NYS Seal


Oral Testimony by Invitation Only


Formerly incarcerated individuals' barriers to employment opportunities and affordable housing.


To evaluate the adequacy of existing resources and programs designed to prepare incarcerated individuals to return home and the availability of such programs for people released from incarceration.

New York City, NY
July 19, 2007
2:00 P.M.
New York County Lawyers Association
14 Vesey Street

There are currently more than 63,000 people in state prison in New York and an additional 30,000 in local correctional facilities. Each year, more than 26,000 people are released from New York State prisons and an additional 100,000 are released from local facilities throughout the course of the year.

Persons returning from incarceration face many obstacles, including insufficient work opportunities, employment discrimination, and the inability to find suitable housing. Unfortunately, many inmates do not receive adequate programming while incarcerated to properly prepare for a return to the community. Additionally, there is a lack of continuity between prison and community programs that causes a gap in services for many people returning to the community from incarceration.

Prison-based programming and discharge planning should be expanded to incorporate community-based programs to ensure better continuity of services and stability upon release. In some cases, parole makes connections with community-based programming for services but this is often not well coordinated. Years ago, community-based organizations actually performed programming (drug treatment, education, etc.) in the prison. Today, all programs, with very few exceptions, are run by Department of Correctional Services employees, thus there is less continuity of service upon release.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 30% of people released from prison are rearrested in the first six months following release, 44% in the first year, and 67.5% in the first three years. Indeed the rate of recidivism is high, and can partly be explained by inappropriate planning at the end of an inmates jail or prison term as well as a lack of employment opportunities and affordable housing upon release. Employment and housing are perhaps the two biggest obstacles for successful reentry and cause many inmates to seek public assistance or shelters from the moment they are released from jail or prison. The Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment reports that up to 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed, as are 89% of those who violate parole or probation. Yet, if an individual has a job at the start and end of a supervised release from jail or prison, federal court statistics show that the success rate is 85%.

The housing situation for formerly incarcerated individuals is just as grim. Private property owners typically inquire into the background of individuals and often deny housing to anyone with a criminal background. Prior to 1988, public housing was at least a viable solution to this problem. Ex-offenders were placed on a list like all other public housing applicants and considered based on a number of factors, including age, marital and parental status. However, Congress removed that safety net through an amendment to the public housing statute, adopting a one-strike eviction policy for tenants in federal public housing who engage in certain types of criminal behavior. In a housing market that continues to swell with astronomical rents, it has become virtually impossible for formerly incarcerated individuals to find stable and suitable housing.

The success of people returning from jail or prison benefits the entire community, while their failure only perpetuates a cycle of crime and incarceration. In addition to the cost savings realized by the criminal justice system due to reduced recidivism, there are also considerable savings to potential victims and society. This hearing will examine the adequacy of existing programs and the need for increased services and resources, as well as the need for legislation to reduce the legal and social barriers that impair the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals.

Below is a list of subjects to which invited witnesses may direct their testimony. Those invited to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes. In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible. In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Keith L.T. Wright
Member of Assembly
Committee on Social Services

Jeffrion L. Aubry
Member of Assembly
Committee on Correction

Vito J. Lopez
Member of Assembly
Committee on Housing


  1. What education courses, programs and services are provided to prisoners in New York's jails and prisons to properly prepare them to return to the community? Are the education courses, programs and services available in New York State prisons and jails sufficient to meet the needs of inmates released from incarceration?

  2. What are the pre-release procedures used by the Department of Correctional Services and the Division of Parole to help ensure successful community integration of persons released from prison? What steps are taken if any, to ensure that there is a continuity of care between prison and community treatment programs?

  3. What reentry programs and resources are currently available in the community for persons released from jail and prison? Are these services adequate to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of persons released from jail and prison in New York each year? What additional services and resources are necessary?

  4. What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals to finding gainful employment and/or licensure? What specific legislation is needed to reduce these barriers and increase the ability of formerly incarcerated individuals to find gainful employment and/or to obtain employment licenses?

  5. What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals in obtaining public benefits, housing and medical assistance? What specific legislation is needed to improve the process and assist formerly incarcerated individuals in applying for and obtaining public benefits?

  6. What are the obstacles faced by formerly incarcerated individuals to finding affordable, suitable and stable housing? What can be done to improve the housing prospects for this population?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on formerly incarcerated individuals' barriers to employment opportunities and affordable housing are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Elaine Fernandez
Legislative Analyst
Assembly Committee on Social Services
Room 522 - Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: fernane@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4371
Fax: (518) 455-4693

box I plan to attend the following public hearing on formerly incarcerated individuals' barriers to employment opportunities and affordable housing to be conducted by the Assembly Committees on Social Services, Correction, and Housing on July 19, 2007.

box I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.


I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

box I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports.

box I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list.


I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information. Please specify the type of assistance required:








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