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Applaud Legislator Gieger on prisoner releases

March 27, 2013

I am grateful to Cindy Gieger for pursuing the issue of homeless New York State parolees being released to Sullivan County when they are from other parts of the state. I have been employed in human services in the county. Here are some of the services that would be probably be required for each of these parolees: intensive case management, a psychiatrist, mental health and (possibly) substance abuse counselors, housing, a primary care physician, and other health care specialists as needed, Department of Social Services, and Workforce Development, Medicaid transportation to appointments.

Not all parolees would need every one of these services, but remember, they have no family here, no connections, no one who might give them work, or transportation. If this person has spent many years in prison, they will lack the necessary skills to live as a self-supporting member of the community. Who would be willing to hire them? There is a strong likelihood they will be arrested for some minor offense, and go to court in Sullivan County, and be our responsibility from then on.

The incidence of persistent mental illness and substance abuse is high in prisons. Some say (as I would) this is because we as a society prefer to jail people instead of providing the treatment needed. Fritz Mayer’s excellent article includes discussion about the closing of inpatient mental health facilities 20 years ago on the premise that mental health treatment could be provided in the community. Every community in America struggles with this problem, because it’s not simple or inexpensive. Our resources are strained. As a taxpayer, I’m glad Ms. Gieger and colleagues are working on my behalf.

Susan Sullivan
Narrowsburg, NY