A Newark, N.J., nonprofit offering housing and computer skills training to homeless people recently began a pilot program for 50 female prisoners, reported the Newark Star-Ledger. Using donated computers, Urban Renewal Corp. offers course in beginning, intermediate, and advanced computer literacy as well as repairing electronics or breaking them down for salvage. The female inmates accessing training are transported to URC’s site in Kearny for training. URC’s president says she expects the training program to expand in partnership with Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s intent to provide training to 1,000 to 5,000 released prisoners annually over the next five years.
Nueces County, Texas, has begun training law enforcement officers for a program to divert mentally ill people from jail, reported the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The officers will be taught to identify the signs of mental illness and mental health treatment alternatives to incarceration. Under the program, mentally ill prisoners who are taken to a hospital triage unit for examination will be referred to Nueces County Mental Health Mental Retardation. The organization will train three new caseworkers to exclusively serve these referrals, helping them access resources within the agency and from other groups. According to MHMR’s executive director, many mentally ill people are homeless. Released to the streets, they are more likely to trespass and commit other misdemeanors that can lead to arrest. By preventing repeated arrests of mentally ill people for minor crimes, the diversion program could help reduce the costs of caring for mentally ill inmates, said the program coordinator.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter wants to invest $8 million next year in programs to reduce the 50 percent recidivism rate among prison inmates in the state, reported the Rocky Mountain News. The programs, which would focus mostly on mental health and substance abuse treatment, would save the state $14 million over the long term, Ritter estimates. According to budget figures, the state saves $125,000 in prison construction costs and $27,840 a year in prison operating costs for every ex-inmate who stays out of jail. One mentally ill man “stuck in a revolving door or probation, prison, parole, and halfway houses” since 1995 had been arrested 23 times, nine of which were for misdemeanors “common to the homeless,” the article said. About eight out of every 10 prisoners in the state are substance abusers, and nearly two of 10 are mentally ill, corrections officials say.
Under a new policy, Suffolk County, N.Y., is providing trailers rather than motel rooms to homeless sex offenders seeking permanent housing, reported Newsday. The county-owned trailers will be moved periodically to better monitor the registered offenders “and keep them out of residential areas,” the article said. According to the president of the New York State Alliance of Sex Offender Service Providers, placing offenders in movable trailers could make it harder for them to hold jobs, potentially increasing their chances of re-offending or going underground. “Finding housing resources for sex offenders in nonresidential areas is very difficult, so the trailer allows us to create housing in a nonresidential area,” said the commissioner of the Department of Social Services. Each morning, offenders will be bused to a Department of Social Services office to look for permanent housing, she said.