In the movement to reform national policies on incarceration, Union County is providing a valuable model for success. The local Reconnections prisoner re-entry program, funded in part by the Freeholder Board, has helped hundreds of formerly incarcerated individuals adjust back to life in the community.
Reconnections provides guidance and resources to help clients navigate housing, job placement, education, health care and other foundational needs.
The program is administered by the Urban League of Union County with support from the Freeholder Board and the United Way of Greater Union County.
“It is often said that individuals who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance, but these are empty words unless we also provide guidance and access to opportunities for them to establish a solid footing as engaged, productive citizens,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “Reconnections is a thriving, effective program that offers those who have been incarcerated the resources to regain control of their lives and avoid a cycle of recidivism. The Freeholder Board is proud to continue its support.”
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 provides services in the areas of employment, education, social services, legal, mentoring and healthcare, drug and mental health treatment.
Clients are referred to the Reconnections program by County or State agencies, or by community organizations. Clients are then guided by a trained case manager to develop a personalized strategy to achieve specific goals, such as education and job training. They are connected with resources to help these goals come to fruition and can attend various workshops on life skills.
Union County’s American Job Centers, located in Plainfield and Elizabeth, are key to the success of the Reconnections program. The American Job Centers are available to all County residents for assistance in connecting with employment and job training opportunities.
The Freeholder Board began providing funding for the Reconnections program in 2015. Since then, the program has assisted more than 300 individuals. In that three year period, only 2 percent have returned to prison.
Without a comprehensive re-entry program, re-incarceration rates can be exponentially higher. According to a recent report by New Jersey correctional agencies, 31.3 percent of inmates released from New Jersey facilities were re-incarcerated within three years.
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 supports the goals of Chairman Granados’s Moving Union County Forward initiatives, including the expansion of prisoner re-entry programs as well as partnering with the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in NJ and partnering with school districts and local law enforcement agencies on public safety programs.
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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