It’s a trend that Peaceprints of Western New York wants to curb: some 80 percent of the inmates released from Erie County Holding Center each year end up back in police custody.
The group has worked with thousands in the community since 1977, trying to help former inmates re-enter society and rebuild their lives.
Peaceprints is now the first organization in Buffalo and Erie County to receive Federal Second Chance Act funds. The group has secured $1 million to launch Project Blue, in conjunction with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the Jail Management Division, an effort to lower the number of individuals that are repeat offenders.
Project Blue is designed "specifically to work with individuals that are recently released from incarceration from or through the jail management division and provide them with comprehensive services, so connections within the community upon release, with the idea that we will break that cycle of recidivism and one's path way or point of entry through the state system," said Cindi McEachon, executive director for Peaceprints of WNY.
Project Blue will begin to work with individuals inside the holding center, so by the time they are released, resources are already lined up to meet their specific needs.
"With the resources, we've been able to assign a deputy to specifically function as a community re-entry reintegration officer and begin assessing individuals needs while they're in custody to get a sense of what would incentivize them to participate in a re-entry program and what specific services they would need upon release from the facility," said Thomas Diina, the Erie County Sheriff's Office Jail Management Division Superintendent.
That deputy will be working hand-in-hand with Peaceprints to connect them with resources.
"Internally we'll be providing mentoring services, intensive case management services and supportive level housing for a small group of individuals,” McEachon said. “Additionally we will be partnering with specific organizations in the community to connect for some of the resources that we know are lacking. We don't want to reinvent the wheel, we know what we’re good at and we'll continue to focus on those areas and then obviously collaborate and partner with entities in the community.”
By doing this, both Peaceprints and the Erie County Sheriff's Office hope to see a decrease in the number of repeat offenders with the re-entry connections provided to the individual.
"I think we have a real opportunity to intercept these individuals before they re-offend to the level where they'd become state incarcerated," said Diina.