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Saving Kids from a Life of Crime: Suffolk County Officials Aim to Break the Cycle of Recidivism

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  13. November 2014

Mount Sinai, NY - November 13, 2014 - On Wednesday, November 12th, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco released the findings of a study to evaluate the mental healthcare in Suffolk County’s jail system. Suffolk County residents will pay almost $50 million this year to house its local inmate population, a cost that could be significantly lowered by rehabilitation, according to Anker and DeMarco.

In an effort to prevent recidivism, Legislator Anker sponsored legislation to examine the current delivery of mental healthcare in Suffolk County jails. Introductory Resolution 1026 directed Suffolk County’s Department of Health, the Sheriff’s Youth Re-entry Task Force and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) to conduct a study of existing behavioral healthcare services and provide recommendations for rehabilitation.

Rehabilitating at-risk residents can reduce the likelihood of a return to prison and associated crimes, decrease financial burden to taxpayers, and create safer communities. The study’s recommendations provide Suffolk County with comprehensive analysis to ensure that the county’s resources are well-directed in preventing incarcerated individuals from returning to jail.

The study found that a total of 838 youth between the ages of 16 and 19 entered the Suffolk County Correctional Facility from March 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013. Of the 838 youth, 191 (23%) were seen by the Jail Mental Health Unit for substance use and mental health services. Of the population seen by the Jail Mental Health Unit, 59% were identified as substance users.

“Suffolk County has a responsibility to improve the quality of life for our residents and reduce the fiscal burden to our taxpayers,” said Legislator Anker. “Recidivism is a revolving door that causes members of our community, especially youth and at-risk veterans, to struggle with substance abuse and commit crimes that send them back into the jail system. Unfortunately Suffolk County taxpayers bear the financial burden of recidivism and it is imperative that we provide effective mental health and substance abuse treatment to reduce the likelihood that these individuals will return to prison.”

"I would like to thank Legislator Anker for her ongoing support for programs and services in the County jail that serve our young people, and ultimately enhance public safety and save the taxpayers money,” said Sheriff DeMarco. “We know that when a 16 year old comes to jail, he or she needs a certain amount of intervention due to mental illness and addiction. Providing those services when they're young is more beneficial and less costly to society in the long term.”

The study concluded with six major recommendations for rehabilitation, including:

  • Creating Forensic Case Management and Community-Based Service Programs specific to the needs of inmates with behavioral and substance use needs returning to the community.
  • Creating transitional discharge service planning/community coordination for inmates with behavioral and substance use needs returning to the community, specific to this age group
  • Increasing collaboration between the Jail Mental Health Unit, Courts, and Probation to expand the use of diversion courts, community programs, and alternative programs specific to those with behavioral health needs.
  • Ensuring inmates retain or obtain health benefits after being incarcerated and maintaining those benefits upon release.
  • Exploring safe and secure housing options for inmates released from incarceration and for individuals with criminal histories.
  • Exploring employment/education options for inmates released from incarceration for individuals with criminal histories.

Pictured Above: Legislator Anker holds the Mental Health Study for Suffolk County’s Jail System, joined by Art Flescher, Director of Community Mental Hygiene Services, and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.

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