They hope to help when a sentence ends

HUDSON–Provisions, care coordination, human relations and in-jail training received attention at the September 12 meeting of the Re-Entry Task Force of Columbia, which helps people adjust to life after prison.

Laurie Scott, executive director of Re-Entry Columbia, called for donations of winter clothes and bicycles, because some clients leave prison with no possessions and no transportation. In addition, Re-Entry gives its clients bags of toiletries and grooming necessities.

John Lyons, supervisor of Adult Care Coordination for the county Department of Human Services, noted the possibility of “care coordination for people coming out of jail.” With care coordination, an individual’s needs are determined, and then healthcare and service providers work together to get the person the needed care and services, and work with the person to set up a care plan. “We’re able to stay working with people until their need goes away,” Mr. Lyons said.

For some individuals with substance abuse issues, Greener Pathways, a program of Twin County Recovery Services, helps determine which services they need, provides a mobile clinic, and takes people to meetings and treatments. Assistant Director Carl Quinn indicated it could help many people leaving prison and can begin evaluating their needs while they are still in jail.

“I really appreciate what you guys have stepped up and done,” Carolyn Polikarpus, case manager for Re-Entry Columbia, told Mr. Quinn.

Candace Ellis of the Katal Center suggested that the probation officers she works with, in diverting low-level offenders from arrest to case management, could also “get involved in the re-entry process.” Her program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), takes into account circumstances related to a person’s offense, such as poverty, substance-abuse and mental health issues.

Claudia Abbott-Barish, restorative justice coordinator for the Mediation Center of Dutchess County, spoke of the importance of human relationships in optimizing the transition from prison to liberty. Ms. Abbott-Barish suggested beginning preparation for post-prison relationships while people are still incarcerated so that they “come out of prison with an action plan.”

In addition, “we’re working on their getting certification for more types of jobs while in jail,” said Ms. Scott. “It’s not just about getting a job.”

Some attendees raised the case of two groups for which many re-entry options do not apply, at least now: youths, who are beyond Re-Entry Columbia’s current scope; and sex-offenders, who are barred from many housing and other programs.

Betsy Rothstein, a coordinator for a re-entry program with branches in Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Harlem, said, “I’m inspired by the work of Re-Entry Columbia. I try to bring people from Dutchess County up here, because what you do is so inspiring.” She added she hopes to establish something similar to Re-Entry Columbia for Dutchess County.

“It’s nice to see Re-Entry Columbia grow,” said Claire Parde, executive director of the Health Care Consortium.

The next entry of the Re-Entry Task Force of Columbia County will take place Wednesday, November 14, at 10:00 am, at 325 Columbia Street in Hudson.

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