Transitioning from prison to home and the community can be a happy and joyful occasion. It can also be stressful, and cause feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. The challenges of reentry into the family are minimized with careful preparation, gathering of information, and strong communication with your family member.
Research shows that persons who transition back into an informed and supportive family are less likely to reoffend and return to prison. There are several state and national organizations in the Department's
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) wants to partner with you in making this transition as smooth and successful as possible. To that end, we have developed a checklist of items for you to review before your family member returns home and the Handbook for the Families and Friends of New York State DOCCS Incarcerated Individuals with resources that may assist you in this transition.
DOCCS wishes you and your loved ones success in reunification.
Even during the best of times -- on visits and during telephone calls -- communication may have been strained. You may have avoided discussing feelings because it was too painful or difficult. Or communication through letters and phone calls may have been restricted to urgent matters. Your family member may have avoided letting the family know about life in prison to prevent you from worrying.
Expectations & Adjustment
You and your family member will each likely have your own expectations of what will happen once you reunite. You both may have high hopes that things will fall into place, like finding work and living arrangements, and for any healing relationships that were left behind. Life as you knew it is going to be different. Consider counseling prior to and after your family member's release.
Adapting takes time. It may take a while to learn what it has really been like for each of you. Consider that your loved one has led a very protected and structured existence within the confines of prison life and may have emotional experiences they find difficult to talk about.
They may have difficulty adjusting to the responsibilities of everyday life on the outside, or feel totally disoriented and out of touch with life in the community. They may have become unfamiliar with the price of things today, or have difficulty getting around using public transportation. They may also have children who have grown up in their absence and the time apart might have caused them to feel distance from them.
Additionally, your loved one may require time to let go of habits acquired while in prison, such as being up for the facility count.
Be patient with one another. It may help to remember that starting over can mean a fresh start.
On April 1, 2011, the Department of Correctional Services and the New York State Division of Parole merged to form the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).
If your family member is required to be under community supervision, generally referred to as parole, it is highly recommended that you establish a positive relationship with the assigned Parole Officer. Parole Officers are responsible for protecting the community while assisting your family member's successful return home.
Your cooperation can contribute to the successful reentry of your family member. Following are a few things to consider.
- If your family member under community supervision, what is their first report time? Report first report time occurs usually within 24 hours of release.
- DOCCS has the authority to visit your residence 24 hours a day to provide supervision to your family member. This may include searches of certain areas in your home and/or random drug testing of your family member.
- Has a Parole Officer been to your house for verification of residence?
- What are some of the conditions of community supervision that are required of your family member?
- Is any other member of your household under community supervision? If so, this will require special approval.
- Does your family member have a curfew?]
- Is your family member eligible for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities or a Certificate of Good Conduct? These certificates may remove any mandatory legal bar or disability imposed as a result of conviction of the crime or crimes specified in the certificate. Such certificates are granted through the Community Supervision office.
Family & Friends
Have you discussed the news of your loved one's return to the household with family members?
Are all the children involved aware of your loved one's return? Are they resentful or supportive? It is important that children be included in the process and have special time granted for them.
Does your family require access to support services due to issues involving domestic or family violence? You can reach the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906.
You may have some anxiety about how things will work out when your family member begins to reenter the community. There will be a period of adjustment your loved one experiences, and they may have a natural occurrence to want to reunite with friends to catch up with everyone after being away for so long.
Please be patient so that you may be able to assist in this transition as much as possible.
- Does your family member have housing?
- Is there sufficient space for your loved one to live with you?
- Are you required to add your family member to your lease?
- Is there an active Order of Protection by any member of your household against your loved one returning home? If you reside in public housing and the present offense of your family member occurred there, your loved one may be prohibited from residing at that residence. This policy varies from county to county. Verify with your local housing authority for the regulations governing your area.
- Is your family member entitled to benefits, such as veterans, Social Security, pension, Medicaid?
- Are they responsible for an active child support order?
- Is your family member responsible for restitution for the offense they committed?
- With your family member's return to the household, are you and/or your family eligible for benefits, such as food stamps, Aid to Needy Families, etc.? The return of your family member back to the household will have an impact on the finances of the household. Expect increases in the cost of food, transportation, clothing, medical, and incidentals.
Sometimes employers are not willing to hire someone who has been incarcerated. Be patient and have confidence that your family member will find work. They can use your encouragement at this time.
Do they have a resume? If not, perhaps you can help them prepare a resume if they have prior work history.
Does your family member have the necessary documents, including Social Security card, driver's license, birth certificate, and Veterans DD-214?
Does your family member have any of the following:
- Immigration issues?
- Outstanding warrants?
- Outstanding motor vehicle tickets/fines?
- Requirement to register as a sex offender?
DOCCS recommends that these issues be addressed with the assigned Parole Officer to determine the proper course of action.
People about to be released from prison may benefit from being up from the correctional facility by a loved one, especially if they have served a lengthy prison term.
If they don't have transportation, a bus ticket will be provided to the county where they were convicted. In other words, if the conviction occurred in Nassau County, they will receive a bus ticket to Nassau County. Exceptions to this policy must be arranged in advance. The Department will provide transportation to the nearest bus station in that county.
Your family member will not be released in institutional clothing. You or other family members or friends may send or bring in during a visit proper clothing for your loved one to wear when released. You should contact the facility for specific details. Clothing should arrive 2–3 weeks before the release date, which will allow your family member to be fitted and returns made, if necessary. If clothing is not provided by family members, it will be provided by DOCCS.
- Does your family member have a medical condition?
- Does your family member require a prescription? Individuals who require medications for existing medical conditions are released from correctional facilities to their home communities with:
- a 14-day supply of medications;
- a prescription for an additional 30-day supply of medication; and
- health supplies to facilitate continued care until contact is made with a doctor in the community.
- a Comprehensive Medical Summary that provides necessary information for the doctor in the community. For individuals with extensive medical needs, such as dialysis, the Department will establish the necessary appointments for the continuation of medical treatment.
- Does your family member have medical/dental coverage?
- Do you know your family member's HIV/TB status?
Persons currently under the care of the Office of Mental Health (OMH) and on medication will be released with a 14-day supply of medication and a prescription for an additional 14-day supply of medication. OMH will prepare a Comprehensive Discharge Summary (OMH 340 MED) for referral to community mental health providers. If your family member does not arrive with medication, contact the assigned Parole Officer.
Money & Identification
Your family member will be released with the minimum amount of $40. No one is released from a correctional facility without money. They are also released from DOCCS with a picture identification card.
They receive all of the items in their personal property envelope. If they applied for or provided the Department with a copy of their birth certificate and Social Security card, they will receive them upon release.