Each year, over 350,000 people are arrested in New York City alone, 80,000 cycle through local jails, and 20,000 come home from New York State prisons. Over seven million New Yorkers have criminal records. Yet, the vast majority of those who have been thrown into the criminal justice system don’t have access to legal services which can address the extensive collateral consequences triggered by an arrest, conviction, and incarceration. To meet the need for information and resources on the collateral consequences, in 2005, The Bronx Defenders joined with Pro Bono Net and dozens of partner organizations from around New York State to launch the Reentry Net. Serving thousands of providers statewide, Reentry Net/NY trains and supports criminal defense, legal services, social services, and policy reform advocates. The online resource center provides front-line service providers with the practical information they need to solve every day problems faced by those whose lives have been affected by an arrest, conviction, and incarceration. Reentry Net also hosts a National Research & Policy library that compiles statistics, research reports, program information, model legislation and policy updates.
By providing live support to users of the online resource libraries, Reentry Net staff goes beyond simply providing information. We generate resource-sharing and strategic dialogue among a growing network of advocates, formerly incarcerated individuals, and family-members. At the most fundamental level, Reentry Net improves advocacy and service delivery by training service providers on best practices, disseminating the useful resources and practical tools, and facilitating cross-sector collaboration.
Reentry Net has become a model for effectively distributing information and encouraging collaboration among advocates working to fight the disastrous consequences of mass incarceration on communities and the barriers to successful reentry. More than 20,000 individual materials – model briefing papers, training resources, tip sheets, sample letters, etc. – are downloaded each month from the website’s libraries. Our “Consequences of Criminal Proceedings in New York State” manual alone has been downloaded by thousands of users. We also provide substantive trainings to hundreds of advocates each year on navigating the legal barriers faced by people who have been arrested or convicted in New York.