed, they know you by every incident, they know you by every need you’ve ever expressed to them… or every family death they’ve ever had to process to help you…every crisis, every breakdown” People who experience incarceration often do not have a regular doctor of any kind, or steady support and communication with family or friends, so this ability for workers at the jail to see patterns and trends can be life saving. “If they’re coming in more and more and they’re just regressing and getting worse [then] we can have an intervention” For example, if someone's drug problem is getting worse and worse and their health is deteriorating, there's someone at the jail who will interact with them who can keep track of this trend and talk to them about it. And, the ISU Consultation data keeps track of a lot relevant information. “When you first came here you looked like this, you weighed this much…what's going on, how can we help?”
  • Now Elena starts setting up services, making appointments, and connecting you with organizations in the community based on all this information.
    Elena is deeply committed to finding the right fit for each person and she makes sure every reentry plan is very individualized. When connecting a client with a new service provider, for example a new mental health counselor, she talks extensively with clients about the kind of person they would be most comfortable with meeting. She also does her own research to understand the background, philosophy, and style of each service provider in the community. That, way she can match people to a service provider who will understand them better. Her philosophy is to go the extra mile to find someone her clients will actually enjoy working with: “I try to find people that …my clients want to go to, and that matters” ​ Elena will ask a lot of in-depth questions to figure out what will be the best fit for you and what will make you as comfortable as possible. "If you want to see a counselor, what kind of counselor do you want to see? Do you want them to be a woman also? Do you want them to be black, do you want them to be Hispanic, do you want them to be able to speak Spanish? Like any of those things will make it that much easier for that person to open up to that service provider, so I do ask those questions and I try to find the best solution I can. Because good Lord sometimes it's real difficult. It shouldn't be but unfortunately it is." Elena can get you information on any program, agency, organization, or service you may be interested in. She can also directly connect you with those resources by making appointments, getting you a bed in a residential program or housing program, getting you in contact with an agency, or even (before COVID-19) bringing someone from an organization into the jail to meet with you before you are released. This builds the connection you have with these services, making it easier to stay connected once you are released back to the community and connecting you with someone else who can support and help you during that transition.
  • Sometimes clients will work with Elena to make a reentry plan, but don't seem committed to following it. Then she and other ISU workers will sit down with the person and figure out what they're ready for.
    Sometimes clients agree with and make the reentry plan, and Elena and ISU workers set up services, but the person doesn't seem totally committed to following through. Elena and the other ISU workers work with clients as much as possible to help them make safe choices and develop a plan, but they can't force anyone into anything. "That’s the only thing I think that I can ask from my clients, that they try something that they haven’t tried before, because clearly what they’re trying isn’t healthy for them" Elena will talk with a person's counselors and case worker in the jail to get a sense of what they've said about being released back to the community and if they seem like they'll follow through. If not, she can arrange a meeting with the client and the other ISU staff involved to sit the person down and see what's going on. For example, if Elena has gotten a client a spot in a program or a residential facility, but they don't seem like they'll follow through. Her and other ISU staff might meet with the person and ask them to either commit to the program, or give up their spot - because someone else might really be able to use it.
  • Sometimes people are blunt about wanting to return to the behaviors and choices that got them in jail in the first place, and have no interest in creating a reentry plan. Then Elena focuses on harm reduction and offering tools and resources to encourage you to be as safe as possible.
    Harm reduction: Elena and the other ISU workers will work with clients as much as possible to find the safest, healthiest, best plan for them. Sometimes, there is a point where it's clear people are set on what they're going to do and any more talking, explaining, begging, or convincing will not change their mind (and might make the situation worse). In that case, the focus changes to harm reduction. Harm reduction is taking the situation where someone will make unhealthy, unsafe, or illegal decisions, and trying to help them be as safe as possible. "My goal is that you survive to live another day when you leave the facility, and that you’re safe in whatever subjective mindset that happens to be in" For Elena, harm reduction is about meeting the person where they're at and providing resources and healthy options for whatever situation the person is committed to entering. If the person will potentially make dangerous or unhealthy choices, she wants to "quell the severity of the situation" and offer safe decisions and safe options. “I can’t stop you from going back home to your abusive partner, but I'm going to give you a lifeline if you need it - if you find yourself in a rough spot. I'm going to give you an option to make a good choice instead of a bad choice…then maybe in that moment you’ll make the good choice, you’ll see that phone number and you’ll call...or you’ll remember that this shelter is here and you’ll walk away from the situation and leave instead of putting your hands on that person” She'll offer tools and resources to encourage as much safety as possible in those dangerous situations people might be in once they're back in the community. "you’re addicted to this, if you use needles - here’s a place that provides clean needles, a place that tests your heroin…that you can get clean water"
  • I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice - in New York State and nationwide.
    The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies.   To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website. ReentryToolsNY presents original research on several reentry programs specifically for jail populations in Upstate NY, as well as research and other publications to help the growth of reentry programs across the country.

Next, all the consultation information is logged into the jail's records system so Elena and the counselors and caseworkers who work with you can access it.

  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of asking for help in the first place…One takes a little bit of effort, one takes a lot of effort and it's very discouraging, so let's do the one that takes a little bit of effort.” The New Beginnings assessment and Elena during her reentry meetings specifically offer people different types of services, rather than expecting them to know what they want and need. "Whereas now upon intake you're asked, do you need this, this, this...If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on.”
  • While working on the reentry manual, Elena developed her idea of a person to act as the 'hub' for services in Albany. Specifically, she wanted to create a hub for people leaving incarceration - to help them while they were incarcerated. She used her social work classes and projects to research reentry and reentry programs, and pulled a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model.
    The hub would be someone to connect all the information about agencies and services and benefits, and help others navigate all of them. “That's what I wanted to change…I wanted to make it In-House [in the jail]…you know [inmates are] sitting in a box, then they go home and they're like ‘what do I do with myself?’ No! That planning needs to start as soon as they get here." "So I did a lot of research while I was a social work student on different models of how [reentry] programs function and how I can integrate those models into an in-house program at a facility" Some of this research came from a supervisor at an internship she had held with Prisoners Legal Services, which included dozens and dozens of models of reentry programs across the country. She drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model, a model of working with justice-involved people that involves constantly updating itself and updating the agency based on the current needs of the people they work with. "A huge part of that model is the program testing itself...and adjusting its service provisions based on the demographic of people that we're getting presently and the things that they specifically need"
  • Next, Elena turned her research and ideas into a formal proposal for a new reentry program to run from inside Albany County jail - all while still working on her dual graduate education.
    Elena brings new, fresh ideas backed by both recent and long-standing research in the field. Combining her college advocacy, childhood commitment to supporting others, and this extensive research, Elena is a perfect example of how young people and people new to the field can launch an inspiring career in reentry.
  • As always, Elena thought even bigger: this reentry manual wasn't just helpful for people coming out of incarceration, it was helpful for anyone in the community. So, she sent it to everyone she could possibly think of.
    "And then, what I did was I just tried to connect with anybody I could possibly think of to disseminate it, because at that point, I didn't care if you were coming out of DOCCS or not...You could have not committed a crime your entire life and yet you're homeless or you're very poor or you're hungry...I want you to be able to have this information. So I sent it to Schenectady police department...Albany PD, some of the officers have it there, the public defender's office, the office of indigent services, the Albany Public Library System, places in Troy, DSS in Schenectady...anywhere I could think of that I could connect with that serves poor people...I disseminated it to every single Professor I'd ever had” "The way I formatted the reentry manual...I want someone who has absolutely nothing to be able to read this and figure out how to get something"
  • In her social work program, she worked with a professor in Albany who saw what she was thinking and loved it. The professor came up with the idea for Elena to create a reentry manual for people transitioning to Albany from incarceration. This was the first Resource Guide.
    “I did one of my internships at my social work program...[my professor said] you're going to create a reentry manual for the district for people coming out of [state prisons]. So I made one for Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties...because in my head...[Albany, Schenectady, and Troy] are the three main hot spots for community violence and incarceration in our district...I basically spent an entire academic year creating this reentry manual for the three counties.
  • Elena had grown up around the racial injustice present in the criminal justice system, as well as the advocacy to combat it, through her father’s work. Entering college at SUNY New Paltz, she wanted to explore her own racial identity as well as race and identity in America. Through the Scholars Mentorship Program she decided she wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the criminal justice system.
    “And I happen to be in this like very weird identity situation being biracial, where I am... ancestral-wise I am... enslaved person and a slave owner together because of where my family's from...A lot of my ancestral history has a lot to do with slavery” Elena was part of the Scholars Mentorship program at SUNY New Paltz. This involved lots of courses focused on systems of oppression, during a time of intense turmoil with many highly publicized incidents of police violence against racial minorities. The Scholars Mentorship program was designed by New Paltz to investigate why the school had such an “abysmal” graduation rate for students of color and support students of color to combat the drop-out rate. Starting freshman year, students join courses on ‘advancement of academics’ that specifically talk about systems of oppression that are up against people and students of color in the U.S. Students are also paired with an adult and a student mentor so they have a “very obvious and available support system” from the beginning of their education. Elena’s advisor had a PhD in Black Studies from the only university in America that has a program for it. She encouraged Elena to take courses in Black Studies to explore her own identity. Her education happened in the context of all the racial turmoil of these years. This when a lot of cases of police violence against people of color, especially men, were being prosecuted. The tension spread to New Paltz and there was some racist graffiti sprayed around campus about Emmet Till. “I learned a lot about...the black identity in America as a whole and where I stood as a piece of that...so what I decided was that I wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the context of, especially the criminal justice system, because it was such like a hot topic and such a traumatic topic at the time”
  • Her mother was a teacher and her father was a social worker who worked with crime victims and formerly incarcerated folks in Alternative to Incarceration programs. She was raised to solve problems, and always had a passion for advocating on behalf of people who were marginalized.
    "My mom always taught me...you see a need, and then you fill it. And you figure out how to fill it, and you figure out...how to tell people how to fill it...and all of the legwork that goes into that. And then you present it to them, and then they [love you] because you did their job." “I was always one of those kids who wanted to advocate against something that’s unfair or for someone or something that’s marginalized...I always wanted to yell at people - which is why I went to law school! I want to yell at people on behalf of other people”
  • In 2015, Elena finished her undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz and moved further north to attend Albany Law School and UAlbany. She pursued a joint degree with a Master's in Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (J.D. - law degree) and expanded her advocacy.
    “I was always one of those kids who wanted to…advocate against something that was unfair, right? Or advocate for somebody who is marginalized or an animal that was marginalized…I always wanted to yell at people. Which is why I went to law school, I want to yell at people on behalf of other people” "When I went to Grad school I started to expand that [advocacy] more. I was part of the Latin American Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association, we started to do things advocacy-wise there."
  • Through this advocacy, she found her true passion at Riker's Island. She interned with the Legal Aid Society, who was collecting evidence for a class action lawsuit against Riker's, DOCCS, and a specific CO for repeated sexual abuse and the protection of this abuse by Riker's and DOCCS. Legal Aid Society picked her to interview women at Riker's. She realized she loved working in Corrections and with folks who were incarcerated - just maybe not FOR Corrections.
    "We were trying to get a serial rapist...it was crazy" "My actual job was like secret? It was very investigative...everyone thought I was a Public Defenders Intern... I was a Civil Legal Intern...we were collecting evidence, so that we could put a class action suit against...Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections and a particular corrections officer" "They saw that I had a psychology and trauma based background, and they also saw that I was a social work student, so they were like you! You have the skills to be able to gather this information without traumatizing the crap out of our clients...when our clients are traumatized…you can de-escalate the situation..."you're gonna go in and you're gonna talk to all the witnesses and then, when we have depositions with the victims, you're going to be there. So that if you notice them start to freak out you're going to pause the deposition and you're going to do, like, breathing exercises and shit. That was my job" "So that's where I started my love for working with people who are incarcerated...it was there that I realized I really loved working in corrections - maybe not FOR corrections, maybe advocating through corrections, but I liked working with inmates. I was never scared to be at Rikers, I was never scared to be in any of the facilities - even when there were like lockdowns..."
  • At a huge protest at SUNY New Paltz in response to the decision in the Michael Brown court case, Elena was sure: "I belong doing this in some capacity."
    Within two hours of the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict (grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson), the Black Student Association at SUNY New Paltz organized a huge protest march. It had both local police presence watching the student group, and university police protecting the group. "The march down from the school campus to the courthouse and then we had a moment of silence for the however many minutes he was dead on the floor in the public in broad daylight...and that was kind of the major moment for me, where I was like 'I belong doing this in some capacity'” Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Read more about the situation and the court case here at History.com.
  • When Elena had left NYC for college, she had planned to learn as much as she could to bring the knowledge back home to the city. But as she lived, drove through, and worked in Upstate New York, she realized she had way more ideas from the city to bring to Upstate (and not much from Upstate to bring to the city). So, she decided to stay in Upstate for a while.
    "My initial plan when I came up here was to gather all the experience and education that I possibly could and bring it back home. but I realized that I had really not a whole lot to bring back home, but I had a lot from back home to bring up here." "...being from NYC and a mother who's a teacher and a dad who's a social worker who works with crime victims and also people who were formerly incarcerated and within Alternative to Incarceration programs, I know all the reentry services that are in the five boroughs in New York City. And then I came up here. And there was none of that.” “So I decided to stay here...after maybe my second year of my grad program. Because you know I would drive through Second Street, and you know Sheridan and Orange Street, and I'm looking around at the big red X's and all of these condemned buildings and all of these people and I'm realizing how similar it is up here, to the stuff that I grew up around in the South Bronx. Except in the South Bronx we actually have services. Up here, we have not a whole lot. We have DSS and that's it.”
  • Ben talked to the Colonel about providing MAT by looking at Albany County jail's program and policies.
    When this tragedy happened, Ben talked to the Colonel. The jail didn't have any prescriber for MAT medications or policies about providing MAT. Ben proposed he and the administration at Saratoga County jail should have a conversation with Albany County jail, because they already had an extensive MAT program. Ben suggested they should take a look at Albany's policies for MAT and tour their program.
  • Creating an MAT program was prompted by a tragedy.
    Within the span of 2 months, 4 inmates left Saratoga County jail and died on the same day of their release from an opioid overdose. All 4 inmates had gone into the jail on MAT and been forced off because the jail did not have any way to provide MAT.
  • Saratoga County jail instituted a MAT program not long after using the $60,000 grant from NYS OASAS that every county jail in New York State received, and immediately saw their contraband problems cut in half.
    Ben explained the main people willing to get a felony charge for introduction of contraband were the people who had legal prescriptions for Suboxone in the community and had boxes of it at home, but were forced to be sick and withdraw at the jail because they didn't offer it. The jail used that grant from OASAS to contract with the person already working in the jail to prescribe psychological medications.
  • The jail administration attended an MAT and Corrections forum that showcased different MAT programs, discussed the need for MAT, and explained the massive contraband reduction.
    After looking at Albany's program, there was an MAT and Corrections forum meeting in Clifton Park, not far from Saratoga. Ben and some administrators at Saratoga County jail attended and listened to presentations by other county jails, the doctor and MAT prescriber for Riker's Island jail, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative for NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, and some individuals who had lived experience with addiction and MAT (including Ben himself). The Riker's Island MAT prescriber explained that when Riker's instituted an MAT program, the amount of contraband coming into the jail dropped. The main drug coming into jails is Suboxone - because it's tiny, and because so many people have supplies at home from their prescription but are forced off it when they go to jail. So, they ask their family and friends to smuggle it into the jail to avoid getting sick from withdrawal from their prescribed Suboxone.
  • The jail started with continuation, but from the start they had high hopes for inducting inmates too. Ben argued they needed to go slowly and build up the capacity in the community to provide MAT so no one was forced off MAT right after being released from jail.
    The Saratoga County Sheriff and jail administration wanted to be able to induct inmates onto MAT (write new prescriptions for MAT, not just continue existing prescriptions) within 2 years of starting the program. Ben explained they needed "to build this backwards" because it would be irresponsible to induce inmates on MAT with no provider to take them and continue the script once they're released. The waits to see an MAT provider in the community are 2-6 weeks, meaning someone could be forced to be sick from withdrawal from Suboxone immediately after release from jail while waiting to see a provider. This was too dangerous, especially when the period immediately after release from jail already hold an incredibly high risk for overdose and death.
  • Carrie, an outreach worker from the hospital, two supervisors at Baywood, and an administrator from AHI drafted a proposal to start a reentry program in Warren and Washington County jails.
    Carrie, an outreach worker from the local hospital, and three employees from Baywood met to begin drafting a proposal to send to AHI. They talked to the Undersheriff and the Corrections Lieutenant from Warren County jails. They supported the idea but didn't get involved in the process. The proposal was for a reentry planning program for Warren and Washington County jails. The two counties are very similar, and neither one had any services outside of the legally mandated social workers and medical staff and very small programs to provide MAT. The proposal talked a lot about the needs identified in the SIM Workshop: “We had some data, but not a lot. We just knew, anecdotally, there was a need.” The proposal itself asked for funds for the salary of one full time employee, a laptop, and some marketing materials. There was no evaluation built into the proposal, no reporting measures, no data tracking - "just here's what we want to do generally and where the money will go." Carrie explained that like a lot of smaller, new programs, the proposal was thrown together based on what they knew the county needed and how they hoped to fill that need. “Yeah, if you're looking for as far as like, it was really well formatted or really well thought out, it wasn't. As I think you'll find with many new programs... like it is not [well thought out] oftentimes... [Requests for Proposals] come out and you're scrambling to get data or narratives together. Just be like, let's just, just throw something out there." "We still didn't have, like, how we were going to determine recidivism - which we still don't. We have no reporting measures."
  • Amanda started getting ready to run the program at Warren County jail. She got clearances, talked to the social worker, and created the forms she would use.
    Amanda and some other employees at Baywood went through fingerprinting and got 'clearances' (passing a security clearance) to go into the jail. Warren County jail was ready to accept Amanda regularly, so she started coordinating with the nurse and social worker who were working there. Medical and social work services in both jails are contracted to an outside agency. The social worker positions at both jails have a really high rate of turnover, but every time a new social worker comes in Amanda makes sure to meet and coordinate with them. The nurse at Warren County jail was there for a few years when ABLE started, so Amanda utilized her like a 'point person' in the jail to get ABLE going. Amanda sat down with a supervisor at Baywood to create forms for her to use while meeting with clients in the jail. Her position is HIPAA compliant, so clients have to sign a Release of Information for her to speak with anyone (service providers, agencies, family, friends, etc) on behalf of the client. Amanda and her supervisor created consent forms for clients to join ABLE, releases of information, and assessment forms.
  • Now that the GAINS Center was coming to run the SIM Mapping Workshop, Carrie Wright built a huge coalition of people and agencies in the community to get involved.
    Carrie is a master organizer. She talked to a ton of different people, at a ton of different agencies, and got them to agree to participate in the SIM workshop and contribute their experience. She wanted a variety of service providers and social service organizations in the community to get involved, help identify the needs of the community, and collaboratively talk about solutions. At the time, there was no community group, email chain, or Facebook group that connected all these people in Warren County. Instead, Carrie had to contact each individual person and agency separately. “...that was like so many emails...at that time there was no group, like I was emailing judges, I was emailing probation I would email...everyone to...explain [the SIM]...I mean they gave you like information like what you want to send out here's like a one page document on what the SIM is. So it was really...grassroots ground up” Quoted from interview with Carrie Wright
  • They got the grant! The staff at Baywood immediately went to Amanda to tell her about the plan.
    The DSRIP grant through AHI paid one full time employee for a year and a half, along with the laptop and marketing materials. As Amanda describes it, at 3:30pm on a Thursday while she was headed out of the Baywood Office, she was called into a meeting with her boss, her boss's boss, and that boss's boss. She immediately thought she was being fired or something horrible. Instead, they said they had this grant for a reentry program, and they wanted her to do it. Amanda was thrilled - "Anything to be able to go into the jails." Quote from Darby Larkin's interview with Amanda Zeno.
  • Carrie and some other service providers from Law Enforcement and Lunch saw a grant offer put out by AHI looking to fund a reentry program - the exact thing the SIM had identified as a huge issue in Warren County.
    AHI was offering a grant to start a reentry program in Upstate New York. Carrie talked about it in one of the Law Enforcement and Lunch meetings with a few other service providers - an outreach worker at the local hospital was involved, as well as two supervisors at Baywood. The Baywood supervisors knew how much Amanda wanted to work in the jails, and they decided to write a proposal.
  • Then Amanda started going into Warren County jail! It was truly "trial by fire" trying to figure out how to move through the jail, when she could come in, how to meet with people, and how the program would work. After some initial problems, Amanda made some changes and kept going.
    The Warren County Corrections Lieutenant had told Amanda she could come into the jail anytime between 6am and 10pm! She quickly realized, though, this was not how things really worked inside the jail. Officers wouldn't or couldn't escort her through the jail and she couldn't meet with inmates during mealtimes, while medications were being passed out, if a disciplinary issue was happening, or during shift change. In Warren County jail, this actually leaves a very short window where Amanda can come in to meet with people - a little less than 3 hours each weekday morning and possibly one hour in the afternoon. The COs who escorted her began educating her on the jail's schedule: “Frontline officers have been really good about telling me the do's and don'ts of 'you're allowed to do this' and 'you're allowed to come now.'” There was another problem. All the beautiful forms they had made for Amanda to use were all electronic, but the jail did not allow any electronics inside the jail. Amanda made some changes, and proceeded with determination!
  • The results of the SIM were clear: reentry needs (needs of people coming out of the county jail) repeatedly came up as a huge issue, and an easy one to start working on.
    The SIM results showed over and over again that there was a huge gap in services for people coming out of the jail and other justice-involved people in the community. It also identified what Carrie called "low hanging fruit" - things that were pretty easy to implement and existed in a lot of places. A basic reentry program to provide reentry planning services was a huge "low hanging fruit" for Warren County.
  • What started it all: the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM). Through a massive community collaboration, several organizations came together to conduct a SIM Mapping Workshop funded by a large social service agency in Upstate NY. A SIM maps out the major areas of social need and gaps in services in a community.
    What is a SIM Mapping Workshop?? Sequential Intercept Model: shows how people with mental health and substance use disorders enter and move through the criminal justice system ​SIM Mapping Workshop: a workshop using a statistical tool that identifies services, programs, and resources that are missing in a community, and helps develop a local strategic action plan to address those needs and divert people with mental and substance use disorders away from the justice system and toward treatment using evidence-based practices More reading about the SIM and SIM Mapping How did this happen? Local leadership at People USA* saw that the GAINS Center* was offering SIM Mapping Workshops to counties across the country. Working with some members of the Warren and Washington Counties government Office of Community Services, they applied for Warren County. Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Office of Community Services, was a leader in the initiative. Warren County was denied by the GAINS Center the first time for the funding to perform the SIM. Leadership at the Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) heard about the initiative and offered to pay for it. With the backing of AHI, they were accepted. The GAINS Center would run a SIM Mapping Workshop for Warren County! * The GAINS Center is a part of the federal mental health agency SAMHSA and works on improving access to services for justice-involved people with mental health or substance use problems. * People USA is a national and global organization working on crisis response and mental health services that is peer-run (run by people who have coped with the same issues they work on). * DSRIP was a project by the New York State government to redesign healthcare in New York to reduce Medicaid costs and unnecessary hospitalizations. This was mostly done by giving grants to large agencies (like AHI) to give that money out to smaller agencies for projects that worked towards DSRIP's goal. AHI is a major recipient of state funding to distribute to other agencies for social service projects across the Adirondacks, including DSRIP. AHI provided DSRIP* funds for the SIM. (Information on this early timeline gained from Carrie Wright)
  • A year later, Carrie came back to the Office of Community Services and started a new community meeting: Law Enforcement and Lunch.
    About a year after leaving, Carrie came back to work for the Office of Community Services again and immediately started organizing again. Law Enforcement and Lunch was a monthly meeting to connect service providers working with mental health and substance use, law enforcement, and corrections officials. It was meant for these folks to check-in about what was happening in the community, to talk about programs going on, and needs being identified in the community and in the jail. The Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant for Warren County were once again interested and attended many of these meetings.
  • Immediately after the SIM, there were a lot of conversations with those local social service agencies who had participated and with the Warren County Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant - especially reentry programs. Carrie helped organize a lot of them. But when she briefly left the Office of Community Services, the conversations fizzled out and no action was taken.
    Like I said, Carrie is a master organizer. Most people working in social service agencies didn't have the extra time to set meetings and collaborate, and there weren't any government departments or law enforcement personnel focused on building coalitions at the time. So Carrie did it herself! She organized meetings and connected people to collaborate on a variety of social issues, including talking about the results of the SIM. When she left the Office of Community Services, these conversations and collaborations kind of fizzled out.
  • Currently run a reentry program?
    You could read this Guidebook to reflect on the steps you took to build your program, or get ideas for how to make your program stronger by implementing or honing any of these areas.
  • Sheriff or other government or county worker ​​interested in reentry programs?
    This Guidebook can give you a sense of the work and process it takes to create a reentry program, and how other programs have worked through it before. You can get ideas for resource distribution to strengthen a community-based program or utilize the community to make an institutional program stronger.
  • Policymaker or government worker?
    ​You could use this Guidebook to understand the perspective of frontline workers and the resources, time, and stress it takes to build a new reentry program. These examples could give you a better perspective on the grants, departments, regulations, or other areas you control.
  • Thinking about starting a reentry program or in the process of creating one?
    You could read this Guidebook to get a sense of the steps you'll need to take, get ideas for ways to solve problems that come up, and help you develop that program faster and more efficiently.
  • Now, you'll meet with Elena to talk about your plan for reentry - and Elena will work with you to make sure it's a safe and healthy plan.
    Elena will sit down with you in the jail to talk about your plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment to structure these meetings and reentry plans. She'll figure out from you what you already have planned, then go over all the categories on the New Beginnings assessment to make sure you have these needs met, or make a plan with you to meet them. For example, if you're interested in an educational program, she'll check if you have a plan for how to get it. If not, she'll talk to you about the options and you'll figure out together what you'd like to pursue. Every person is the expert on themselves - what Elena can add is her experience working with lots of currently and formerly incarcerated folks before and her extensive knowledge of the programs, services, and agencies in the area. This includes everything from government benefits, recovery groups, mental health resources, childcare services, veterans programs, and housing options - including their eligibility criteria and application process. She can suggest things you may not have thought of or things you didn't know existed and give you more information. Elena can make sure your plan for reentry is safe and healthy: Based on her prior experience and her "strategic info-gathering", Elena can ask questions and make sure your plan is safe. For example, she once worked with a man who said he had a place to live because he was going back home. But Elena had seen in his past a pattern of 'criminal contempt' charges (violations of a restraining order) and family violence. So she asked him "do you actually have a safe place to go?" After talking about it, the man was open to other housing options. Elena explained her mindset about these questions: "I don't really know the nature of their relationship I just know that it's toxic all around objectively, so you know if he can get away from her or if he can be kept away from her...the better off they probably will both be."
  • New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment: This is a tool Elena developed herself to structure the meeting - it helps you go through the major areas of need that most people have, and that affect success after release.
    See a blank copy of the assessment below. This is a tool Elena developed herself when she first built the reentry infrastructure of the jail. It lists out the major categories of 'needs' in reentry - the main categories of basic needs to survive, things people usually need when being released from incarceration, and things that are often harmful to success or can cause recidivism. She developed the categories based on extensive research about reentry, recidivism, and social needs while she was a joint Master's in Social Work-Juris Doctorate (law degree) student. The column "Need Met By" is for the things a person already has set up. Elena fills this out based on her "strategic info-gathering" and her meetings with an inmate. For example, if someone already has an apartment set up then their housing need is met by that apartment. Or, if a person's counselor in the jail has set up a counseling appointment in the community for them, that need is met already. The column "Still Needs Attention" is for the needs that are not met and what a person needs to set up for their release from jail. For example, if they're interested in addiction and recovery services of some kind but don't have any appointments or any connections with an agency, that still needs attention.
  • Elena decides when to meet with you based on your level of need - for most people, this is 2 weeks before they're released.
    If/When you receive a sentence but will not be going to state prison: When you're sentenced, Elena will reach out to you either by meeting with you or, during COVID-19 shutdowns, send you a letter in the jail. She'll remind you how long your sentence is, and tell you she's going to meet with you closer to your release date to talk about your reentry. She'll encourage you to start thinking about your plans for release, so you have some questions to ask her when you meet. If you'll be incarcerated for a short time before you're released: If you'll be incarcerated around 6 weeks or less, Elena will meet with you to begin planning for reentry around 2 weeks before your release date (also known as "out date"). This is because a shorter period of time makes you less likely to be evicted if you have an apartment. On average, individuals who have a solid living situation often only need about 2 weeks to build and set up a reentry plan, because "...generally, they don't need a lot of things that require a lot of preparation time" If Elena learns you may be homeless upon release: Elena will reach out as soon as possible to discuss this with you, because housing needs are the most difficult and time consuming to address. Her goal is to help you find the right fit for you to promote your long-term stability and keep you healthy and safe. Plus, "if they qualify for SHIP next door, then you know that's an easy bed to fill...it's also just like a really good program next door, like they're very supportive. It's not just a homeless shelter..." If you're a "Mental Health 5" or a "Medical 5": These are categories used by the jail to identify someone's level of mental health or medical needs. Level 5 is the highest level of need, meaning your mental health or your medical needs affect your "ability to function in your everyday life." The jail has dedicated housing for both Medical 5s and Mental Health 5s, and the staff in these units will begin a reentry plan with you. Elena works very closely with the staff of these units and combines her knowledge with theirs to figure out a reentry plan that works best for you: “because you know, obviously the mental health counselors are going to have a certain area of expertise and connections that I won’t, and then obviously I will have a certain area of expertise and connections that they won’t - so together, we create something a lot more holistic”
  • Before meeting with you: Elena does some "strategic info gathering" to get an idea of things you might be interested in when you're released.
    Before meeting with you to talk about what you'll need when you're released, Elena will gather some information from your ISU consultation, paper files, your rap sheet (history of your arrests), and by talking to counselors you've interacted with to understand what you might possibly need and how you've acted at the jail. She explains: "There's a lot of person-specific things that...determine someone's level of need, even if they don't realize it." So, she'll look through paper files and rap sheets, sometimes 10 years into the past, to get a picture of what you may have been doing, what may have been harmful to your success, and what she might be able to offer you to help. "I'll start to create a pattern of things that scream instability to me, that I can then come to them being like 'hey I noticed this, do you need this? Is this something that would help you? Because usually when I see this, this is what's happening behind the scenes. And then we can have a conversation about that." She has a lot of experience working with people in jail, has done a lot of research, and has that real-time information on the needs of the jail population as a whole from the ISU Consultation data. So she's able to explain to you what she's seen happen to other people based on things she sees in your situation. "In the beginning the inmate might be like 'noo, no I'm fine!', but, you know, after the conversation they're like 'you know what, maybe I do need this.' And then, you know, I've got them."
  • Ben meets with someone in the jail to help with reentry for the first time - and does more than even he thought he could do.
    The Family Support Navigator is asked by an inmate's family to visit their son in the jail because he was really struggling. Brendan, not having any prior jail experience, asked Ben to visit the son. Not only did Ben meet with the man and help him cope with being in jail, he talked to him about treatment options, and worked with his lawyer to get the man transferred to a treatment center as an Alternative to Incarceration. He realizes his passion and his potential, and applies for CRPA Academy trainings. A CRPA is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate - someone who has been through addiction and is now living in recovery, and can formally work and be employed to help other people entering and living in recovery. CRPAs operate in a 'peer' role, meaning they can connect more emotionally and personally with clients than a clinical counselor and offer more services because of different ethical requirements. They still maintain boundaries with clients, but can be more of a mentor or even a friend than a counselor can.
  • Demand for Ben's services explodes - Ben and Brendan make a video and a proposal to the Sheriff and Colonel.
    As this man tells other inmates in the jail about Ben and the work he did, and the man's family tells other community members, people start reaching out. Purely through word of mouth, dozens of family members begin asking Ben to see their incarcerated family member in Saratoga County Jail. Ben is volunteering, not receiving any compensation, and visiting inmates during their alloted visit times (which takes visit time away from being able to see their families). Ben and the Family Support Navigator decide to make a video about what Ben can offer that can be shown in the jail. They also make a proposal to the jail's Colonel for Ben to be able to meet with anyone in the jail, not just the people who can get visits. This is only about 1/5th of the jail's population and takes up precious visit time. They set a meeting with the Sheriff, Colonel, and a few Lieutenants, play the video about Ben's services, and read the proposal. The Sheriff asks Ben who pays him, and discovers he's been volunteering all this time. He offers to pay Ben $500 a week out of the inmate commissary fund.
  • It starts with Ben's last experience in Saratoga County Jail...
    Ben lived in active addiction for 24 years and was in and out of jail and prison for 10 of those years. Saratoga County Jail was the last jail he was incarcerated in. He was used to cycling in and out of jail with nothing - no house, no job, no services, and no help. He was used to hearing the COs tell him he'd never stop and one day they'd lock him up forever. But instead something clicked that time - he largely credits the books The Starfish Story and Man's Search for Meaning as changing his life. He had never really seen the impact his actions had on his family and others around him, until this moment. He finally decided he wanted something different - he knew he needed something better if he was going to live another month. He had tried recovery before, and had especially liked Healing Springs peer recovery center - but hadn't fully committed to living in recovery before.
  • He sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator at Healing Springs and asks to get involved.
    As it turns out, the Family Support Navigator at The Prevention Council had been working on getting approval from the Sheriff to have an informational table for the Families Recover Together program in the visit waiting room at the jail. Ben sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator announcing he had received approval for the table. Ben comments 'how do I get a seat at that table?' and the Navigator invites him along! Ben talked extensively about how these community groups and connections were absolutely NECESSARY throughout every moment of the jail programs, and also his own recovery.
  • The value of Ben's program is seen - he is hired by Healing Springs and the jail officially employs him.
    In September of 2019, Healing Springs sees the usefulness of Ben's program and hires him. Now his salary is split between the Inmate Commissary Fund and Healing Springs. At Healing Springs, he's also started a program to train and supervise new CRPAs.
  • Ben commits to living in recovery, starts attending meetings, and working on local jail reform.
    Ben throws himself into recovery. He goes back to Healing Springs peer recovery center, and starts attending meetings. He also joins Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga (RAIS), a community group advocating for community-based recovery as an arm of the Prevention Council (preventing addiction in Saratoga). At RAIS, Ben announces he would like to have a conversation about Saratoga County Jail and the total lack of recovery services, or any services, there. Very quickly, a subcommittee was formed of people interested in reforming the jail and improving services and reentry resources. Right off the bat, it included Ben, the Captain of the Sheriff's Department, a local grant writer, the Saratoga coroner, and some local volunteers. The subcommittee tried to find the right contact within the jail to talk to about starting a program.
  • The Sheriff and the Colonel approve the proposal and Ben sets up his services in the jail.
    He is allowed to work in the Booking area of the jail, giving him more room and privacy, and allowed to meet with any inmates in the jail. The Sheriff also agrees to play the CRPA video about Ben's services every Saturday in every TV in the jail. Sign-up sheets for Ben's CRPA Initiative are put up in every pod of the jail. These are shown on the Saratoga page in the Resources section. When Ben goes to the jail, he gives a list to the Corrections Officer working in Booking that day and the officer brings the inmate to Ben's desk. He creates intake forms to standardize his meetings with new clients, Releases of Information to protect clients' privacy, note forms for his own use during meetings, and other necessary paperwork (these are also shown under Resources). He also creates an Excel spreadsheet to track his work with an eye for future funding opportunities - as he said, "let's document deliverables and outcomes so that I can get a grant".
  • He starts "taking resource meetings with every agency [he] can get [his] hands on".
    Ben knew he needed to make connections and relationships with as many community agencies as possible. He wanted to get his name out into the community because he wasn't backed by any agency - he wasn't hired by a recovery center and the jail could only hire him as an independent contractor, not hire him as an employee, because he has felony convictions on his record. When referring clients from the jail to community agencies, making appointments for clients, or trying to secure Alternative to Incarceration programs, no one knew who he was or if they could trust him. He starts calling agencies and introducing himself and the work he's doing. He also asks them about the services they provide - to work with the jail population, he needs to know what's available to help his clients. "So as I intake these inmates and needs arise, I'm finding that I don't know the solution and that can't happen. You know what I mean, I need to be able to fill the needs" He expands the meetings he's attending and starts requesting resource meetings to learn more about local agencies. This includes recovery and mental health groups, the RAIS leadership committee, St. Luke's Recovery Resource Center Board (a church that started a resource center), Columbia County Chatham Cares, Albany Diocese for Recovery Commission, baseball games with Albany and Saratoga Sheriff's Departments...any one that could possibly contribute to his knowledge. Soon he starts hosting meetings too, and joining the leadership boards and committees of many of these organizations.
  • If you're just interested in learning about reentry:
    I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing things happening in NYS!! This website is also a celebration of the people who provide reentry services, so please take a look at whatever interests you and appreciate the extremely hard work that goes into this field. You can also find something interesting on this website and apply it to your local community. Maybe you donate some food, clothes, or time to a reentry program in your community, write a letter to your local representative or Sheriff's Department asking them to dedicate more resources to reentry, hire people with a history of incarceration at your business, or maybe you just change the way you think and talk about justice-involved people.
  • If you are interested in reentry but have never worked in the field:
    You can also see it's possible to get involved! You don't need a specific degree or 10 years of relevant work experience to create a reentry program - in fact, we need fresh, outside perspectives to contribute to reentry. What we need most is more reentry programs, and there are so many ways you can get involved. I hope reading about other people who didn't have experience working in a jail makes it seem less scary and difficult. And, I hope you get some ideas and motivation from this website to jump in and get involved.
  • If you're someone already working in a reentry program:
    This website will give you ideas on how to strengthen your program, or ways to expand your services. My hope is that you find something on this website that will improve your program in some way and adapt it to your situation! On an emotional note, I hope you feel better about your work and find other providers you'd like to collaborate or chat with - like in the Community Forum that will soon be added to this website!
  • If you have a history of incarceration:
    This website shows you it's possible for you to change the conditions you experienced. You probably have a lot of things you would've liked to change during your incarceration, things that harmed your recovery or your mental health or harmed your chances of success. You also hopefully have things that helped you and made you feel more prepared to leave jail. You have the power to change things for other people so they can be more successful. You absolutely can create a program that would've helped you. Your experience and perspective are needed to change the way the criminal justice system treats people, and I hope you see from this website that you can do that.
  • If you are involved in government or policy:
    This website will show you the ways community members work extremely hard, every day, sometimes with no institutional or governmental support, to bring necessary and life-saving services to people that are being failed by our institutions and systems. You'll also see the ways some institutions and government departments have made an immense commitment to help provide those necessary services. You'll see the ways reentry programs challenge our criminal justice system, and the ways our systems change to be more accountable and helpful to the communities they serve. You will read about the places government has hurt people, and the places it has helped them. This should prompt you to look at your own community, and see how you could help in the effort to provide and expand reentry services and respond to harm and crime in the community by helping people heal so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, this website proves to you the importance of reentry programs.
  • An ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about what you'll need when you're released to "assess your needs from the jump."
    The consultation "start[s] the process to assess your needs from the jump" - these are the needs you would have if you were released tomorrow. Instead of requiring you to ask for each individual thing you may need, the ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about your specific needs in these categories: Housing Are you homeless? Where are you living? Do you think you can stay there? ​Transportation If you were released tomorrow, would you have a way to get home? Clothing Do you have or need clothes? Any clothes, or specifically business or work attire? Food Do you usually get enough food? Were you accessing food resources like a food bank or SNAP? Identification Do you have access to a photo ID, a SNAP benefits card, your birth certificate, and/or your social security card? Mental health Do you have a history of counseling, mental health care, or medications? Do you have any diagnoses? Do you want to see a counselor in the jail or once you're released? ISU workers specifically ask this last question, about seeing a counselor, even if the person answers no to all other question - sometimes they still want to see a counselor or aren't comfortable answering the first questions.​ Substance Use/Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery Do you have a substance use disorder? Would you like to cut down on your substance use? Have you ever accessed recovery resources and are you interested in them after you're released? ​Veteran status If someone reports veteran status, the jail can get a Release of Information to speak with the Veterans Administration (VA) and connect the person with VA services! Before COVID-19, there was also a VA representative who would go into the jail and talk to people about the services available in the community. Medical needs Are there any immediate medical needs (sprained ankle, migraines, diabetes, etc)? Do you have a Primary Care doctor, or any other kind of doctor? Do you use, need, or want any specialty medical care when you’re released or while you’re incarcerated? Do you have insurance? Did you have insurance before, and do you know if it will continue or lapse? Do you want Medicaid when you are released? ​ *While booked into the jail, people are covered by Inpatient Medicaid - if they had employer-sponsored insurance before coming to jail, it is almost certainly going to lapse (end). There are 3-4 specialists at the jail who have a license to enroll people into Medicaid services before they're released!​*
  • The Benefits of Collecting and Logging This Information
    Sharing info with other clinicians: sometimes the person who does your consultation won't be your caseworker for the rest of your stay, so instead of going through the entire process again, exhausting both you and the worker, and potentially re-traumatizing you by getting all the details of your pre-incarceration life all over again Tracking this info over time: For people who come back to jail, especially those who come back to jail often, clinicians can see over time, is a person's situation getting consistently worse? Are they having the same type of problems consistently? Are there things that weren't focused on much in their last reentry plan that ended up being a problem and should be addressed in the next reentry plan? This is discussed more in the section below on someone coming back to jail, but this information makes sure there is a record somewhere of how someone is doing over time - which can be life saving At the level of the entire jail: Tracking this information allows the jail to know what their population is dealing with as a whole, and adjust their services to match the needs of the population in real time. This includes services in the jail, like mental health or substance use treatment, as well as what should be planned for in reentry. "before bail reform we had a lot of low level [charges], and so there was not a whole lot of violence that we needed to take care of because most of those folks [with violent charges] would go to DOCCS [state prison]...Now what we're seeing, for example, starting probably two summers ago with the rising gun violence, is all of that gang related stuff coming back...because of the model I chose [to assess and track this information]...we can continuously adjust our service provision" At the macro-level: now Elena has aggregate information and statistics for the entire jail population, allowing really innovative data tracking With this data, the jail can report what percentage of their population was homeless when they came into jail, unemployed, needed addiction care, mental health care, insurance, and several other metrics. This can be used by the jail, the county, the community, and even the state to understand trends in the community in real time, inform decisions about resources and funding.
  • If someone comes BACK to jail after being out in the community, the New Beginnings program is set up to pick up where they left off. They can have the same counselors, the same case worker, and still meet with Elena for reentry planning. Collecting and logging that ISU Consultation information also allows staff to keep track of changes in people's lives and situations and intervene if they're getting worse.
    Because of how New Beginnings is set up, if someone becomes incarcerated in Albany again they can "pick up where they left off" in treatment and reentry planning. The goal is that every time someone comes back, they will have the same counselors and the same case worker: “We remember the people that are coming in and they don’t have to start from the beginning...[the ISU workers] know you forward, backward, and sideways. They know you by every crime you’ve ever committed, they know you by every incident, they know you by every need you’ve ever expressed to them… or every family death they’ve ever had to process to help you…every crisis, every breakdown” People who experience incarceration often do not have a regular doctor of any kind, or steady support and communication with family or friends, so this ability for workers at the jail to see patterns and trends can be life saving. “If they’re coming in more and more and they’re just regressing and getting worse [then] we can have an intervention” For example, if someone's drug problem is getting worse and worse and their health is deteriorating, there's someone at the jail who will interact with them who can keep track of this trend and talk to them about it. And, the ISU Consultation data keeps track of a lot relevant information. “When you first came here you looked like this, you weighed this much…what's going on, how can we help?”
  • Now Elena starts setting up services, making appointments, and connecting you with organizations in the community based on all this information.
    Elena is deeply committed to finding the right fit for each person and she makes sure every reentry plan is very individualized. When connecting a client with a new service provider, for example a new mental health counselor, she talks extensively with clients about the kind of person they would be most comfortable with meeting. She also does her own research to understand the background, philosophy, and style of each service provider in the community. That, way she can match people to a service provider who will understand them better. Her philosophy is to go the extra mile to find someone her clients will actually enjoy working with: “I try to find people that …my clients want to go to, and that matters” ​ Elena will ask a lot of in-depth questions to figure out what will be the best fit for you and what will make you as comfortable as possible. "If you want to see a counselor, what kind of counselor do you want to see? Do you want them to be a woman also? Do you want them to be black, do you want them to be Hispanic, do you want them to be able to speak Spanish? Like any of those things will make it that much easier for that person to open up to that service provider, so I do ask those questions and I try to find the best solution I can. Because good Lord sometimes it's real difficult. It shouldn't be but unfortunately it is." Elena can get you information on any program, agency, organization, or service you may be interested in. She can also directly connect you with those resources by making appointments, getting you a bed in a residential program or housing program, getting you in contact with an agency, or even (before COVID-19) bringing someone from an organization into the jail to meet with you before you are released. This builds the connection you have with these services, making it easier to stay connected once you are released back to the community and connecting you with someone else who can support and help you during that transition.
  • Sometimes clients will work with Elena to make a reentry plan, but don't seem committed to following it. Then she and other ISU workers will sit down with the person and figure out what they're ready for.
    Sometimes clients agree with and make the reentry plan, and Elena and ISU workers set up services, but the person doesn't seem totally committed to following through. Elena and the other ISU workers work with clients as much as possible to help them make safe choices and develop a plan, but they can't force anyone into anything. "That’s the only thing I think that I can ask from my clients, that they try something that they haven’t tried before, because clearly what they’re trying isn’t healthy for them" Elena will talk with a person's counselors and case worker in the jail to get a sense of what they've said about being released back to the community and if they seem like they'll follow through. If not, she can arrange a meeting with the client and the other ISU staff involved to sit the person down and see what's going on. For example, if Elena has gotten a client a spot in a program or a residential facility, but they don't seem like they'll follow through. Her and other ISU staff might meet with the person and ask them to either commit to the program, or give up their spot - because someone else might really be able to use it.
  • Sometimes people are blunt about wanting to return to the behaviors and choices that got them in jail in the first place, and have no interest in creating a reentry plan. Then Elena focuses on harm reduction and offering tools and resources to encourage you to be as safe as possible.
    Harm reduction: Elena and the other ISU workers will work with clients as much as possible to find the safest, healthiest, best plan for them. Sometimes, there is a point where it's clear people are set on what they're going to do and any more talking, explaining, begging, or convincing will not change their mind (and might make the situation worse). In that case, the focus changes to harm reduction. Harm reduction is taking the situation where someone will make unhealthy, unsafe, or illegal decisions, and trying to help them be as safe as possible. "My goal is that you survive to live another day when you leave the facility, and that you’re safe in whatever subjective mindset that happens to be in" For Elena, harm reduction is about meeting the person where they're at and providing resources and healthy options for whatever situation the person is committed to entering. If the person will potentially make dangerous or unhealthy choices, she wants to "quell the severity of the situation" and offer safe decisions and safe options. “I can’t stop you from going back home to your abusive partner, but I'm going to give you a lifeline if you need it - if you find yourself in a rough spot. I'm going to give you an option to make a good choice instead of a bad choice…then maybe in that moment you’ll make the good choice, you’ll see that phone number and you’ll call...or you’ll remember that this shelter is here and you’ll walk away from the situation and leave instead of putting your hands on that person” She'll offer tools and resources to encourage as much safety as possible in those dangerous situations people might be in once they're back in the community. "you’re addicted to this, if you use needles - here’s a place that provides clean needles, a place that tests your heroin…that you can get clean water"
  • I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice - in New York State and nationwide.
    The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies.   To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website. ReentryToolsNY presents original research on several reentry programs specifically for jail populations in Upstate NY, as well as research and other publications to help the growth of reentry programs across the country.

Now, the process of building a reentry plan begins.

  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of asking for help in the first place…One takes a little bit of effort, one takes a lot of effort and it's very discouraging, so let's do the one that takes a little bit of effort.” The New Beginnings assessment and Elena during her reentry meetings specifically offer people different types of services, rather than expecting them to know what they want and need. "Whereas now upon intake you're asked, do you need this, this, this...If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on.”
  • While working on the reentry manual, Elena developed her idea of a person to act as the 'hub' for services in Albany. Specifically, she wanted to create a hub for people leaving incarceration - to help them while they were incarcerated. She used her social work classes and projects to research reentry and reentry programs, and pulled a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model.
    The hub would be someone to connect all the information about agencies and services and benefits, and help others navigate all of them. “That's what I wanted to change…I wanted to make it In-House [in the jail]…you know [inmates are] sitting in a box, then they go home and they're like ‘what do I do with myself?’ No! That planning needs to start as soon as they get here." "So I did a lot of research while I was a social work student on different models of how [reentry] programs function and how I can integrate those models into an in-house program at a facility" Some of this research came from a supervisor at an internship she had held with Prisoners Legal Services, which included dozens and dozens of models of reentry programs across the country. She drew a lot from the Risk Needs Responsivity model, a model of working with justice-involved people that involves constantly updating itself and updating the agency based on the current needs of the people they work with. "A huge part of that model is the program testing itself...and adjusting its service provisions based on the demographic of people that we're getting presently and the things that they specifically need"
  • Next, Elena turned her research and ideas into a formal proposal for a new reentry program to run from inside Albany County jail - all while still working on her dual graduate education.
    Elena brings new, fresh ideas backed by both recent and long-standing research in the field. Combining her college advocacy, childhood commitment to supporting others, and this extensive research, Elena is a perfect example of how young people and people new to the field can launch an inspiring career in reentry.
  • As always, Elena thought even bigger: this reentry manual wasn't just helpful for people coming out of incarceration, it was helpful for anyone in the community. So, she sent it to everyone she could possibly think of.
    "And then, what I did was I just tried to connect with anybody I could possibly think of to disseminate it, because at that point, I didn't care if you were coming out of DOCCS or not...You could have not committed a crime your entire life and yet you're homeless or you're very poor or you're hungry...I want you to be able to have this information. So I sent it to Schenectady police department...Albany PD, some of the officers have it there, the public defender's office, the office of indigent services, the Albany Public Library System, places in Troy, DSS in Schenectady...anywhere I could think of that I could connect with that serves poor people...I disseminated it to every single Professor I'd ever had” "The way I formatted the reentry manual...I want someone who has absolutely nothing to be able to read this and figure out how to get something"
  • In her social work program, she worked with a professor in Albany who saw what she was thinking and loved it. The professor came up with the idea for Elena to create a reentry manual for people transitioning to Albany from incarceration. This was the first Resource Guide.
    “I did one of my internships at my social work program...[my professor said] you're going to create a reentry manual for the district for people coming out of [state prisons]. So I made one for Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties...because in my head...[Albany, Schenectady, and Troy] are the three main hot spots for community violence and incarceration in our district...I basically spent an entire academic year creating this reentry manual for the three counties.
  • Elena had grown up around the racial injustice present in the criminal justice system, as well as the advocacy to combat it, through her father’s work. Entering college at SUNY New Paltz, she wanted to explore her own racial identity as well as race and identity in America. Through the Scholars Mentorship Program she decided she wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the criminal justice system.
    “And I happen to be in this like very weird identity situation being biracial, where I am... ancestral-wise I am... enslaved person and a slave owner together because of where my family's from...A lot of my ancestral history has a lot to do with slavery” Elena was part of the Scholars Mentorship program at SUNY New Paltz. This involved lots of courses focused on systems of oppression, during a time of intense turmoil with many highly publicized incidents of police violence against racial minorities. The Scholars Mentorship program was designed by New Paltz to investigate why the school had such an “abysmal” graduation rate for students of color and support students of color to combat the drop-out rate. Starting freshman year, students join courses on ‘advancement of academics’ that specifically talk about systems of oppression that are up against people and students of color in the U.S. Students are also paired with an adult and a student mentor so they have a “very obvious and available support system” from the beginning of their education. Elena’s advisor had a PhD in Black Studies from the only university in America that has a program for it. She encouraged Elena to take courses in Black Studies to explore her own identity. Her education happened in the context of all the racial turmoil of these years. This when a lot of cases of police violence against people of color, especially men, were being prosecuted. The tension spread to New Paltz and there was some racist graffiti sprayed around campus about Emmet Till. “I learned a lot about...the black identity in America as a whole and where I stood as a piece of that...so what I decided was that I wanted to be an advocate for racial justice in the context of, especially the criminal justice system, because it was such like a hot topic and such a traumatic topic at the time”
  • Her mother was a teacher and her father was a social worker who worked with crime victims and formerly incarcerated folks in Alternative to Incarceration programs. She was raised to solve problems, and always had a passion for advocating on behalf of people who were marginalized.
    "My mom always taught me...you see a need, and then you fill it. And you figure out how to fill it, and you figure out...how to tell people how to fill it...and all of the legwork that goes into that. And then you present it to them, and then they [love you] because you did their job." “I was always one of those kids who wanted to advocate against something that’s unfair or for someone or something that’s marginalized...I always wanted to yell at people - which is why I went to law school! I want to yell at people on behalf of other people”
  • In 2015, Elena finished her undergraduate education at SUNY New Paltz and moved further north to attend Albany Law School and UAlbany. She pursued a joint degree with a Master's in Social Work and a Juris Doctorate (J.D. - law degree) and expanded her advocacy.
    “I was always one of those kids who wanted to…advocate against something that was unfair, right? Or advocate for somebody who is marginalized or an animal that was marginalized…I always wanted to yell at people. Which is why I went to law school, I want to yell at people on behalf of other people” "When I went to Grad school I started to expand that [advocacy] more. I was part of the Latin American Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association, we started to do things advocacy-wise there."
  • Through this advocacy, she found her true passion at Riker's Island. She interned with the Legal Aid Society, who was collecting evidence for a class action lawsuit against Riker's, DOCCS, and a specific CO for repeated sexual abuse and the protection of this abuse by Riker's and DOCCS. Legal Aid Society picked her to interview women at Riker's. She realized she loved working in Corrections and with folks who were incarcerated - just maybe not FOR Corrections.
    "We were trying to get a serial rapist...it was crazy" "My actual job was like secret? It was very investigative...everyone thought I was a Public Defenders Intern... I was a Civil Legal Intern...we were collecting evidence, so that we could put a class action suit against...Rikers Island and the Department of Corrections and a particular corrections officer" "They saw that I had a psychology and trauma based background, and they also saw that I was a social work student, so they were like you! You have the skills to be able to gather this information without traumatizing the crap out of our clients...when our clients are traumatized…you can de-escalate the situation..."you're gonna go in and you're gonna talk to all the witnesses and then, when we have depositions with the victims, you're going to be there. So that if you notice them start to freak out you're going to pause the deposition and you're going to do, like, breathing exercises and shit. That was my job" "So that's where I started my love for working with people who are incarcerated...it was there that I realized I really loved working in corrections - maybe not FOR corrections, maybe advocating through corrections, but I liked working with inmates. I was never scared to be at Rikers, I was never scared to be in any of the facilities - even when there were like lockdowns..."
  • At a huge protest at SUNY New Paltz in response to the decision in the Michael Brown court case, Elena was sure: "I belong doing this in some capacity."
    Within two hours of the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict (grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson), the Black Student Association at SUNY New Paltz organized a huge protest march. It had both local police presence watching the student group, and university police protecting the group. "The march down from the school campus to the courthouse and then we had a moment of silence for the however many minutes he was dead on the floor in the public in broad daylight...and that was kind of the major moment for me, where I was like 'I belong doing this in some capacity'” Michael Brown was an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Read more about the situation and the court case here at History.com.
  • When Elena had left NYC for college, she had planned to learn as much as she could to bring the knowledge back home to the city. But as she lived, drove through, and worked in Upstate New York, she realized she had way more ideas from the city to bring to Upstate (and not much from Upstate to bring to the city). So, she decided to stay in Upstate for a while.
    "My initial plan when I came up here was to gather all the experience and education that I possibly could and bring it back home. but I realized that I had really not a whole lot to bring back home, but I had a lot from back home to bring up here." "...being from NYC and a mother who's a teacher and a dad who's a social worker who works with crime victims and also people who were formerly incarcerated and within Alternative to Incarceration programs, I know all the reentry services that are in the five boroughs in New York City. And then I came up here. And there was none of that.” “So I decided to stay here...after maybe my second year of my grad program. Because you know I would drive through Second Street, and you know Sheridan and Orange Street, and I'm looking around at the big red X's and all of these condemned buildings and all of these people and I'm realizing how similar it is up here, to the stuff that I grew up around in the South Bronx. Except in the South Bronx we actually have services. Up here, we have not a whole lot. We have DSS and that's it.”
  • Ben talked to the Colonel about providing MAT by looking at Albany County jail's program and policies.
    When this tragedy happened, Ben talked to the Colonel. The jail didn't have any prescriber for MAT medications or policies about providing MAT. Ben proposed he and the administration at Saratoga County jail should have a conversation with Albany County jail, because they already had an extensive MAT program. Ben suggested they should take a look at Albany's policies for MAT and tour their program.
  • Creating an MAT program was prompted by a tragedy.
    Within the span of 2 months, 4 inmates left Saratoga County jail and died on the same day of their release from an opioid overdose. All 4 inmates had gone into the jail on MAT and been forced off because the jail did not have any way to provide MAT.
  • Saratoga County jail instituted a MAT program not long after using the $60,000 grant from NYS OASAS that every county jail in New York State received, and immediately saw their contraband problems cut in half.
    Ben explained the main people willing to get a felony charge for introduction of contraband were the people who had legal prescriptions for Suboxone in the community and had boxes of it at home, but were forced to be sick and withdraw at the jail because they didn't offer it. The jail used that grant from OASAS to contract with the person already working in the jail to prescribe psychological medications.
  • The jail administration attended an MAT and Corrections forum that showcased different MAT programs, discussed the need for MAT, and explained the massive contraband reduction.
    After looking at Albany's program, there was an MAT and Corrections forum meeting in Clifton Park, not far from Saratoga. Ben and some administrators at Saratoga County jail attended and listened to presentations by other county jails, the doctor and MAT prescriber for Riker's Island jail, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services representative for NYS Office of Addiction Supports and Services, and some individuals who had lived experience with addiction and MAT (including Ben himself). The Riker's Island MAT prescriber explained that when Riker's instituted an MAT program, the amount of contraband coming into the jail dropped. The main drug coming into jails is Suboxone - because it's tiny, and because so many people have supplies at home from their prescription but are forced off it when they go to jail. So, they ask their family and friends to smuggle it into the jail to avoid getting sick from withdrawal from their prescribed Suboxone.
  • The jail started with continuation, but from the start they had high hopes for inducting inmates too. Ben argued they needed to go slowly and build up the capacity in the community to provide MAT so no one was forced off MAT right after being released from jail.
    The Saratoga County Sheriff and jail administration wanted to be able to induct inmates onto MAT (write new prescriptions for MAT, not just continue existing prescriptions) within 2 years of starting the program. Ben explained they needed "to build this backwards" because it would be irresponsible to induce inmates on MAT with no provider to take them and continue the script once they're released. The waits to see an MAT provider in the community are 2-6 weeks, meaning someone could be forced to be sick from withdrawal from Suboxone immediately after release from jail while waiting to see a provider. This was too dangerous, especially when the period immediately after release from jail already hold an incredibly high risk for overdose and death.
  • Carrie, an outreach worker from the hospital, two supervisors at Baywood, and an administrator from AHI drafted a proposal to start a reentry program in Warren and Washington County jails.
    Carrie, an outreach worker from the local hospital, and three employees from Baywood met to begin drafting a proposal to send to AHI. They talked to the Undersheriff and the Corrections Lieutenant from Warren County jails. They supported the idea but didn't get involved in the process. The proposal was for a reentry planning program for Warren and Washington County jails. The two counties are very similar, and neither one had any services outside of the legally mandated social workers and medical staff and very small programs to provide MAT. The proposal talked a lot about the needs identified in the SIM Workshop: “We had some data, but not a lot. We just knew, anecdotally, there was a need.” The proposal itself asked for funds for the salary of one full time employee, a laptop, and some marketing materials. There was no evaluation built into the proposal, no reporting measures, no data tracking - "just here's what we want to do generally and where the money will go." Carrie explained that like a lot of smaller, new programs, the proposal was thrown together based on what they knew the county needed and how they hoped to fill that need. “Yeah, if you're looking for as far as like, it was really well formatted or really well thought out, it wasn't. As I think you'll find with many new programs... like it is not [well thought out] oftentimes... [Requests for Proposals] come out and you're scrambling to get data or narratives together. Just be like, let's just, just throw something out there." "We still didn't have, like, how we were going to determine recidivism - which we still don't. We have no reporting measures."
  • Amanda started getting ready to run the program at Warren County jail. She got clearances, talked to the social worker, and created the forms she would use.
    Amanda and some other employees at Baywood went through fingerprinting and got 'clearances' (passing a security clearance) to go into the jail. Warren County jail was ready to accept Amanda regularly, so she started coordinating with the nurse and social worker who were working there. Medical and social work services in both jails are contracted to an outside agency. The social worker positions at both jails have a really high rate of turnover, but every time a new social worker comes in Amanda makes sure to meet and coordinate with them. The nurse at Warren County jail was there for a few years when ABLE started, so Amanda utilized her like a 'point person' in the jail to get ABLE going. Amanda sat down with a supervisor at Baywood to create forms for her to use while meeting with clients in the jail. Her position is HIPAA compliant, so clients have to sign a Release of Information for her to speak with anyone (service providers, agencies, family, friends, etc) on behalf of the client. Amanda and her supervisor created consent forms for clients to join ABLE, releases of information, and assessment forms.
  • Now that the GAINS Center was coming to run the SIM Mapping Workshop, Carrie Wright built a huge coalition of people and agencies in the community to get involved.
    Carrie is a master organizer. She talked to a ton of different people, at a ton of different agencies, and got them to agree to participate in the SIM workshop and contribute their experience. She wanted a variety of service providers and social service organizations in the community to get involved, help identify the needs of the community, and collaboratively talk about solutions. At the time, there was no community group, email chain, or Facebook group that connected all these people in Warren County. Instead, Carrie had to contact each individual person and agency separately. “...that was like so many emails...at that time there was no group, like I was emailing judges, I was emailing probation I would email...everyone to...explain [the SIM]...I mean they gave you like information like what you want to send out here's like a one page document on what the SIM is. So it was really...grassroots ground up” Quoted from interview with Carrie Wright
  • They got the grant! The staff at Baywood immediately went to Amanda to tell her about the plan.
    The DSRIP grant through AHI paid one full time employee for a year and a half, along with the laptop and marketing materials. As Amanda describes it, at 3:30pm on a Thursday while she was headed out of the Baywood Office, she was called into a meeting with her boss, her boss's boss, and that boss's boss. She immediately thought she was being fired or something horrible. Instead, they said they had this grant for a reentry program, and they wanted her to do it. Amanda was thrilled - "Anything to be able to go into the jails." Quote from Darby Larkin's interview with Amanda Zeno.
  • Carrie and some other service providers from Law Enforcement and Lunch saw a grant offer put out by AHI looking to fund a reentry program - the exact thing the SIM had identified as a huge issue in Warren County.
    AHI was offering a grant to start a reentry program in Upstate New York. Carrie talked about it in one of the Law Enforcement and Lunch meetings with a few other service providers - an outreach worker at the local hospital was involved, as well as two supervisors at Baywood. The Baywood supervisors knew how much Amanda wanted to work in the jails, and they decided to write a proposal.
  • Then Amanda started going into Warren County jail! It was truly "trial by fire" trying to figure out how to move through the jail, when she could come in, how to meet with people, and how the program would work. After some initial problems, Amanda made some changes and kept going.
    The Warren County Corrections Lieutenant had told Amanda she could come into the jail anytime between 6am and 10pm! She quickly realized, though, this was not how things really worked inside the jail. Officers wouldn't or couldn't escort her through the jail and she couldn't meet with inmates during mealtimes, while medications were being passed out, if a disciplinary issue was happening, or during shift change. In Warren County jail, this actually leaves a very short window where Amanda can come in to meet with people - a little less than 3 hours each weekday morning and possibly one hour in the afternoon. The COs who escorted her began educating her on the jail's schedule: “Frontline officers have been really good about telling me the do's and don'ts of 'you're allowed to do this' and 'you're allowed to come now.'” There was another problem. All the beautiful forms they had made for Amanda to use were all electronic, but the jail did not allow any electronics inside the jail. Amanda made some changes, and proceeded with determination!
  • The results of the SIM were clear: reentry needs (needs of people coming out of the county jail) repeatedly came up as a huge issue, and an easy one to start working on.
    The SIM results showed over and over again that there was a huge gap in services for people coming out of the jail and other justice-involved people in the community. It also identified what Carrie called "low hanging fruit" - things that were pretty easy to implement and existed in a lot of places. A basic reentry program to provide reentry planning services was a huge "low hanging fruit" for Warren County.
  • What started it all: the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM). Through a massive community collaboration, several organizations came together to conduct a SIM Mapping Workshop funded by a large social service agency in Upstate NY. A SIM maps out the major areas of social need and gaps in services in a community.
    What is a SIM Mapping Workshop?? Sequential Intercept Model: shows how people with mental health and substance use disorders enter and move through the criminal justice system ​SIM Mapping Workshop: a workshop using a statistical tool that identifies services, programs, and resources that are missing in a community, and helps develop a local strategic action plan to address those needs and divert people with mental and substance use disorders away from the justice system and toward treatment using evidence-based practices More reading about the SIM and SIM Mapping How did this happen? Local leadership at People USA* saw that the GAINS Center* was offering SIM Mapping Workshops to counties across the country. Working with some members of the Warren and Washington Counties government Office of Community Services, they applied for Warren County. Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Office of Community Services, was a leader in the initiative. Warren County was denied by the GAINS Center the first time for the funding to perform the SIM. Leadership at the Adirondack Health Institute (AHI) heard about the initiative and offered to pay for it. With the backing of AHI, they were accepted. The GAINS Center would run a SIM Mapping Workshop for Warren County! * The GAINS Center is a part of the federal mental health agency SAMHSA and works on improving access to services for justice-involved people with mental health or substance use problems. * People USA is a national and global organization working on crisis response and mental health services that is peer-run (run by people who have coped with the same issues they work on). * DSRIP was a project by the New York State government to redesign healthcare in New York to reduce Medicaid costs and unnecessary hospitalizations. This was mostly done by giving grants to large agencies (like AHI) to give that money out to smaller agencies for projects that worked towards DSRIP's goal. AHI is a major recipient of state funding to distribute to other agencies for social service projects across the Adirondacks, including DSRIP. AHI provided DSRIP* funds for the SIM. (Information on this early timeline gained from Carrie Wright)
  • A year later, Carrie came back to the Office of Community Services and started a new community meeting: Law Enforcement and Lunch.
    About a year after leaving, Carrie came back to work for the Office of Community Services again and immediately started organizing again. Law Enforcement and Lunch was a monthly meeting to connect service providers working with mental health and substance use, law enforcement, and corrections officials. It was meant for these folks to check-in about what was happening in the community, to talk about programs going on, and needs being identified in the community and in the jail. The Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant for Warren County were once again interested and attended many of these meetings.
  • Immediately after the SIM, there were a lot of conversations with those local social service agencies who had participated and with the Warren County Undersheriff and Corrections Lieutenant - especially reentry programs. Carrie helped organize a lot of them. But when she briefly left the Office of Community Services, the conversations fizzled out and no action was taken.
    Like I said, Carrie is a master organizer. Most people working in social service agencies didn't have the extra time to set meetings and collaborate, and there weren't any government departments or law enforcement personnel focused on building coalitions at the time. So Carrie did it herself! She organized meetings and connected people to collaborate on a variety of social issues, including talking about the results of the SIM. When she left the Office of Community Services, these conversations and collaborations kind of fizzled out.
  • Currently run a reentry program?
    You could read this Guidebook to reflect on the steps you took to build your program, or get ideas for how to make your program stronger by implementing or honing any of these areas.
  • Sheriff or other government or county worker ​​interested in reentry programs?
    This Guidebook can give you a sense of the work and process it takes to create a reentry program, and how other programs have worked through it before. You can get ideas for resource distribution to strengthen a community-based program or utilize the community to make an institutional program stronger.
  • Policymaker or government worker?
    ​You could use this Guidebook to understand the perspective of frontline workers and the resources, time, and stress it takes to build a new reentry program. These examples could give you a better perspective on the grants, departments, regulations, or other areas you control.
  • Thinking about starting a reentry program or in the process of creating one?
    You could read this Guidebook to get a sense of the steps you'll need to take, get ideas for ways to solve problems that come up, and help you develop that program faster and more efficiently.
  • Now, you'll meet with Elena to talk about your plan for reentry - and Elena will work with you to make sure it's a safe and healthy plan.
    Elena will sit down with you in the jail to talk about your plan. She uses the New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment to structure these meetings and reentry plans. She'll figure out from you what you already have planned, then go over all the categories on the New Beginnings assessment to make sure you have these needs met, or make a plan with you to meet them. For example, if you're interested in an educational program, she'll check if you have a plan for how to get it. If not, she'll talk to you about the options and you'll figure out together what you'd like to pursue. Every person is the expert on themselves - what Elena can add is her experience working with lots of currently and formerly incarcerated folks before and her extensive knowledge of the programs, services, and agencies in the area. This includes everything from government benefits, recovery groups, mental health resources, childcare services, veterans programs, and housing options - including their eligibility criteria and application process. She can suggest things you may not have thought of or things you didn't know existed and give you more information. Elena can make sure your plan for reentry is safe and healthy: Based on her prior experience and her "strategic info-gathering", Elena can ask questions and make sure your plan is safe. For example, she once worked with a man who said he had a place to live because he was going back home. But Elena had seen in his past a pattern of 'criminal contempt' charges (violations of a restraining order) and family violence. So she asked him "do you actually have a safe place to go?" After talking about it, the man was open to other housing options. Elena explained her mindset about these questions: "I don't really know the nature of their relationship I just know that it's toxic all around objectively, so you know if he can get away from her or if he can be kept away from her...the better off they probably will both be."
  • New Beginnings Pre-Release Assessment: This is a tool Elena developed herself to structure the meeting - it helps you go through the major areas of need that most people have, and that affect success after release.
    See a blank copy of the assessment below. This is a tool Elena developed herself when she first built the reentry infrastructure of the jail. It lists out the major categories of 'needs' in reentry - the main categories of basic needs to survive, things people usually need when being released from incarceration, and things that are often harmful to success or can cause recidivism. She developed the categories based on extensive research about reentry, recidivism, and social needs while she was a joint Master's in Social Work-Juris Doctorate (law degree) student. The column "Need Met By" is for the things a person already has set up. Elena fills this out based on her "strategic info-gathering" and her meetings with an inmate. For example, if someone already has an apartment set up then their housing need is met by that apartment. Or, if a person's counselor in the jail has set up a counseling appointment in the community for them, that need is met already. The column "Still Needs Attention" is for the needs that are not met and what a person needs to set up for their release from jail. For example, if they're interested in addiction and recovery services of some kind but don't have any appointments or any connections with an agency, that still needs attention.
  • Elena decides when to meet with you based on your level of need - for most people, this is 2 weeks before they're released.
    If/When you receive a sentence but will not be going to state prison: When you're sentenced, Elena will reach out to you either by meeting with you or, during COVID-19 shutdowns, send you a letter in the jail. She'll remind you how long your sentence is, and tell you she's going to meet with you closer to your release date to talk about your reentry. She'll encourage you to start thinking about your plans for release, so you have some questions to ask her when you meet. If you'll be incarcerated for a short time before you're released: If you'll be incarcerated around 6 weeks or less, Elena will meet with you to begin planning for reentry around 2 weeks before your release date (also known as "out date"). This is because a shorter period of time makes you less likely to be evicted if you have an apartment. On average, individuals who have a solid living situation often only need about 2 weeks to build and set up a reentry plan, because "...generally, they don't need a lot of things that require a lot of preparation time" If Elena learns you may be homeless upon release: Elena will reach out as soon as possible to discuss this with you, because housing needs are the most difficult and time consuming to address. Her goal is to help you find the right fit for you to promote your long-term stability and keep you healthy and safe. Plus, "if they qualify for SHIP next door, then you know that's an easy bed to fill...it's also just like a really good program next door, like they're very supportive. It's not just a homeless shelter..." If you're a "Mental Health 5" or a "Medical 5": These are categories used by the jail to identify someone's level of mental health or medical needs. Level 5 is the highest level of need, meaning your mental health or your medical needs affect your "ability to function in your everyday life." The jail has dedicated housing for both Medical 5s and Mental Health 5s, and the staff in these units will begin a reentry plan with you. Elena works very closely with the staff of these units and combines her knowledge with theirs to figure out a reentry plan that works best for you: “because you know, obviously the mental health counselors are going to have a certain area of expertise and connections that I won’t, and then obviously I will have a certain area of expertise and connections that they won’t - so together, we create something a lot more holistic”
  • Before meeting with you: Elena does some "strategic info gathering" to get an idea of things you might be interested in when you're released.
    Before meeting with you to talk about what you'll need when you're released, Elena will gather some information from your ISU consultation, paper files, your rap sheet (history of your arrests), and by talking to counselors you've interacted with to understand what you might possibly need and how you've acted at the jail. She explains: "There's a lot of person-specific things that...determine someone's level of need, even if they don't realize it." So, she'll look through paper files and rap sheets, sometimes 10 years into the past, to get a picture of what you may have been doing, what may have been harmful to your success, and what she might be able to offer you to help. "I'll start to create a pattern of things that scream instability to me, that I can then come to them being like 'hey I noticed this, do you need this? Is this something that would help you? Because usually when I see this, this is what's happening behind the scenes. And then we can have a conversation about that." She has a lot of experience working with people in jail, has done a lot of research, and has that real-time information on the needs of the jail population as a whole from the ISU Consultation data. So she's able to explain to you what she's seen happen to other people based on things she sees in your situation. "In the beginning the inmate might be like 'noo, no I'm fine!', but, you know, after the conversation they're like 'you know what, maybe I do need this.' And then, you know, I've got them."
  • Ben meets with someone in the jail to help with reentry for the first time - and does more than even he thought he could do.
    The Family Support Navigator is asked by an inmate's family to visit their son in the jail because he was really struggling. Brendan, not having any prior jail experience, asked Ben to visit the son. Not only did Ben meet with the man and help him cope with being in jail, he talked to him about treatment options, and worked with his lawyer to get the man transferred to a treatment center as an Alternative to Incarceration. He realizes his passion and his potential, and applies for CRPA Academy trainings. A CRPA is a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate - someone who has been through addiction and is now living in recovery, and can formally work and be employed to help other people entering and living in recovery. CRPAs operate in a 'peer' role, meaning they can connect more emotionally and personally with clients than a clinical counselor and offer more services because of different ethical requirements. They still maintain boundaries with clients, but can be more of a mentor or even a friend than a counselor can.
  • Demand for Ben's services explodes - Ben and Brendan make a video and a proposal to the Sheriff and Colonel.
    As this man tells other inmates in the jail about Ben and the work he did, and the man's family tells other community members, people start reaching out. Purely through word of mouth, dozens of family members begin asking Ben to see their incarcerated family member in Saratoga County Jail. Ben is volunteering, not receiving any compensation, and visiting inmates during their alloted visit times (which takes visit time away from being able to see their families). Ben and the Family Support Navigator decide to make a video about what Ben can offer that can be shown in the jail. They also make a proposal to the jail's Colonel for Ben to be able to meet with anyone in the jail, not just the people who can get visits. This is only about 1/5th of the jail's population and takes up precious visit time. They set a meeting with the Sheriff, Colonel, and a few Lieutenants, play the video about Ben's services, and read the proposal. The Sheriff asks Ben who pays him, and discovers he's been volunteering all this time. He offers to pay Ben $500 a week out of the inmate commissary fund.
  • It starts with Ben's last experience in Saratoga County Jail...
    Ben lived in active addiction for 24 years and was in and out of jail and prison for 10 of those years. Saratoga County Jail was the last jail he was incarcerated in. He was used to cycling in and out of jail with nothing - no house, no job, no services, and no help. He was used to hearing the COs tell him he'd never stop and one day they'd lock him up forever. But instead something clicked that time - he largely credits the books The Starfish Story and Man's Search for Meaning as changing his life. He had never really seen the impact his actions had on his family and others around him, until this moment. He finally decided he wanted something different - he knew he needed something better if he was going to live another month. He had tried recovery before, and had especially liked Healing Springs peer recovery center - but hadn't fully committed to living in recovery before.
  • He sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator at Healing Springs and asks to get involved.
    As it turns out, the Family Support Navigator at The Prevention Council had been working on getting approval from the Sheriff to have an informational table for the Families Recover Together program in the visit waiting room at the jail. Ben sees a Facebook post from the Family Support Navigator announcing he had received approval for the table. Ben comments 'how do I get a seat at that table?' and the Navigator invites him along! Ben talked extensively about how these community groups and connections were absolutely NECESSARY throughout every moment of the jail programs, and also his own recovery.
  • The value of Ben's program is seen - he is hired by Healing Springs and the jail officially employs him.
    In September of 2019, Healing Springs sees the usefulness of Ben's program and hires him. Now his salary is split between the Inmate Commissary Fund and Healing Springs. At Healing Springs, he's also started a program to train and supervise new CRPAs.
  • Ben commits to living in recovery, starts attending meetings, and working on local jail reform.
    Ben throws himself into recovery. He goes back to Healing Springs peer recovery center, and starts attending meetings. He also joins Recovery Advocacy in Saratoga (RAIS), a community group advocating for community-based recovery as an arm of the Prevention Council (preventing addiction in Saratoga). At RAIS, Ben announces he would like to have a conversation about Saratoga County Jail and the total lack of recovery services, or any services, there. Very quickly, a subcommittee was formed of people interested in reforming the jail and improving services and reentry resources. Right off the bat, it included Ben, the Captain of the Sheriff's Department, a local grant writer, the Saratoga coroner, and some local volunteers. The subcommittee tried to find the right contact within the jail to talk to about starting a program.
  • The Sheriff and the Colonel approve the proposal and Ben sets up his services in the jail.
    He is allowed to work in the Booking area of the jail, giving him more room and privacy, and allowed to meet with any inmates in the jail. The Sheriff also agrees to play the CRPA video about Ben's services every Saturday in every TV in the jail. Sign-up sheets for Ben's CRPA Initiative are put up in every pod of the jail. These are shown on the Saratoga page in the Resources section. When Ben goes to the jail, he gives a list to the Corrections Officer working in Booking that day and the officer brings the inmate to Ben's desk. He creates intake forms to standardize his meetings with new clients, Releases of Information to protect clients' privacy, note forms for his own use during meetings, and other necessary paperwork (these are also shown under Resources). He also creates an Excel spreadsheet to track his work with an eye for future funding opportunities - as he said, "let's document deliverables and outcomes so that I can get a grant".
  • He starts "taking resource meetings with every agency [he] can get [his] hands on".
    Ben knew he needed to make connections and relationships with as many community agencies as possible. He wanted to get his name out into the community because he wasn't backed by any agency - he wasn't hired by a recovery center and the jail could only hire him as an independent contractor, not hire him as an employee, because he has felony convictions on his record. When referring clients from the jail to community agencies, making appointments for clients, or trying to secure Alternative to Incarceration programs, no one knew who he was or if they could trust him. He starts calling agencies and introducing himself and the work he's doing. He also asks them about the services they provide - to work with the jail population, he needs to know what's available to help his clients. "So as I intake these inmates and needs arise, I'm finding that I don't know the solution and that can't happen. You know what I mean, I need to be able to fill the needs" He expands the meetings he's attending and starts requesting resource meetings to learn more about local agencies. This includes recovery and mental health groups, the RAIS leadership committee, St. Luke's Recovery Resource Center Board (a church that started a resource center), Columbia County Chatham Cares, Albany Diocese for Recovery Commission, baseball games with Albany and Saratoga Sheriff's Departments...any one that could possibly contribute to his knowledge. Soon he starts hosting meetings too, and joining the leadership boards and committees of many of these organizations.
  • If you're just interested in learning about reentry:
    I hope you enjoy reading about some of the amazing things happening in NYS!! This website is also a celebration of the people who provide reentry services, so please take a look at whatever interests you and appreciate the extremely hard work that goes into this field. You can also find something interesting on this website and apply it to your local community. Maybe you donate some food, clothes, or time to a reentry program in your community, write a letter to your local representative or Sheriff's Department asking them to dedicate more resources to reentry, hire people with a history of incarceration at your business, or maybe you just change the way you think and talk about justice-involved people.
  • If you are interested in reentry but have never worked in the field:
    You can also see it's possible to get involved! You don't need a specific degree or 10 years of relevant work experience to create a reentry program - in fact, we need fresh, outside perspectives to contribute to reentry. What we need most is more reentry programs, and there are so many ways you can get involved. I hope reading about other people who didn't have experience working in a jail makes it seem less scary and difficult. And, I hope you get some ideas and motivation from this website to jump in and get involved.
  • If you're someone already working in a reentry program:
    This website will give you ideas on how to strengthen your program, or ways to expand your services. My hope is that you find something on this website that will improve your program in some way and adapt it to your situation! On an emotional note, I hope you feel better about your work and find other providers you'd like to collaborate or chat with - like in the Community Forum that will soon be added to this website!
  • If you have a history of incarceration:
    This website shows you it's possible for you to change the conditions you experienced. You probably have a lot of things you would've liked to change during your incarceration, things that harmed your recovery or your mental health or harmed your chances of success. You also hopefully have things that helped you and made you feel more prepared to leave jail. You have the power to change things for other people so they can be more successful. You absolutely can create a program that would've helped you. Your experience and perspective are needed to change the way the criminal justice system treats people, and I hope you see from this website that you can do that.
  • If you are involved in government or policy:
    This website will show you the ways community members work extremely hard, every day, sometimes with no institutional or governmental support, to bring necessary and life-saving services to people that are being failed by our institutions and systems. You'll also see the ways some institutions and government departments have made an immense commitment to help provide those necessary services. You'll see the ways reentry programs challenge our criminal justice system, and the ways our systems change to be more accountable and helpful to the communities they serve. You will read about the places government has hurt people, and the places it has helped them. This should prompt you to look at your own community, and see how you could help in the effort to provide and expand reentry services and respond to harm and crime in the community by helping people heal so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, this website proves to you the importance of reentry programs.
  • An ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about what you'll need when you're released to "assess your needs from the jump."
    The consultation "start[s] the process to assess your needs from the jump" - these are the needs you would have if you were released tomorrow. Instead of requiring you to ask for each individual thing you may need, the ISU worker asks you a ton of questions about your specific needs in these categories: Housing Are you homeless? Where are you living? Do you think you can stay there? ​Transportation If you were released tomorrow, would you have a way to get home? Clothing Do you have or need clothes? Any clothes, or specifically business or work attire? Food Do you usually get enough food? Were you accessing food resources like a food bank or SNAP? Identification Do you have access to a photo ID, a SNAP benefits card, your birth certificate, and/or your social security card? Mental health Do you have a history of counseling, mental health care, or medications? Do you have any diagnoses? Do you want to see a counselor in the jail or once you're released? ISU workers specifically ask this last question, about seeing a counselor, even if the person answers no to all other question - sometimes they still want to see a counselor or aren't comfortable answering the first questions.​ Substance Use/Abuse, Addiction, and Recovery Do you have a substance use disorder? Would you like to cut down on your substance use? Have you ever accessed recovery resources and are you interested in them after you're released? ​Veteran status If someone reports veteran status, the jail can get a Release of Information to speak with the Veterans Administration (VA) and connect the person with VA services! Before COVID-19, there was also a VA representative who would go into the jail and talk to people about the services available in the community. Medical needs Are there any immediate medical needs (sprained ankle, migraines, diabetes, etc)? Do you have a Primary Care doctor, or any other kind of doctor? Do you use, need, or want any specialty medical care when you’re released or while you’re incarcerated? Do you have insurance? Did you have insurance before, and do you know if it will continue or lapse? Do you want Medicaid when you are released? ​ *While booked into the jail, people are covered by Inpatient Medicaid - if they had employer-sponsored insurance before coming to jail, it is almost certainly going to lapse (end). There are 3-4 specialists at the jail who have a license to enroll people into Medicaid services before they're released!​*
  • The Benefits of Collecting and Logging This Information
    Sharing info with other clinicians: sometimes the person who does your consultation won't be your caseworker for the rest of your stay, so instead of going through the entire process again, exhausting both you and the worker, and potentially re-traumatizing you by getting all the details of your pre-incarceration life all over again Tracking this info over time: For people who come back to jail, especially those who come back to jail often, clinicians can see over time, is a person's situation getting consistently worse? Are they having the same type of problems consistently? Are there things that weren't focused on much in their last reentry plan that ended up being a problem and should be addressed in the next reentry plan? This is discussed more in the section below on someone coming back to jail, but this information makes sure there is a record somewhere of how someone is doing over time - which can be life saving At the level of the entire jail: Tracking this information allows the jail to know what their population is dealing with as a whole, and adjust their services to match the needs of the population in real time. This includes services in the jail, like mental health or substance use treatment, as well as what should be planned for in reentry. "before bail reform we had a lot of low level [charges], and so there was not a whole lot of violence that we needed to take care of because most of those folks [with violent charges] would go to DOCCS [state prison]...Now what we're seeing, for example, starting probably two summers ago with the rising gun violence, is all of that gang related stuff coming back...because of the model I chose [to assess and track this information]...we can continuously adjust our service provision" At the macro-level: now Elena has aggregate information and statistics for the entire jail population, allowing really innovative data tracking With this data, the jail can report what percentage of their population was homeless when they came into jail, unemployed, needed addiction care, mental health care, insurance, and several other metrics. This can be used by the jail, the county, the community, and even the state to understand trends in the community in real time, inform decisions about resources and funding.
  • If someone comes BACK to jail after being out in the community, the New Beginnings program is set up to pick up where they left off. They can have the same counselors, the same case worker, and still meet with Elena for reentry planning. Collecting and logging that ISU Consultation information also allows staff to keep track of changes in people's lives and situations and intervene if they're getting worse.
    Because of how New Beginnings is set up, if someone becomes incarcerated in Albany again they can "pick up where they left off" in treatment and reentry planning. The goal is that every time someone comes back, they will have the same counselors and the same case worker: “We remember the people that are coming in and they don’t have to start from the beginning...[the ISU workers] know you forward, backward, and sideways. They know you by every crime you’ve ever committed, they know you by every incident, they know you by every need you’ve ever expressed to them… or every family death they’ve ever had to process to help you…every crisis, every breakdown” People who experience incarceration often do not have a regular doctor of any kind, or steady support and communication with family or friends, so this ability for workers at the jail to see patterns and trends can be life saving. “If they’re coming in more and more and they’re just regressing and getting worse [then] we can have an intervention” For example, if someone's drug problem is getting worse and worse and their health is deteriorating, there's someone at the jail who will interact with them who can keep track of this trend and talk to them about it. And, the ISU Consultation data keeps track of a lot relevant information. “When you first came here you looked like this, you weighed this much…what's going on, how can we help?”
  • Now Elena starts setting up services, making appointments, and connecting you with organizations in the community based on all this information.
    Elena is deeply committed to finding the right fit for each person and she makes sure every reentry plan is very individualized. When connecting a client with a new service provider, for example a new mental health counselor, she talks extensively with clients about the kind of person they would be most comfortable with meeting. She also does her own research to understand the background, philosophy, and style of each service provider in the community. That, way she can match people to a service provider who will understand them better. Her philosophy is to go the extra mile to find someone her clients will actually enjoy working with: “I try to find people that …my clients want to go to, and that matters” ​ Elena will ask a lot of in-depth questions to figure out what will be the best fit for you and what will make you as comfortable as possible. "If you want to see a counselor, what kind of counselor do you want to see? Do you want them to be a woman also? Do you want them to be black, do you want them to be Hispanic, do you want them to be able to speak Spanish? Like any of those things will make it that much easier for that person to open up to that service provider, so I do ask those questions and I try to find the best solution I can. Because good Lord sometimes it's real difficult. It shouldn't be but unfortunately it is." Elena can get you information on any program, agency, organization, or service you may be interested in. She can also directly connect you with those resources by making appointments, getting you a bed in a residential program or housing program, getting you in contact with an agency, or even (before COVID-19) bringing someone from an organization into the jail to meet with you before you are released. This builds the connection you have with these services, making it easier to stay connected once you are released back to the community and connecting you with someone else who can support and help you during that transition.
  • Sometimes clients will work with Elena to make a reentry plan, but don't seem committed to following it. Then she and other ISU workers will sit down with the person and figure out what they're ready for.
    Sometimes clients agree with and make the reentry plan, and Elena and ISU workers set up services, but the person doesn't seem totally committed to following through. Elena and the other ISU workers work with clients as much as possible to help them make safe choices and develop a plan, but they can't force anyone into anything. "That’s the only thing I think that I can ask from my clients, that they try something that they haven’t tried before, because clearly what they’re trying isn’t healthy for them" Elena will talk with a person's counselors and case worker in the jail to get a sense of what they've said about being released back to the community and if they seem like they'll follow through. If not, she can arrange a meeting with the client and the other ISU staff involved to sit the person down and see what's going on. For example, if Elena has gotten a client a spot in a program or a residential facility, but they don't seem like they'll follow through. Her and other ISU staff might meet with the person and ask them to either commit to the program, or give up their spot - because someone else might really be able to use it.
  • Sometimes people are blunt about wanting to return to the behaviors and choices that got them in jail in the first place, and have no interest in creating a reentry plan. Then Elena focuses on harm reduction and offering tools and resources to encourage you to be as safe as possible.
    Harm reduction: Elena and the other ISU workers will work with clients as much as possible to find the safest, healthiest, best plan for them. Sometimes, there is a point where it's clear people are set on what they're going to do and any more talking, explaining, begging, or convincing will not change their mind (and might make the situation worse). In that case, the focus changes to harm reduction. Harm reduction is taking the situation where someone will make unhealthy, unsafe, or illegal decisions, and trying to help them be as safe as possible. "My goal is that you survive to live another day when you leave the facility, and that you’re safe in whatever subjective mindset that happens to be in" For Elena, harm reduction is about meeting the person where they're at and providing resources and healthy options for whatever situation the person is committed to entering. If the person will potentially make dangerous or unhealthy choices, she wants to "quell the severity of the situation" and offer safe decisions and safe options. “I can’t stop you from going back home to your abusive partner, but I'm going to give you a lifeline if you need it - if you find yourself in a rough spot. I'm going to give you an option to make a good choice instead of a bad choice…then maybe in that moment you’ll make the good choice, you’ll see that phone number and you’ll call...or you’ll remember that this shelter is here and you’ll walk away from the situation and leave instead of putting your hands on that person” She'll offer tools and resources to encourage as much safety as possible in those dangerous situations people might be in once they're back in the community. "you’re addicted to this, if you use needles - here’s a place that provides clean needles, a place that tests your heroin…that you can get clean water"
  • I see community-based reentry programs as a foundation for future directions in criminal justice - in New York State and nationwide.
    The programs I've researched are challenging long-standing views of the purpose of incarceration, punishment, the effect of our criminal justice system, and the ways communities respond to crime. County jails in New York State have an incredible potential to connect incarcerated people and the surrounding community in a way prisons cannot. Reentry programs that bring community resources into jails, and help people leaving jails reintegrate into the community better, can transform community relations, stop harmful generational patterns, and change the institutional culture of criminal justice agencies.   To support the development of reentry programs, I've developed this website. ReentryToolsNY presents original research on several reentry programs specifically for jail populations in Upstate NY, as well as research and other publications to help the growth of reentry programs across the country.

This meeting isn't just checking off a list though - Elena talks with you about each category. 

"If you don't need this, do you have housing? What kind of housing is it? Is it a safe and stable place for you to live? Or is it housing where you're surrounded by toxic people or domestic violence? And these are now questions that we ask already to get it in their heads that hmm, maybe I don't need to go back to my house with my abusive partner. Or my partner that I cannot stop putting my hands on."

New Beginnings Resource Guide on Tablets

You can also plan for your own reentry by using the New Beginnings Resource Guide shown earlier on this page! Thanks to Elena, this entire guide is available for everyone in the jail on the tablets that the jail provides. It's in the form of a giant Powerpoint organized by the different types of services, with working links to go to the webpages of different organizations. That way you can take a look on your own and really think about what you might want.

Image by Austin Neill
Image by Austin Neill

How did Elena create the tablet program?

  • The Sheriff loved it, and scheduled a meeting with Elena right away. She pitched her proposal for a reentry program inside the jail to act as a 'hub' for services.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation." "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • Remember the reentry manual Elena created at a social work internship, explained in the above section on the Resource Guide? Well, she sent it to her Poverty Law professor who LOVED it and sent it to the Sheriff - who was already thinking about building some reentry services in the jail.
    To read the above section on the Resource Guide/reentry manual, click on 'Resource Guide' in the menu at the top right of your screen. "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • She was immediately brought into the jail as an intern to start working on the program! She began by turning the reentry manual into a tablet program on the jail's iPad-style tablets, and building support for the program by getting incarcerated folks to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” "[I had] to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • The professor brought the reentry manual to the Albany County Sheriff – and he loved it. He immediately wanted to meet with her, and she proposed her ‘hub’ idea.
    "This is a program, I created this whole thing like on my laptop. I brought my laptop, I had a whole presentation.” "Here's what you guys have now. You have the need. You have the services. Albany has the services already. What you need is the network, so that people can access and navigate the services. So you have this meat, but that's all you have. I'm here to put a skeleton to your meat, so it doesn't just fall all over the floor.” "That came out of the top of my head...after I said it he goes over to [the Professor] and he goes 'I like her.'"
  • The Sheriff immediately brought Elena into the jail as an intern to start working on the 'hub' reentry program. Her first job was to take the reentry manual and turn it into a tablet program on the jail’s iPad-style tablets. Part of this internship was also building support for the program and getting inmates to ask for services.
    “I started to do an internship and it translated into an independent study at school, so I got a whole course credit from it…because I spent a lot of hours...They wanted me to convert the reentry manual into tablet form - that way [the inmates] can see samples of what's available to them before they even get called to ISU or to speak to me" "I created a whole tablet program and I had to do it under the parameters of...the IT company that we use and most facilities use...You would think that [the software] would be more technologically advanced as far as what they are willing to allow as formats for programs...and they're not. So I created about an 80 slide PowerPoint with internal hyperlinks.” Elena had "to create the appeal for the program…How do we get inmates on board to ask for services and things in the first place? Because...when you interview somebody...who just went through the booking process, that's not what they're thinking about. They're like 'holy shit I'm in jail.'"
  • One of her professors saw the potential of this idea, and the potential of Elena. She wanted to connect Elena with the Albany County Sheriff, who was already interested in starting some kind of reentry services in the jail.
    "I sent it my Poverty Law professor…and she just like lit up and she was like 'I'm sending this to the Sheriff right now.’ Because the Sheriff had been talking to her about how he wants… all of the inmates to be able to have a discharge plan of some sort...he was thinking about ‘how do we make a program that has like some sort of discharge plan?’” This was partially motivated by recent articles published about people being released from Albany County jail in really bad conditions. Before the articles, the Sheriff didn’t realize how bad the situation really was. "Someone was released from the facility in the middle of the night in January...and it was snowing and cold and they had flip-flops on and they had nowhere to go...the COs that were standing outside smoking a cigarette luckily saw the guy and the guy was like 'please help me'...so they went and got him some shoes…so the Sheriff was like...'we do that??'"
  • After intensively working on it 24/7 for months, Elena finished the tablet program. The professor who had originally gotten Elena connected with the jail asked the Sheriff what he was going to do next, and he hires Elena per diem.
    Elena’s professor addressed the Sheriff: "'okay [Sheriff Apple], what are we going to do now? She's done, she's not going to get compensated from this anymore [with class credits]'...and he goes ‘well, we could pay her part-time or per diem or something.’"
  • Citations (click for drop-down box)
    Columbia University Justice Lab and Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, 2021. The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York. [online] Available at: <https://justicelab.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/content/Cost_Parole_Violations_in_New_York.pdf>. Schappell, Ashley, Meagan Docherty, and Paul Boxer. 2016. “Violence and Victimization during Incarceration: Relations to Psychosocial Adjustment during Reentry to the Community.” Violence and Victims 31 (2):361. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00188. Boxer, Paul, Keesha Middlemass, and Tahlia Delorenzo. 2009. “Exposure to Violent Crime during Incarceration: Effects on Psychological Adjustment Following Release.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 36 (8):793–807. doi:10.1177/0093854809336453. Morin, Karin. 2016. “The late-modern American jail: epistemologies of space and violence.” The Geographical Journal 182(1):38–48. Wolff, Nancy, Cynthia L. Blitz, Jing Shi, Jane Siegel, and Ronet Bachman. 2007. “Physical Violence Inside Prisons: Rates of Victimization.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(5):588–599. ** Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, and Wolff et al. 2007 are discussed in the Resources page "The Cycle of Stress, Violence, and Mental Health".
  • Ownership restrictions
    Many laws restrict what things you can own if you have a criminal record. These laws can trigger other restrictions: for example, if you can't legally own a firearm then you can't work as a security guard​
  • Contract restrictions
    A large portion of hidden sentences legally bar or limit people with a criminal record from holding certain licenses. This includes licenses to sell certain things, to own businesses, and to receive some government programs. For example, if someone owns a healthcare business and wants to provide services to people with Medicaid, they would need a contract with Medicaid - this is banned for people with a criminal record.
  • Occupational discrimination
    The majority of hidden sentences are focused on barring people with a criminal record from certain occupations. Notice this isn't just legalizing the right to discriminate in hiring against someone for having a criminal record - this is actually banning people with a criminal record from tons of jobs. This includes human services agencies, public positions like teachers, law enforcement officers, bus drivers, and garbage collectors. Most jobs that require a license can discriminate against people for having a criminal record, and in some states justice-involved people are legally banned from these positions. This includes doctors, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. These restrictions take place in the larger context of having a criminal record in the U.S.: the justice-involved population has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, mental health and addiction issues that affect what jobs you could take and how much you could work, and the way people see you - tons of studies have shown that even with the same qualifications and experience as other people, those with a criminal record are significantly less likely to be selected for a job interview or offered a job
  • Education, and associated loans and grants
    Many states and the federal government bar people with a criminal record from accessing state educational grants and loans, as well as job training and small business loans. In many places, getting a criminal record means immediate expulsion from schools (grade school and colleges).
  • Legal restrictions on prisoners' rights
    For people who are incarcerated, basic rights like free speech, religious exercise, right to assemble and protest, privacy, and your rights as a parent are not the same as when you're out in the community.
  • All information on Hidden Sentences drawn from:
    Kaiser 2016: Kaiser, Joshua. 2016. “Revealing the Hidden Sentence: How to Add Transparency, Legitimacy, and Purpose to “Collateral” Punishment Policy.” Harvard Law and Policy Review vol. 10.1. (https://harvardlpr.com/2016/03/08/revealing-the-hidden-sentence-how-to-add-transparency-legitimacy-and-purpose-to-collateral-punishment-policy/). This is an article written by this author's (Darby Larkin's) professor and someone who helped a ton with the thesis this website started as - Joshua Kaiser. He has years of experience researching hidden sentences and the criminal justice system at large.
  • While per diem, she continued to build demand for her reentry program and for the tablet program, and trained with the existing jail staff to interview inmates upon intake. She wanted to learn everything that happens in the jail and everything inmates experience before she meets with them.
    "I started to get trained to do the jobs that my specialists [in the ISU] do so that I could make sure that the assessment that they were doing was effective...So I wanted to do everything that…everybody does with my inmates up until I get to them, to see what it is that they're experiencing and just see if what I've introduced is going to be effective."
  • Based on all this experience, Elena created one of the most important parts of the New Beginnings program – the New Beginnings booking assessment.
    She combined all the research she had read, her own personal experience, and what she had seen training in the jail, blending together evidenced-based research and lived experience “because that’s who we are as people.” She used this combination to create the categories of needs and the specific questions to ask on the assessment of all inmates right when they get booked into the jail. Her philosophy with reentry planning is that everyone should always be specifically asked if they would be interested in a wide variety of services. Before she came to the Inmate Services Unit, clinicians expected and required inmates to request everything they needed without it being offered to them. "That's like the old-style mindset that I'm working with as far as corrections...I'm working against the grain of, 'if somebody wants help they need to ask for help', or 'they need to do it themselves.’ Instead…no it really does not take a lot of energy for us to be like ‘hey do you need this?’…Instead of them mustering up the courage, to overcome the stigma of