(Community and Law Enforcement Resources Together)
ComALERT (Community and Law Enforcement Resources Together) was created in 1999 by Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes to increase the chances for men and women returning from prison to successfully reintegrate into Brooklyn communities. This goal is accomplished by providing an effective combination of immediate wraparound transitional services that target individuals who have histories of substance abuse and are currently under mandated community supervision. These services include substance abuse treatment and counseling, anger management, GED classes, workforce development services including job readiness workshops with job placement assistance, mentoring, transitional housing, and health insurance enrollment. ComALERT’s wraparound service model was validated in 2007 in a two year evaluation of the program by Dr. Bruce Western of Harvard University, highlighting ComALERT’s success in significantly reducing the rates of recidivism among its participants, resulting in increased community safety for all Brooklyn residents.
ComALERT served 985 individuals in 2011 and has the capacity to serve up to 1200 annually. The program generates the majority of its client enrollment through its creation and development of a strong partnership with the Brooklyn parole division of the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision. This partnership also extends to parole’s participation in ComALERT case conferences, and is key in ensuring that most incoming clients receive services rapidly, often within the first few weeks or less of their release.
Individuals released from prison heading home to Brooklyn are directed to report, within 24 to 48 hours of release, to Kings County (Brooklyn) parole offices. There, the parolee meets with his or her assigned parole officer and reviews with the officer the conditions of his or her release. If the conditions include mandated substance abuse treatment and counseling, the officer may then make a direct referral to ComALERT. The parolee may also be referred to Parole’s onsite Access program center where the Intake Coordinator for ComALERT’s onsite service partner, Counseling Service for the Eastern District of New York (CSEDNY) will then conduct a prescreening to determine if the candidate meets the criteria to become enrolled into the program. If it is determined that the candidate is a good match for moderate intensity, out-patient treatment, and has no convictions for sex offenses or arson, the eligible client is then directed to report to the ComALERT center at the Municipal Building in downtown Brooklyn. The individual then receives a full psychosocial assessment, is assigned to a highly trained substance abuse treatment therapist, and is scheduled to attend a program orientation.
Orientation sessions are held each Friday afternoon. Immediately thereafter, an onsite licensed counselor from CSEDNY, ComALERT’s onsite substance abuse treatment partner, is assigned to the client and conducts a complete psychosocial assessment. The assessment is then used in designing the client’s individual treatment plan that is interwoven with the client’s other reentry resource needs, such as enrollment into GED or college classes, transitional employment, or medical services.
ComALERT also receives a small number of self-referrals. These individuals may have learned about the ComALERT program while still incarcerated, most often through informational sessions that ComALERT regularly conducts at DOCCS facilities that house men and women about to be released into the community under supervision within a year.
In order to graduate from ComALERT, the participant must be drug-free for three consecutive months and show proof through pay stubs that he or she has been engaged in “on the books” employment for at least 30 days, or furnish proof that he or she has been satisfactorily engaged for at least 30 days in an approved course of study for academic advancement (GED or college classes) or in a career based job training course.
The following agencies have developed productive partnerships with ComALERT, each having extensive experience in responsibly delivering one or more vital services for individuals returning from prison:
The Doe Fund: ComALERT’s oldest collaborative partner, the nationally recognized agency established a linkage established with the KCDA in 2001. Its Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) program for individuals in need of transitional housing, and its newer Pathways 2 Work program implemented in collaboration with the US Department of Labor, both provide ComALERT clients with transitional employment, with each participant receiving a stipend, leading to on the job training for 5 career-oriented areas of skilled labor.
Counseling Service for the Eastern District of New York. CSEDNY has served as ComALERT’s onsite substance abuse treatment provider since 2004, providing weekly individual and group therapy sessions with random drug and alcohol testing. CSEDNY’s treatment philosophy is primarily structured around motivational enhancement and cognitive behavioral therapies, while also integrating supportive, self-help, and criminogenic interventions. CSEDNY typically engages each client for a period of 6 to 9 months, depending upon the individual’s level of compliance to treatment.
Medgar Evers College. Through the Community Justice Program, pairing Medgar Evers’ strong academic programs in social work and related disciplines with ComALERT’s nationally recognized re-entry program to provide program participants with onsite GED classes with mentoring and tutoring, in addition to prioritized placement in college level courses. diversion programs, includes an array of initiatives, internships and courses that create opportunities for students and the formerly incarcerated;
New York Peace Institute/Safe Horizon: This agency offers mediation counseling for families of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women;
Brooklyn Division of New York State Department of Education’s ACCES: This agency fast tracks application processing for ComALERT clients eligible for state-paid job training or immediate job placement;
Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center: This Center provides top rated comprehensive treatment for ambulatory care medical and dental services, with onsite HIV/AIDS counseling and testing at ComALERT, with treatment adherence and case management services for clients diagnosed with HIV;
Brooklyn Reentry Consortium: This reentry coalition was developed by the Brooklyn office for the NY State Department of Education’s ACCES Center, of which ComALERT is a founding member. Meeting every 6 to 8 weeks, this consortium of key law enforcement officials and over 30 including community, faith-based, and governmental organizations create unified approaches in facilitating reentry projects within Brooklyn;
Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. Provides technical assistance in ComALERT’s implementation of its innovative ‘Coming Home: Life Skills and Empowerment program, a voluntary evening project that builds self-efficacy and positive networking through participation with community leaders in life skills classes, mentoring, and family oriented activities;
Prison Fellowship Ministries. This nationwide faith based agency provides teaching and technical assistance in facilitating ComALERT’s sponsorship of reentry mentoring training sessions that primarily target community participants in houses of worship who are interested in providing supportive services for individuals at the pre and post incarceration levels, including participants in ComALERT’s Coming Home: Life Skills and Empowerment program.
New York City Commission on Human Rights: Provides weekly job readiness workshops on the rights of persons seeking employment who have criminal justice histories;
Miracle House: This non profit community organization offers stable, wholesome drug and crime free transitional housing for ComALERT clients that has been approved by Brooklyn parole;
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. New York
State’s administrative arm for criminal justice agencies, it has
provided NY State funding for ComALERT since 2007 and in 2009
designated ComALERT as the leading agency for the Kings County
Reentry Task Force.
For more information about these programs, contact:
John R. Chaney
LaNina N. Cooke Deputy Executive Director
Norma Fernandes Community Coordinator
ComALERT Offices: 718-250-3281
Erin Jacobs & Bruce Western, Report on
the Evaluation of the ComALERT Prisoner Reentry Program (Oct.
2007), available at
New ComALERT Report from the Journal of