January 2008 Resource Updates and Highlights
You are receiving this newsletter because you are a member of the New York State Reentry Resource Center, a network of more than 1,000 advocates and direct service providers from all around the state. Each month, we bring you resource highlights, news, and policy updates from the online resource center.
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*Birth Certificate Legislation Passes New York City Council*
On December 31, 2007 signed Intro. No. 574A, a bill granting free birth certificates to all residents coming home from City jails (after serving 90 days) or New York State prisons, into law. The intention and effect will be to rescind one more barrier to people successfully reentering their communities and attempting to rebuild their lives after incarceration. Birth certificates, along with other vital identifying documents, are needed for many aspects of making a new life - including employment, housing, applications to educational institutions, healthcare, other benefits and social services. The law will take effect 90 days after it was signed. Click here to read the full text of Intro. No. 574A from the New York City Council website, and here to read Mayor Bloombergs remarks.
*New York State Legislature Ends Use of Solitary Confinement for Mentally Ill Prisoners*
On January 15, 2008 the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill that mandates the removal of imprisoned people with serious psychiatric disabilities from 24-hour solitary confinement. Under the new law, these individuals will be moved into treatment-based secure facilities. The law also requires the state to conduct mental health assessments of everyone housed in segregated or special housing units (known as SHUs). The Associated Press reports, New York has had more prisoners in segregated units for disciplinary purposes than any state. Almost a quarter of the prisoners in the segregated housing in New York had a history of mental illness and advocates for the mentally ill said solitary confinement can lead to more suicides and poorer mental health. Click here for more information from the Boot the SHU website.
*Prison and Juvenile Detention Facility Closings*
The New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) have both announced upcoming facility closures. DOCS reports that it will close Pharsalia and Gabriels correctional camps, the medium security Hudson Correctional Facility and Camp McGregor, the minimum security camp at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility, in January 2009. New York State Office of Children & Family Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión today announced the closing of six underutilized residential facilities as part of an ongoing restructuring to significantly improve services to troubled children. The agency is closing five facilities upstate and the Pyramid Reception Center in The Bronx.
Social Insecurity: How the Social Security Administrations Fugitive Felon Program Harms Disabled, Retired, and Poor Americans Without Aiding Law Enforcement: This new report by the Mental Health Project at the Urban Justice Center documents the problems with the Social Security Administrations implementation of the Fugitive Felon Program, and makes recommendations for what Congress can do to protect vulnerable Americans who are caused undue suffering. Click here to access the report from the Library. Also, click here to find out about the SSAs new program subjecting high risk visitors to enhanced security.
New York State Supreme Court Upholds Due Process for Job-Seekers With Criminal Records: New York State Supreme Court Judge Hon. Marylin G. Diamond partially denies Department of Education's motion to dismiss in a case involving the application for certification of bus drivers/escorts who had criminal convictions where the Judge holds that there could be due process violations for those applying for certification, as well as those who already have certification. Read the decision or visit the folder on occupational barriers in the education field for the original Article 78 Petition and Department of Education regulations.
New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform: Full transcripts of the Sentencing Commission hearings are now available, along with background information and a copy of the Preliminary Report, on the Commissions website.
Remember to visit Past Resources of the Week for highlighted reports, toolkits, and training materials from the past year.
*Upcoming Events & Opportunities*
Community Leadership and Education After Re-Entry: The College and Community Fellowship (CCF) has developed a research project named "Community Leadership and Education After Re-Entry," or CLEAR. The aim of CLEAR is to engage formerly incarcerated scholars in research related to race, class, gender, and mass incarceration. CLEAR is open to CCF students, alumni, and to all formerly incarcerated individuals who have a bachelor's degree and are currently engaged in criminal justice/reentry reform. Seriously interested individuals should download and complete the application, and submit a 500-word essay. Applications will not be considered without the essay. Accepted applicants will receive a small stipend. Due to limited funding, we are only able to accept 10 participants in this program. The deadline for all applications is January 31.
Upcoming Forum on Pre-Booking Jail Diversion: Come join people directly affected, advocates, government officials, academics, and legal providers as they engage in an open discussion about the current state of the criminal justice system and how pre-booking jail diversion can be implemented to best service people with psychiatric disabilities. This Open Forum organized by Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities (RIPPD) is scheduled for June 6, 2008. Visit www.rippd.org to register or contact Lisa Ortega (email@example.com)
New Fees & Fines Listserv: The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law has recently started and exciting new listserv about criminal justice fees and fines and their implications for re-entry. From court-imposed surcharges to restitution obligations to probation supervision fees, "legal financial obligations" are imposed at every stage of the criminal justice process. The new listserv offers a forum to public defenders, civil legal aid attorneys, reentry advocates, and others in which to discuss the growing practice of imposing financial obligations on individuals in the criminal justice system. If you would like to join the listserv, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org at the Brennan Center for Justice.
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