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Legislator drills down into prisoner releases; Is Sullivan a homeless destination?

The address listed for many state prisoners who are released and have no home to go to is 10 Community Lane in Liberty, NY, the Sullivan County Human Services Complex.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
March 13, 2013

There are state regulations regarding where state prisoners go when they are released from prison and have no home to go to. If the prisoner is prosecuted in Sullivan County and is homeless upon release, then the prisoner enters the county’s Department of Community Services system.

But Legislator Cindy Gieger, working on the issue for over a year along with colleagues such as legislator Cora Edwards, discovered that the county was getting more than its share of homeless prisoners, many of whom have serious mental health issues.

In an interview at the government center on March 7, Gieger said she discovered that the Liberty Police Department gets a list of homeless people who have been released from prisons into Sullivan County from the New York State Division of Parole, so that the police can be aware of who is coming into the county.

In going over the list from 2011, she noticed that the homeless releases were coming from prisons all over the state, even though they had varying previous addresses such as Rochester, Bronx, New Jersey and Ohio. The discharge documents also listed the future address for many of the prisoners as 10 Community Lane in Liberty, which is part of the human services complex.

Enlisting the aid of county attorney Sam Yasgur, she discovered that a recommendation from the state commissioner of parole could also determine the location of release for homeless prisoners. Gieger said that in 2011, 90 prisoners were released into the county and only 16 had been prosecuted in Sullivan County; the reason the prisoners were released in the county is presumably because of a recommendation by the state.

Gieger said, “I don’t think Sullivan County was uniquely being identified as a location to release these prisoners to, but my feeling is that other counties were pushing back, and I felt that we needed to set up a meeting with the commissioner of parole and inform him that we are not equipped to take more than 70 releases in a year, because we don’t have the housing. We’re struggling currently with our homeless housing situation; we put them up in hotels at a tremendous cost. We don’t have public transportation so even if you wanted to transition people into the job market, how are they going to get around?”

Earlier in the day, Yasgur said the New York State Division of Parole had agreed to an interview.

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