The City Council passed a bill on Dec. 19 that aims to examine the issues that older adults face after they are released from prison.
The Compassion and Assistance for Reentering Elders Act (CARE Act) was introduced by Councilman Daniel Dromm in May 2017 and sponsored by other Queens Council members, including Costa Constantinides, Elizabeth Crowley, Paul Vallone and Karen Koslowitz.
The CARE Act will establish a 12-member inter-agency task force to address what services should be provided to adults 50 and older who are re-entering society after incarceration. The task force will also work to create a proposal outlining how the city and state can reduce incarceration rates for this population.
Eight members of the task force will be appointed by the mayor and will include members of relevant city agencies, social service providers, advocacy groups and at least three members will be formerly incarcerated adults.
Four members of the task force will be appointed by the City Council Speaker and will include city agency representatives, social service providers, advocacy groups and academics with expertise in this subject.
The state will also be able to appoint a representative to the task force.
The report should address the root cause of incarceration for older adults and how to decrease the number of adult in state prisons and local jails. It should also include an analysis for re-entry services including the population’s health needs, the costs and benefits of re-entry services, the types of re-entry services available including affordable and supportive housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment and employment assistance.
There are more than 10,000 people who are 50 and older in New York state prisons who have little support from the city and state once they are released, according to a report by the Release Aging People in Prison campaign. In 2016, 58 percent of older people 50 and older released from a New York state prison were homeless and nearly 1,200 went to a homeless shelter after they were released.
Dromm said the passage of the CARE Act meant “justice” for older adults leaving the prison system.
“An increasing number of older adults are facing a destitute future,” Dromm said. “These individuals, many of whom have spent significant periods away from the rest of society, must deal with a myriad of issues associated with aging simultaneously and the challenges of re-entry. Throughout the city, families and communities must also deal with the increasing number of older adults who are coming from prisons and jails. We have a moral obligation to provide re-entering elders with the services they need to rejoin society.”
The task force must meet at least four times per year and must release an initial report no later than 12 months after the last person is appointed to the force. After the initial report, the board must continue to meet at least four times per year and make additional recommendations.
According to the bill, the task force will be dissolved four years after it releases its initial report.