- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Cuomo administration announced plans Monday to implement 12 measures meant to help prison inmates return to communities by lowering barriers to housing, health care and hiring.

The measures were recommended by advocates and experts on prison re-entry on a council established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year.

“When people are released from incarceration or have a criminal record, they are burdened with obstacles that greatly hurt their chances at working, living with their families, and staying healthy,” said Alphonso David, counsel to the governor. The council has been working with state agencies to identify and reduce barriers “consistent with public safety,” he said.

New York on average releases more than 25,000 prison inmates annually. State officials say it costs about $60,000 a year to keep someone imprisoned.

For subsidized housing, new guidance will prohibit rejecting applicants based solely on a criminal conviction, requiring that operators consider each applicant’s case, seriousness of their offense, time elapsed since and evidence of rehabilitation, according to the governor’s office. That will apply to state-funded public housing, federal Section 8 rental assistance administered by state agencies, and affordable housing financed by the state’s Housing Finance Agency.

New guidance for state hiring says applicants won’t have to disclose past convictions unless they’ve been interviewed and the agency is interested in hiring them.

Expanded Medicaid enrollment efforts will continue. There will be added housing and treatment capacity for mentally ill inmates returning to New York City.

Other guidance is intended to help prisoners save some money that will be available when they’re released. It calls for less diversion of funds they get from family and friends toward paying prison fees and fines, though those will remain principal obligations.

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