LAWRENCE — Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger has announced the launch of a new program aimed at reducing recidivism — the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend — in partnership with the courts, corrections and community.
Announced on Tuesday, the community-based referral initiative, dubbed the Supporting Transitions and Reentry (STAR) program, will work toward meeting this goal by streamlining access to resources throughout Essex County, ensuring program accountability, and allowing participants the opportunity to successfully navigate the criminal-justice system by returning home as productive community members.
“We’re going to find out what these justice-involved individuals need, what led to them being in the court system, what supports they have that they can build on to become successful in the community,” said Coppinger in a statement. “STAR is for the courts. It’s for the individual. It’s for the betterment of all communities.”
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who helped to secure $850,000 in federal funds to launch STAR, said the importance of this program is that it recognizes human error with humanity.
“While it’s important that we take the most dangerous people off the streets and prevent them from committing crimes in the future, it’s also important we recognize the inherent humanity in all of us, that we all have a piece of us that’s a good person,” said Moulton in a statement. “We don’t need to put people on a path that only leads downhill.
“We need to give people a chance, recognizing that we’re not giving people a free chance. We’re not saying there are no consequences for your actions. We’re saying that we want you to be better. We want you to be a part of our society.”
This new initiative will start inside the jail, with inmates offered a variety of clinical (mental health and substance abuse), vocational and educational programs. These services will continue after a participating inmate’s release, as that person begins to reenter society, the Sheriff’s Department said.
For others, a referral to the STAR program could come from the courts, as an alternative to incarceration. Other referrals will come from probation, parole, the Essex District Attorney’s office, and the law-enforcement community, the Sheriff’s Department said.
STAR provides an evidence-based curriculum by identifying a person’s strengths and weaknesses to help develop a treatment plan. Each person referred to this program will be assigned a case manager, called a STAR Navigator.
The navigator develops an individualized program and works with community partners to provide the tools and services they need. This program helps the individuals to set small attainable goals using a flexible schedule that supports their work, family, and community life.
The Sheriff’s Department envisions that connections to the mental-health, substance-use, educational, and vocational training supports provided through STAR will be critical to successfully integrating offenders into the community.
Assistant Superintendent Jessica Oljey, who oversees the Essex County Sheriff’s Department reentry programs, said STAR will help to provide solutions to the impediments people face when they are preparing to re-enter the community, such as family life, employment responsibilities, food insecurity, and homelessness. This program will help to build resilient individuals by helping them to overcome these challenges, she said.
“It’s an opportunity to get things right,” said Oljey in a statement. “It’s an opportunity to find the safe places and human connections in our communities that might have been the sources of much of their turmoil. It’s embracing that sometimes people need second, third, fourth or sometimes even more chances to be the best versions of themselves.
“Reentry is a scary process, and many people say they don’t know where to start. The STAR staff is going to work with individuals to focus on areas that pose the highest risk of recidivism. We’re going to develop a road map with these men and women with clear lines and a vision for their future.”