the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Transition Back to Life in Harlem

Summary: 
The Harlem Parole Reentry Court creates a plan for formerly incarcerated individuals to access social services, receive vocational training, and make the transition from life in prison to responsible citizenship. Graduates of the program are 19% less likely than their peers to be re-convicted, and the organization works with the criminal justice system to help parolees return to the Harlem community.

As the keynote speaker, I had the honor and privilege of representing the White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the Harlem Parole Reentry Graduation last week. The graduation event celebrated the accomplishment of formerly incarcerated individuals as they successfully transitioned back to their neighborhoods after receiving community-based services and intensive monitoring from the program.

Thirty-eight formerly incarcerated individuals shared the proud moment together as they took the first steps to rise above becoming a statistic. As the Parole Reentry Court’s website explains, graduates of the program are less likely to be re-convicted than formerly incarcerated individuals on standard parole—a rate of 19 percent lower, to be exact.

The event brought many community leaders together in celebration of the success of both the program and its participants, as a local choir group sang the praise of the occasion.  Partners of the program and event included:

  • The Hon. Terry Saunders, Chief Administrative Law Judge from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
  • The New York State Division of Parole/Parole Board
  • Elemendorf Reformed Church
  • Interfaith Center of New York
  • The Center for Employment Opportunities
  • Palladia, Inc.

Specifically, the program provides:

  • Pre-release assessments to ensure eligibility and customize a treatment and supervision plan
  • A system of rewards and consequences for compliance/non-compliance with the plan
  • Outreach to programs addressing participant-specific needs
  • Meetings with family members of participants to maximize family support
  • Vocational and treatment services
  • Post-program contact

The program is one example of many that are made possible with the Department of Justice's support with Second Chance Act grants.  Learn more about these grants here.

Eugene Schneeberg is the Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Justice.