Nov/Dec 2009

State News: August 2009


innovations 2009



New Jersey Program Assesses Parolees at Special Centers

New Jersey: Regional Assessment Centers
When parolees in New Jersey commit a technical violation of the terms of their parole, they’re not automatically sent to a county jail to await a hearing.
Instead, the state’s Division of Parole sends those parolees to a Regional Assessment Center where they’re interviewed by clinical professionals to determine what happened to impact their negative behavior, said Lenny Ward, director of community programs for the New Jersey Parole Board.
The Regional Assessment Center programs is one of eight national winners of The Council of State Governments Innovations Awards.
Since the Division of Parole operates the assessment centers, officers have immediate access to the parole violator and can get immediate assistance that person may need.
“We have a place of our own where officers are present, they can deal with problems of gathering information necessary for the assessment in a faster manner because we have a place for that,” said Capt. Hector Reyes, supervising parole officer.
In addition, Reyes said, many of those technical violators that would previously have been sent to the county jail for assessment were eventually continued on parole. That means they were in the county jail for a number of weeks before continued on parole.
“(Now) they’re in a more intimate, more approachable setting,” Reyes said.
That’s important, Ward said, because the ultimate goal is reintegrating that parolee into society so dealing with the problem helps reach that outcome. Technical parole violators who are sent back to
the prison system don’t get the help they need, he said.
“They’re simply going to be incarcerated and they’re going to be incapacitated but they’re not going to get the benefit of any services under the old scheme,” he said.
That changes with the regional assessment centers. The parolee who violates terms of his probation is taken off the street, but has access to services that might help him resolve the negatives going on in his life, Ward said. During the 15- to 30-day lockdown, center staff assesses the violator to determine whether he should be continued on parole with intensified supervision or treatment, or whether that person should be returned to prison.
“Where before we used to do things to the parolee, now we’re doing it for the parolee as well,” he said. “We’re trying to reintroduce the fact that there is rehabilitation during the same time while you’re incapacitating the parolee. I think that is where we’re going to get the better result.”
New Jersey has operated the assessment centers since July 2008. Ward said an investment was required up front to provide for the contracted facility, but New Jersey has seen a return on that investment of $5 to $6 for every dollar invested. It cost $2.5 million to implement the system, Ward said, but that returned a savings of more than $11 million last year because it’s cheaper to serve prisoners in an assessment center than in a jail.
Ward said support from Gov. Jon Corzine and the state Parole Board was necessary for the regional assessment center to take hold and grow.
And while the monetary savings has been big, Ward said the human outcomes are equally important. Parole officials have seen the success in that through an internal study.
“It makes sense from a humanistic standpoint regarding dealing with the offender,” he said. “It really is the right thing to do.”
—Mary Branham


GreenLITES Considers Sustainability in Transportation Projects

New York: GreenLITES (Green Leadership In Transportation
and Environmental Sustainability)
When the state was planning work on Ski Tow Road in Tupper Lake, N.Y., members of the community wanted to improve the main entrance to their community, but they wanted to keep the turtles in mind, too.
The road is near a causeway and runs between several bodies of water, so there were a lot of turtles crossing the road, said Marti Mozdzier, executive director of the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s an obstacle to your motorists, but it’s also a tragedy when you have your wildlife decimated because they need to get from one side of the highway to another,” said Modzier. That’s important since the road is a gateway to Adirondack Park, the largest state park in the U.S. at 6.l million acres.
So the community asked the state Department of Transportation to keep the turtles in mind when they improved the road. The request fell in line with the department’s goal of environmental sustainability for its projects—all part of GreenLITES, one of eight winners of The Council of State Governments Innovations Awards.
The program, said Stanley Gee, acting commissioner for the New York state Department of Transportation, recognizes efforts to preserve the state’s natural resources. “Having these resources available for future generations improves the quality of life for us and for generations to come,” Gee said.
The department had incorporated sustainable elements into transportation projects for years, but GreenLITES, which started in February 2008, allows the department to rate projects in the state’s efforts to incorporate environmental sustainability and recognize those projects that do just that.
Many states already incorporate environmental sustainability in transportation departments to a degree. GreenLITES—which Gee likens to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Green Building Rating System—is a way to streamline those efforts, he said.
Gee said the self-evaluation process helped his department achieve its environmental objectives. GreenLITES is a project design rating system that identifies more than 150 possible sustainable items in five categories. Stakeholders evaluate a project early in its development for elements of sustainability that can be incorporated into the project. Project teams work with stakeholders to develop the project based on those goals and objectives. The project is scored for its GreenLITES certification level.
“We’re trying to use this as a platform to expand our consciousness, our efforts to improve our environmental record,” said Gee.
The Adirondack Park project involved efforts to enhance the viewshed along the lake. Utilities were moved underground; the highway was widened to a width that balanced the needs of travelers and the park ecosystems; and fencing was installed along the wetlands borders to prevent turtles from entering the road.
“Our environmental resources around us are indeed what the Adirondack Park is all about,” said Mozdzier, “so we are very conscientious about our conservation measures as well as our preservation measures.
“Although a turtle is not necessarily the symbol of our community, it is part of our natural environment,” she said.
And protecting the environment is a primary goal of GreenLITES.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure the transportation projects we deliver in New York state are environmentally sustainable and meet the public’s expectations of our agency … that we do things in a way that provides a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren,” said Gee. “That means protecting the environment and also restoring it or enhancing it.”
—Mary Branham



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