Public Info

Freeholder Board Supports “Reconnections” Prisoner Re-Entry Program

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce it is providing funds to continue the Reconnections Program, a prisoner re-entry initiative that helps formerly incarcerated individuals adjust back to life in the community. The program is administered by the Urban League of Union County with funding from the Freeholder Board and the United Way of Greater Union County.

“The whole community is strengthened when people who have paid their debt to society can access resources that help them regain their footing and avoid a cycle of repeated confinement,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “Reconnections is a valuable program and the Freeholder Board is proud to continue supporting it.”

Developed through a partnership between Urban League of Union County, United Way of Greater Union County and the Union County Department of Human Services, Reconnections offers services in the areas of employment, education, social services, legal, mentoring and healthcare, drug and mental health treatment.

“Reconnections has established a firm track record of making a difference in the lives its clients,” said Bergen. “The program includes a peer mentoring element that offers a wealth of real-life experience relating to opportunities and challenges here in Union County.”

Union County’s existing American Job Centers (formerly called the One-Stop Career Centers) play a key role in the Reconnections program. Located in Plainfield and Elizabeth, the American Job Centers are available to all County residents for assistance in connecting with employment and job training opportunities.

Clients are referred to the Reconnections program by County or State agencies, or by community organizations. With the guidance of a trained case manager, each client develops a personalized plan for connecting with resources that help them achieve specific goals including education and job training. They also attend workshops on employment readiness, life skills and related topics.

In 2015 and 2016 Reconnections enrolled 274 clients and 266 clients, respectively. In both years only 2 percent of the clients returned to prison.

Typical re-incarceration rates can be much higher. Last year New Jersey correctional agencies issued a report finding that 31.3 of inmates released from New Jersey facilities in 2011 were re-incarcerated within three years.

The Freeholder Board approved $50,000 in funding for Reconnections during its regular public meeting on July 20. The County funds will close a gap caused by the elimination of state support and enable the program to continue until December 31, 2017.

In addition to the Freeholder Board, United Way and Urban League, other affiliates of the Reconnection program include the New Jersey State Parole Board, Union County Vicinage of Probation, Federal Probation, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Neighborhood Health Services and Legal Services of Central Jersey, Union County Re-entry Task Force, and community and faith-based organizations. 

Reconnections staff is located in the Union County American Job Centers in Elizabeth and Plainfield.

For more information about Reconnections or to find out more about employment services in Union County contact the Elizabeth Center at 908-558-8000 (ext. 3272) or the Plainfield Center at 908-757-9090 (ext. 7311).

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