This article was originally published in the October issue of New Jersey Lawyer,
a publication of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is reprinted here with permission.
AFBNJ Re-Entry Initiative:
The Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey is proud to assist the District of New Jersey’s federal reentry court. The reentry court and program is designed to assist former federal prisoners who are “reentering” society following their incarceration, thereby reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and saving money. Providing this assistance requires the collaboration of a number of participants in the “federal family,” including the Court and its staff, the United States Attorney’s Office, the United States Probation Office, and the Federal Public Defender’s Office.
In addition, the program often requires the assistance of private-practice attorneys who volunteer their time to help program participants in removing or reducing barriers to a successful reentry. For example, under the auspices of the AFBNJ, volunteer attorneys have assisted participants in reinstating their driving privileges, addressing child support obligations, and lessening or eliminating the financial burden of unpaid fines or fees from prior criminal cases. What may, in some ways, seem like a small burden, can be an overwhelming obstacle to someone trying to secure a job, obtain housing, or finish an educational program.
This past year, 24 law firms volunteered their time through the AFBNJ Reentry Project, making attorneys available to attend one or two sessions of the reentry program throughout the year and assist program participants, as necessary, with these types of issues and similar ones. To the extent any such issues were identified during the session, the attorneys worked with the participant to try to resolve them in the appropriate forum.
To help continue the success of the program, there is a need for additional law firms to volunteer and assist. If a sufficient number of firms volunteer, the commitment may be as little as having an attorney attend one session per year and thereafter assist the participant in dealing with any legal hurdles to a successful reentry that are identified during that session. It truly is a unique opportunity to help individuals who have served their time and paid their debt to society to successfully reenter, and be a productive member of, our community.
If you are willing to volunteer, please reach out to AFBNJ Trustees Zahid Quaraishi (zquraishi@RIKER.com) or Victor Afanador (email@example.com), the Co-chairs of the AFBNJ Reentry Court Lawyer Assistance Committee, directly.