New York State Bar Association President Seymour W. James Jr. has created a special committee to examine problems that formerly incarcerated individuals face upon release from prison or jail and the kind of services needed to help them lead productive lives.
"Thousands of people are released from New York prisons and jails each year. Many have difficulty obtaining jobs, housing and basic services," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "Support is needed to address family relationships, employment opportunities, and health and other issues so that they can succeed after they have completed their sentences."
He noted that, after serving their sentences, many individuals are ill-prepared to confront the challenges they face upon return to society. Some enter prison or jail with mental health issues, drug problems, low education levels and meager job skills. Incarceration often exacerbates those problems, making it all the more difficult for them to successfully re-enter society.
According to the nonprofit Council of State Governments Justice Center in New York City, about 95 percent of inmates nationwide serving state prison time eventually are released from custody. In 2011, more than 688,300 state inmates left prison. Currently more than 4.8 million adults in the U.S. are on probation, parole or other post-prison supervision.
The State Bar's special committee on re-entry will study steps to assist incarcerated individuals with the transition back to their communities. It will examine educational opportunities, job training and other initiatives, as well as look into the impact of incarceration on individuals and their ability to support their families.
The committee is co-chaired by Sheila A. Gaddis of Rochester (Hiscock & Barclay) and Ronald J. Tabak of New York City (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom). The vice chair is Richard Raysman of New York City (Holland & Knight).
The committee expects to issue a report early next year.
The New York State Bar Association, with 76,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.