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Gov. Hochul's "Jails to Jobs" Initiative Receives Praise From Syracuse Reintegration Agency

File Photo
Officials cut the ribbon to Freedom Commons on Burt St.

Advocates at a Syracuse agency that helps formerly incarcerated people re-integrate into society are heartened to see Governor Hochul’s state of the state proposals to improve their chances of success. The Center for Community Alternatives has promoted support services over punishment for decades. Director of Advocacy and Organizing Katie Schaffer says Hochul’s “Jails to Jobs” initiative is a different approach.

"The focus on investing in individuals, in community supports and services, and addressing barriers to re-entry is new."

For example, Hochul pushed for passage of the Clean Slate Act, which would seal certain felony and misdemeanor conviction records seven and three years respectively after a sentence is completed. The measure was narrowly defeated last year. Schaffer says such records have been used as barriers to housing and employment.

"We see landlords throw away people's housing applications; we see employers throw away people's job applications. We run a re-entry clinic in Syracuse that supports people trying to access jobs and housing who have old conviction records, and we see this every day in Syracuse and around the state."

She says Clean Slate would also apply to those who were arrested and took a plea deal, but served no jail or prison time. Schaffer says Hochul also wants to end a 30-year ban on the Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, for incarcerated people.

"That has really decimated college in prison programs, despite the fact that the research that is very clear that access to colleges makes people much more successful in reintegrating."

Other parts of Hochul’s plan include refocusing parole officers on career planning and job placement, and post-incarceration supportive housing.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at