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Programs -> Warren

Warren County Jail - ABLE Program

The information on this page was gathered in interviews with Amanda Zeno conducted by Darby Larkin, as well as Darby's experience working in ABLE. Information on the Timeline of ABLE was also gathered in interviews with Carrie Wright also conducted by Darby Larkin. Go to this page to read about the research methodology.

Words that are bold, orange, 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.**

Image by Eva Darron

 Warren County 

ABLE Case Management Program

Accessing Better Life Experiences

ABLE provides case management, reentry planning, and referral services for currently and formerly incarcerated folks and those at risk of incarceration in Warren and Washington Counties. ABLE also offers a weekly recovery group in Warren County Jail. The program is community-based, meaning it's run by an agency in the community instead of by the jail. 

Amanda Zeno is a one-woman show, running and operating the program as a volunteer from Baywood Recovery Center. She meets in-person with inmates in both Warren and Washington County Jails and in the surrounding communities.

Meet Amanda Zeno
ABLE Case Manager

and social worker from Baywood Recovery Center

Amanda spends about half her time running ABLE and half her time working at the Baywood Center, an outpatient recovery clinic. She has extensive experience working in substance abuse service, working with justice-involved people, and with law enforcement - many of the people in her life have worked in corrections or the police force in New York State.


The Baywood Center recovery clinic currently pays her entire salary, even though she essentially volunteers for the jail half the time. Starting in the summer of 2022, however, ABLE has received a grant to support Amanda's salary and the program overall! The grant will support an expansion of ABLE back into Washington County Jail, and hopefully some new services and groups.


Amanda has always wanted to work with the incarcerated population, and Baywood has

consistently helped her get there.

‎"Baywood has always kind of put me in a position to get [into the jail]... I had only been working in the field for a couple years when they sent me [to work with] drug court... and they've always offered me all of the criminal justice trainings, and court stuff... and they've kind of allowed me to do that, just been really nice, because not every agency is like 'yeah sure you can go work in the jail. I know we're not getting paid for it, but that's okay"‎

** A note: from November 2020 to August 2021, the author of this website (Darby Larkin) also interned with ABLE. I helped with some of the daily functions of the program and shadowed Amanda, and for the summer of 2021 I took on a small caseload as a case manager for the program. I was not paid directly by ABLE - I received a scholarship from UMass Amherst to support this unpaid internship. I also worked part-time and per diem for Baywood. **

Ms. Zeno
  • "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.


  • "Continuity of care": Broadly means to make sure services continue and don't get worse over time - in reentry programs, this means services don't just stop suddenly when the person is released, and they can still get help when they're in the community. High quality 'care' of some kind continues over time. Research has shown this is super important for people who are released from incarceration.   PEW article on healthcare continuity in prisons


  • "CO": Correctional Officer - you may be more familiar with the term 'prison guard'


  • "Pod": A wing of the jail, like a 'cell block' - in Warren County jail it's a big cement room with a few metal tables bolted to the floor throughout, a CO station in the middle, jail cells and bathrooms lining the walls, and doors to the "yard" in the corner (the 'yard' is a cement room with the roof open to the sky) (this is known as a 'panopticon' style)


  • "MAT": Medication Assisted Treatment for a substance use disorder, or the use of medication to help someone fight an addiction. New York State jails are required to provide some MAT to folks who had an active prescription when they entered jail


  • "Release date/out date": The expected date that someone will be released from jail


  • "Undersheriff": In NYS a deputy sheriff - someone second in charge of the Sheriff's Office, behind the Sheriff


  • "Corrections Lieutenant": The person from the Sheriff's Office in charge of the day-to-day operations of a jail


  • "RFP/Request for Proposals": A document that announces new funding or a new project, and asks for people to submit proposals for ways to use that funding or fulfill that project from their own agency


  • "Med-Pass": The process to hand out medications to everyone in the jail who takes them - medical staff bring a cart full of the needed medications to each pod, where all inmates are locked in their cells. One by one, each person who needs medication is let out of their cell, handed their medication and a cup of water, then medical staff and COs check the person's mouth to make sure they swallowed the medication. 


  • "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. 


ABLE Case Management

Community-based, but providing services inside the jail

ABLE is currently the only person or program at either Warren or Washington county jails to help incarcerated folks plan for reentry or set up services or appointments. At Warren County jail Amanda is the only person in the jail allowed to contact anyone outside the jail on behalf of people incarcerated there.


Warren County jail (and Washington County jail before March 2020) allows ABLE to operate there, allowing Amanda to meet with people while they are incarcerated. However she is not an employee of the jail - she goes into the jail as an outside visitor or volunteer. She sets meetings with some of the jail staff when she wants to, but there are no regular meetings with jail staff or regulation, control, or oversight by the jail administrations. She runs the program herself as an employee of the Baywood Center, and her supervisor in her role at Baywood also supervises and supports ABLE.

            Who does ABLE serve? The vast majority of ABLE clients are incarcerated in Warren County jail, but the program is also offered to people incarcerated in Washington County jail and anyone in the community with a history of incarceration. Unfortunately, Washington County jail has been mostly shut down to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, so ABLE has not been able to see many people there since March 2020.


  • Amanda does not charge for ABLE services, and Baywood pays her salary. Baywood also doesn't require ABLE to focus on any specific population, like some grants or agencies might (some reentry programs can only work with, for example, people who are sentenced). So, she has the flexibility to offer case management services to this wide population! She's sometimes asked by clients at Baywood or other service providers about resources too - she always offers what help she can in the moment. 

         What is case management? A model of healthcare where a professional helps a client make a plan to coordinate services to meet their needs. It involves assessing what they need, figuring out the best ways to meet those needs, and helping the person connect with, and follow through on, services.


            What does this look like at ABLE? The bulk of ABLE is Amanda's case management work with people who are incarcerated in Warren County jail to help them figure out what they might need or want when they're released from jail, to identify services or resources that will help them meet their needs, and to connect clients with those services and resources. If/when the person is released from jail Amanda can continue working with them, checking in on how they're doing, and providing case management, providing continuity of care!


  • Assessment and Releases: She meets with new clients in-person to conduct a biopsychosocial assessment to understand their background, figure out what services a client might be interested in, and what might be helpful or a problem for them in the future. For example, if someone has Sex Offender status they are barred from a lot of housing options and government services. Or if their parent passed away, they may be eligible for different types of Survivor's Benefits. Really getting to know the client and their background is important for building a reentry plan that will work the best for that person and doesn't miss anything in their life that will affect their success. Then, she asks the person to sign some 'releases' to allow Amanda to talk to other agencies and people about the person.

    • Amanda's role is "HIPAA compliant", meaning she legally cannot share information about her clients with someone unless she has a Release of Information signed by the client to share information with that person or the agency they work for (under a federal law about privacy of health insurance: read more at That means, for example, to call a client's mom and tell her about the clients' plan, or to call a substance abuse clinic to set up an appointment, Amanda has to have a signed Release of Information stating that she can share information with that specific person or organization.


  • Gathering info: Then, Amanda gathers information on the agencies and people that might be able to fulfill these needs, makes phone calls, sets up appointments, and gets applications ready.


  • Meeting again: She'll meet with the client again to fill out applications or forms (like a Department of Social Services application for different government benefits), to discuss the options for agencies and resources and decide on the right one, discuss other needs the person has, and keep track of their case and release date. For the rest of the time before someone is released, she keeps checking on them, discussing the reentry plan and anything else happening with their case or anything else they're worried about with reentry.


  • Follow-up in the community: After they're released, Amanda tries to provide a continuity of care by offering to meet with clients in the community after they're released. Before COVID-19, she would often set a meeting time and place with clients in the first few days after they're released to check in, see how they're doing, and see if there is anything else they need. 

    • Providing Continuity of Care: Clients have ABLE's contact information and can reach out anytime in the future if they want or need more help. If she doesn't hear from a client after they're released, Amanda will reach out if she has contact information to see how they're doing, if they made it to their appointments, and if they would like any more help or just to talk things out. She will also reach out to service providers the client is connected to (if she has a signed Release of Information to do so) to see if the client went to their appointments. 


  • However, a lot of people do 'drop off the map' so to speak - they don't reach out once they're released, the contact information for them doesn't work or it's for a family member who hasn't heard from them either. This can be because the person is homeless and bouncing around shelters and DSS-provided hotel rooms, because they returned to crime or drug use, or any other reason. Amanda reaches out as much as she can, and hopes the person will call if they want help again.


                 How do people connect with ABLE to get services? Usually people get involved with ABLE through referrals. Referrals for new clients can come from:


  • Warren or Washington County Jail Social Workers - if any of the jail social workers hear an inmate might need services set up, or are lacking basic needs (ie they're homeless, or need transportation), they give the person an ABLE referral form

  • Warren County Department of Social Services - if someone comes into DSS with a history of incarceration or is recently released, and needs services, they may refer them to ABLE

  • Warren County Probation - a probation officer may refer a client

  • Local Service Providers - another counselor at Baywood, a case manager at another agency, or any other local service provider may refer a client with a history of incarceration, or a client who is going to be incarcerated in Warren or Washington jails

  • Self-Referrals - a person in the community or in the jail may hear about the program and either ask the COs or the jail social workers for ABLE services, or if they're in the community call ABLE directly

    • News of ABLE and what they do spreads in the jails through word-of-mouth among inmates, by the social workers, and sometimes even Corrections Officers!

             Weekly Recovery Group: Amanda also runs a recovery group in Warren County jail as part of ABLE. The group is an hour-long once a week, and there's one group for women and one for men. The group is open to anyone in the jail to request to join, but they must be approved by the jail for security reasons. The jail requires people receiving MAT to attend every week to maintain their MAT.


  • There's a wide range of topics, but Amanda maintains a focus on how to work on recovery once released back to the community, with discussions of coping skills and building a healthy life.

  • The men's group brings together inmates from different pods into the visiting room. Amanda sits at the front of the room at one end of the visiting room table, and the men are spread out around the room distanced from Amanda. At least one CO is required in the room for every 5 inmates in the group, standing around the room watching the men.

  • The women's group takes place in the group room inside the pod. There are no COs in the room, but the door that leads to the pod has a window facing the COs stationed in the pod. Amanda sits at one big table with the women.

About ABLE

ABLE Program

Amanda is employed by the Baywood Recovery Center as if she were a full-time counselor, and essentially volunteers half her time to run ABLE in the jail. ABLE is a community-based program and is not run by the jail and does not receive any financial contributions from the jail. Amanda is able to run the program freely as she and her clients want, without requirements or oversight from the jail or Sheriff's Office. The only financial resources ABLE uses are Amanda's salary and some tools she has access to as a counselor at Baywood in the Baywood offices (like a printer, copier, and secure Electronic Records System). She enters the jail like a visitor or lawyer, and doesn't have an office in the jail. She's not allowed to bring any electronics into the jail, or give things to inmates outside of what they need for reentry. The only things she brings in are papers and a pen.

Starting in the summer of 2022, however, ABLE is receiving a grant to support the program!

Jail Administration Interaction

The Sheriff and Corrections Lieutenant in Warren County are supportive of ABLE. While the program is not part of the jail nor do they provide any funding, they allow Amanda to come to the jail's lobby anytime (whether she can visit with a client depends on the time and what's happening inside the jail). It can be difficult sometimes because the program is not integrated into the jail, so Amanda is at the mercy of the officers on shift each day and the events of the moment. Many officers at the jail don't know who Amanda is or what ABLE does, sometimes leading to confusion about what she can do. Some who do are supportive and refer incarcerated folks to ABLE. Jail administrations at both Warren and Washington jails allow the program to run, but are not involved in the program and rarely interact with ABLE.

Being a community-run program does allow Amanda the freedom to run ABLE without any bureaucracy or institutional requirements in the way. Being connected to a community recovery agency like Baywood, rather than the jail, also helps her form relationships with clients who don't trust jail personnel or the criminal justice system.

In the jail: Moving

Because she's not an employee of the jail, Amanda cannot move freely around the jail and doesn't get keys to any of the doors. She has more privileges than a visitor, but less than a lawyer. To move into and around the jail, Amanda has to be transported by a CO. When she arrives at the jail, Amanda waits at the front door for someone to let her into the lobby. Then, a CO will get her from the front lobby and bring her to a pod to see a client. They can then leave her in the non-contact visiting room connected to each pod to see the client. When she wants to leave that room, she hits a button on the wall to call for another CO. This is another trade-off of not working for the jail: it can take a long time to perform her work, and she has no control over anything that happens in the jail. Med-Pass can run late or a fight could break out, leaving Amanda waiting to see a client, waiting to move to somewhere else in the jail, or waiting to start the recovery group for a few minutes, or a half hour.

She can't physically interact with inmates usually - to give them papers, she has to slide them under the door of the pod to a CO.


This is the process through which ABLE was created. It was a collaboration among several people, and the information below was gathered through interviews conducted by Darby Larkin with both Amanda Zeno and Carrie Wright, the Program Analyst at the Warren County Office of Community Services.


Why This Program Works and What It Works For

What success looks like for ABLE in Warren County

Success in a reentry program is much more than just reducing recidivism rates. Recidivism is such a complicated thing - measured differently by different agencies, heavily affected by the services and benefits available in a community, and often not really meaning what we think it means. Parole violations, which include tons of things that are not crimes such as being late to an appointment or missing a curfew, make up a huge portion of recidivism. Violations make up an even larger portion in New York State. In 2019 New York State parole actually sent more people to prison for technical parole violations (specifically not new crimes) than any other state in the country, with parole violations making up 40% of prison admissions (Columbia Justice Lab). Many reentry programs try to have an impact on recidivism, and they do help many aspects of life that affect recidivism (like substance abuse and mental health), but most do not have an impact on the practices of parole as an institution. Many studies have also shown that what someone experiences during incarceration, like violence or high levels of stress, has an impact on mental health and readjustment post-release (Boxer et al. 2009, Schappell et al. 2016, Morin 2016, Wolff et al. 2007). Many reentry programs, like ABLE, do not have any control over what happens in the jail. In addition, the gaps in services, the poverty rate, shortages in affordable housing and housing services, inability to access government benefits, and high unemployment all affect recidivism. None of these things are really in the control of the reentry program - even a program designed to reduce homelessness will fail if there simply are no housing options or shelters. It may not be fair or accurate to use recidivism as the measure of success for a reentry program. Plus, a reduction in recidivism doesn't necessarily mean an improvement in quality of life. Not going back to jail doesn't mean someone got a job, or they got their kids back from Child Protective Services, or that they found somewhere to live instead of bouncing between emergency shelters.


In addition, a lot of reentry programs have common-sense positive impacts. Having a person who knows about the community and the services in the community to help you navigate release from jail will inevitably have a positive impact, even if it's not being measured. There's a quality of life improvement when someone commits to stand by folks as they navigate incarceration release, and a major culture shift in the surrounding community. There's tons of research at the national level proving there's a positive impact when someone is provided MAT, or able to talk honestly about what they're going through, or are provided tools to be more successful than they could be on their own. The reentry programs I researched had a variety of things to say when I asked how they thought about success.

Success for ABLE

The logic of ABLE is about meeting needs. In the biopsychosocial assessments, Amanda asks the client what they want and need to be successful. She also offers other services or programs she knows of that may be helpful, and are currently available in the community. Her extensive experience working with the justice-involved population and people with substance abuse issues means she's seen a lot, so she has a lot of insight. If someone says they're going to move to Florida to get away from their problems, she knows how to work through this plan and question enough to get people thinking. 


Through this intervention, Amanda is teaching her clients another way to think, providing emotional support through the transition back to the community, and helping people fulfill their needs before they're released. Lots of research has shown that the population who becomes incarcerated often has a hard time fulfilling their needs, and across the country but especially in rural areas there are huge shortages of the services they need. At Warren County Jail specifically, people who are incarcerated are allowed very little contact with the outside world. They have limited time on the facility phones, which are very expensive already, so sometimes they have to make the choice between calling their daughter this week or calling their probation officer or lawyer. From personal experience in ABLE, I've also seen how slow our bureaucracies move and how they don't explain their processes to the people whose lives depend on them. Especially during COVID-19, many of my clients while I interned at ABLE had no idea when they might possibly be released until the day the court let them go. Many of our clients know they're either going to be released straight from court one day, or receive several years in prison, depending on the whim of the court, judge, parole, probation, the availability of their lawyer, and the pressure from state agencies to release people to avoid COVID-19 casualties in our jails. ABLE provides a necessary connection to the outside world, and someone else calling those agencies and those lawyers to get answers for the people stuck in jail. This may not be measurable the way recidivism can be, but it is certainly success in my book.


How Amanda Defines Success


Success at ABLE is about always providing a hub of resources to help people meet their needs. Amanda knows so much about what's available in the community and how to connect people to services, if she doesn't know the exact answer she knows who to ask to get the answer. Success for Amanda is being able to provide that consistently so that people always know they have someone they can call if they need help.


When I asked Amanda about how she measures success, she said this:


“We have to redefine that success, to understand that...if people want help again,  they know where to call. Or if they come back to jail, they know to ask for us - that's the success in the program. And we've had that a few times where people...a year down the line, they're like, 'I still need help.' They might be back in jail but they know where to find us.”

“I have one guy right now that I've worked with at least twice, maybe three times. But every time he comes back he knows to ask for me. So it's like, this is better than...thinking he's going to achieve all this on his own”

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