Increases access to substance abuse programming for prisoners whose first language is not English.
BILL NUMBER: S4367
TITLE OF BILL : An act to amend the correction law, in relation to increasing access to substance abuse programming for prisoners whose first language is not English
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL :
This bill would require the Commissioner of Corrections, in consultation with the Commissioner on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, to take steps to ensure that prisoners whose first language is not English are able to access prison substance abuse programs. The bill addresses the difficulty currently experienced by significant numbers of inmates in understanding, participating and completing prison substance abuse programs.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS :
The bill amends Article 22 of the Correction Law by adding subsection 624 requiring the Commissioner of Corrections, in consultation with the Commissioner on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, to take steps to ensure that prisoners whose first language is not English are able to access prison substance abuse programs. Such steps may include, but need not be limited to, increased employment of bilingual substance abuse counselors and program staff, translation of program content and materials, targeted programs for non-English speaking prisoners, and other strategies determined by the commissioner in consultation with the commissioner of alcohol and substance abuse services.
Ten percent of the state prison population, more than 6,000 inmates, were born outside of the United States. Only twenty-eight (28) percent of these prisoners come from countries where the dominant language is English; fifty-four (54) percent come from countries where the dominant language is Spanish, and eighteen (18) percent are from countries that speak primarily Asian, European or other languages. Twenty-five (25) percent of the state prison population, more than 16,000 inmates, are of Hispanic origin. Hispanic inmates are housed throughout the system, but the highest concentrations of Hispanic inmates are housed in the Sullivan hub (33 percent) and New York City hub (31 percent.)
The department of correctional services has recognized that it is necessary to expand its capacity to address the needs of prisoners who may have difficulty speaking and understanding program content presented only in English. Substance abuse programs are of critical importance to the prisoner and to the community, as research consistently shows that prison treatment programs reduce recidivism and lower health care and social service costs upon re-entry to society. Studies also show that prison treatment programs have a significantly positive impact on inmate behavior, making our prisons safer and more secure.
The Department of Correctional Services operates a variety of substance abuse programs at an approximate cost of20 million dollars annually. Yet non-English speaking prisoners have difficulty understanding, participating and completing these programs. Program content and materials are presented in English; few substance abuse counselors or program staff are bilingual. This bill would require the Commissioner to take steps to address this problem, without imposing specific methods or timelines, thus preserving the flexibility of the department to proceed incrementally and to develop strategies that reflect both security and budgetary limitations. The bill calls for the Commissioner of Corrections to consult with the Commissioner on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services in order to ensure that strategies developed are evidence-based, effective and professionally implemented.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY : New legislation.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS : To be determined.
EFFECTIVE DATE : This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 4367 2009-2010 Regular Sessions IN SENATE April 22, 2009 ___________Introduced by Sen. HASSELL-THOMPSON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction AN ACT to amend the correction law, in relation to increasing access to substance abuse programming for prisoners whose first language is not English THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. The correction law is amended by adding a new section 624 to read as follows: S 624. ACCESS TO SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAMMING FOR CERTAIN PRISONERS. THE COMMISSIONER SHALL TAKE STEPS TO ENSURE THAT PRISONERS WHOSE FIRST LANGUAGE IS NOT ENGLISH ARE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND, PARTICIPATE AND COMPLETE SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAMS PROVIDED IN THE PRISONS. SUCH STEPS MAY INCLUDE, BUT NEED NOT BE LIMITED TO, INCREASED EMPLOYMENT OF BILINGUAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE COUNSELORS AND PROGRAM STAFF, TRANSLATION OF PROGRAM CONTENT AND MATERIALS, TARGETED PROGRAMS FOR NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING PRIS- ONERS AND OTHER STRATEGIES DETERMINED BY THE COMMISSIONER IN CONSULTA- TION WITH THE COMMISSIONER OF ALCOHOLISM AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD10557-01-9