Re-Entry Program to Help Ex-Offenders Transition Into Community

Lauren Wanko

Ex-offender Shaheed Curry spent three and half years in state prison for selling drugs. He served his full sentence, so he was released without supervised parole. The 31-year-old insists that put him on the short track back to federal prison. It’s something retired Asbury Park Police Lt George Corbin says he’s seen often throughout his 25 year career.

“The ones who are just tossed out, dumped into the community that created their criminal activity, they are more likely to go back to prison,” said Corbin.

A report from The Pew Charitable Trusts indicates in 2012, nation wide, the number of prisoners, who maxed out, meaning they completed their full sentence and were released without supervision was more than one in five or 22 percent of all releases. In New Jersey 41 percent of prisoners maxed out in 2012, which is the ninth highest rate in the nation.

“The prevailing philosophy used to be that ew should just kick inmates out the back door. What we are finding out from research is that if we are serious about public safety, we have got to get more affective strategies,” said Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project Director Adam Gelb.

A November 2013 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts on the impact of parole in New Jersey indicates supervised parolees perform better than those who max-out. Parolees are 36 percent less likely to return to prison for new crimes within three years of release. Curry was released from federal prison early– with three years supervised released. It was during that time he met business owner Arnold Faulhaber who decided to hire Curry.

“Everyone needs a chance in life, and I saw in his eyes he was a family man and that he wanted to do the right thing,” said Faulhaber.

“Now I’m making myself a career of building fences. I’m good at it and I love it so that’s basically what made me change,” said Curry.

But these community leaders insists supervised parole is only part of the solution. Faulhaber recently launched a prison re-entry program to assist ex-offenders transitioning back into the community. He’s joined forces with the Asbury Park Community Action Network– a grassroots organization comprised of faith-based, business, and community leaders determined to stop the vicious cycle of violence in their Jersey Shore town. The team created committees to address health issues, job-hunting, public safety and more.

The Community Action Network and the Re-entry program are working together to create a Monmouth County resource guide for released ex-offenders. A big part of the program is employment and convincing business owners to take a chance on the previously incarcerated.

“Crime starts 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. With this 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyone is safe, everyone goes home, the next day you’re still living your life,” said Curry.

Meanwhile the Asbury Park Community Action Network plans to launch a community forum against violence in July.