Since 2014, with the business, political, and neighborhood/family support, the organization has grown and expanded to include the following programs/services:
Works with men and women housed at the Schenectady County Jail with the objective of impacting the recidivism rate and enhancing public safety throughout the County. To accomplish this, the program operates with a Reintegration & Transition Team consisting of six (6) persons:
- An Intake Coordinator sees and assess every person that is in the facility longer than seven (7) days to get a sense of what led to their arrest and lock-up. The objective is to identify the challenges the person faces that lead to negative system contacts and develop a plan to work on those identified challenges while they are housed at the jail to make them better equipped to manage their lives once released.
- An Inmate Services & Programs Coordinator (1) works with those housed at the facility to be sure that they have the needed access to their families in the event of an emergency, their lawyers, and the courts while awaiting the outcome of their case. The Inmate Services & Programs Coordinator also monitors the programs offered and works with community volunteers to be sure that those housed in the facility have the valuable resources offered to them through classes, trainings. and spiritual instruction and support.
- A Discharge Coordinator meets with every person sentenced, and specifically those whose sentence will keep them at the county jail and will be released back into the Schenectady County Community. The responsibility of the Discharge Coordinator is to ensure that every person leaving the facility has a transition and reintegration plan that will support stabilizing them and reduce the likelihood of recidivism. The Discharge Coordinator’s needs assessment looks at whether the person has: Shelter/housing, community/family support, employment, education/training needs, health insurance, and this is to name just a few. The overall goal is to assist in getting the person stable and connected to the needed services and/or resources he/she requires for a healthy and safe life.
- A Community Transition & Reintegration Coach meets with the men and women once the discharge plan is developed for the purpose of taking a closer look at the needs identified and starting the transition process. The Community Transition Coach is responsible for setting up any appointments (mental, substance use, DSS, employment resources, etc.) that were identified during the discharge planning conversations. The Community Transition Coach also reaches out to the community supports (significant other, parent(s), child(ren), spiritual representative, friend, etc.) mentioned during the discharge planning to strengthen or reconnect those relationships so that the men/women leaving have a solid safety net in place upon their release. Once the person is released from confinement, the Community Transition & Reintegration Coach also does in-person and phone check-ins as a support to be sure that the released individual knows that support is always available.
- There are Tier I and Tier II Counselors who meet with those interested in counseling while they are confined, which is also continued upon and after their release. Tier I Counselors meet with individuals who are dealing with lighter issues such as: difficulty adjusting with the environment, usually those confined for their first time; high stress due to the challenge of maintaining their relationship(s) due to being confined; situational anxiety, etc. Tier II Counselors meet with individuals presenting with deeper issues such as depression, uncontrolled anger, loss of a loved one during confinement or a recent loss that the person is still having a difficult time processing on his/her own, etc. Again, these supports are extended even once the time of confinement has ended, and the person is released back to their family.
Works to reduce the number of shots fired, shooting injuries, and homicides throughout the county of Schenectady over a protracted time. This is done utilizing men and women known as the “Street Team” who were once a part of the street culture and have community relationships and street connections which helps them to be on top of the conflicts brewing in the community and work to resolve those conflicts. They also carry a caseload of eight (8) persons (who we identify as Program Participants) who are at the highest risk of either shooting or being shot, with the goal of getting connected to resources that will get them to redirect their thinking, such as employment, vocational and trade training, education, etc. When they are not able to get ahead of a conflict and there is a shooting, the Street Team goes to the area of the shooting to speak with people of the neighborhood and their contacts with whom they have built a relationship with to understand what is at the root of the conflict so that they can work with those involved to resolve it. When there is an injury, the Street Team also goes to the hospital, which is the seat of emotions at the moment, with the objective of “Containing, De-escalating, and Mediating” the conflict to reduce the likelihood of (and hopefully prevent) retaliation. To do this, the Street Team works with both sides involved to be sure that the conflict can be resolved. There are currently three (3) members of the Street Team, however, with the anticipation of additional funding coming this year, we look to expand the team to cover more areas and provide stronger support to the Program Participants. The success of the work of the Street Team and program as a whole is dependent upon trust, respect and credibility. This is why it is stressed to and respected by stakeholders, including law enforcement/criminal justice entities, that information that is obtained by the Street Team is NEVER shared with law enforcement or the criminal justice system entities. Boundaries are very clear and are respected by all parties.
As a diversion program that uses the harm-reduction model approach, it is a tool in the belt of front-line patrol officers which aims to keep persons who can be better served by being connected to proper support services out of the criminal justice system. When an officer, in their assessment of the situation, concludes that the person they are having the negative contact with has mental health, poverty, homelessness, or poverty, as the precipitating factor for the crime committed, the officer has the discretion to offer the individual access to the L.I.F.E.’s Alternative: L.E.A.D. Program if they meet the qualifying criteria. If the person meets the criteria and is in agreement, then the Program Manager is contacted by the arresting officer who in turn sends the Outreach & Intake Coordinator to meet the officer at the “Transfer Station” (a designated indoor location that provides shelter and safe space) to process the person into the program. The Outreach & Intake Coordinator has the person sign the required contract paperwork and sets up an appointment for the person to meet with the Case Manager for full enrollment into the program. Should the person take all the required steps for enrollment into the program and agree to getting support connecting to programs and services, then the charges that lead to the negative police contact are dismissed. Should the person breach the contract that was agreed upon and signed, the charges move forward, and the person is processed through the system on those original charges. There are three other ways that people access the program without have police contact, which are as follows:
- Social Contact Referrals – This avenue of access is for community partners and stakeholders who may know someone who meets the criteria, and they believe would benefit from engagement with the program. They can fill out the available referral form accessible through a link on our website and once reviewed and approved by the Project Manager, the Outreach & Intake Coordinator will make contact and begin the process as described above. The only difference is that there is no crime involved, therefore there is no law enforcement involvement.
- Community Contact Referral – This avenue of access is for community members/neighbors who may know someone who meets the criteria and they believe would benefit from engagement with the program. They can fill out the available referral form accessible through a link on our website and once reviewed and approved by the Project Manager, the Outreach & Intake Coordinator will make contact and begin the process as described above. The only difference again is that there is no crime involved, therefore there is no law enforcement involvement.
- Self-Referral – This avenue was developed as a result of individuals learning about the program and its level of engagement and commitment with others familiar to them approaching program staff requesting support for themselves. In this instance, the Outreach & Intake Coordinator meets with the person to get the initial paperwork filled out and sets an appointment for the person to meet with a Case Manager who continues the process and gets the person connected to the needed services.
- The Policy Coordinating Group (PCG) – Consisting of the community stakeholder leaders who are in a decision making capacity and can support the process of removing barriers that create more problems than solutions for the population the program serves. This group includes Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office, Schenectady City Police Department, County Manager District Attorney Office, Office Of the Public Defender, County Department Of Health, Department of Social Services, The Galesi Group, The Melozzi Group, Youth L.I.F.E. Support Network, Inc. This group collectively oversees the overall operation of the program and meets on a monthly basis.
- The Operation Work Group (OWG) – Consists of the designees of those sitting on the PCG and are charged with the responsibility of coming together bi-weekly to case review on those enrolled in the program to ensure that the program is meeting their needs and helping them to get stable. The members of this group also make recommendations to the PCG on policy changes that would better serve the population that the program is involved with. The main goal of the Operation Work Group is to support the success of the program’s participants.
- The Community Engagement Coordinator(s) who are responsible for educating the community as a whole (community members, neighborhood associations, faith-based groups, mental health providers, substance use agencies, businesses, chambers of commerce, bodegas, super markets, etc.) about the program with the goal of building up a base and network of support to have in place as resources for the men and women that the program will be working with. This coalition/collaboration group is called the Community Leadership Team and is managed by the Community Engagement Coordinator(s). The Community Leadership Team meets frequently and is updated on the progress and challenges met with respect to persons that the Case Managers are working with to be sure that all known resources are at the table and being engaged.
120 Emmons Street
Schenectady, NY 12305
293-2 Hamilton Street
Albany, NY 12210