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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

City and state create road map to address prisoner re-entry

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Officials from the state judicial branch, Department of Correction and the city emerged from a 2½-hour closed-door meeting Tuesday with what they said is a “road map” to address prisoner re-entry in New Haven.
“New Haven is the second-largest claimed (as) home in our system,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz, saying the DOC and New Haven have “mutual goals” concerning re-entry of prisoners.
“Anything I can do to partner with the city is a shared goal, because we know re-entry enhances public safety,” she said.
The group is expected to meet again in four weeks, breaking into committees to review re-entry needs of offenders released from state prisons and the New Haven Correctional Center on Whalley Avenue, collaboration between parole and police, and the use of city homeless shelters to house recently released offenders. “We agreed to a road map to work together on a shared set of goals,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “To suggest we solved every question, we didn’t.”
Lantz said the group did not address claims made by DeStefano that the state “dumps” prisoners from New Haven and elsewhere outside the Whalley Avenue jail and outside city shelters.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell has aggressively denied the state “dumps” prisoners. However, correction officials also have acknowledged that they take released inmates with no ride home to jails in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford or Montville, and if the inmates have nowhere else to sleep, officials say they are brought to a shelter for the homeless.
DeStefano has said the alleged prison dumping contributes to the city’s growing homeless population and crime.
While Rel last week suggested moving the drop-off location to the police station on Union Avenue, she did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, and Lantz said neither that suggestion nor alleged prisoner dumping was discussed Tuesday. “We talked more about strategy, more about what can we do, how we can collaborate,” she said.
DeStefano said the drop-off location would be discussed by workgroups formed as a result of Tuesday’s meeting.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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