In September, Martin’s Place opened its doors to Jersey City residents, welcoming anyone in need of “the dignity of second chances” in life, according to Mayor Steve Fulop's statement at the grand opening. Located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, the home is the new site for the city’s prisoner re-entry and jobs effort, which criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey hope will give convicted criminals the push they need to turn things around and start over after serving their time.
Named for Martin Luther King Jr., Martin’s Place is a joint effort among state Republicans and Democrats who have worked together on the program. Fulop, a Democrat, noted that the community collaboration goes above and beyond political lines and demonstrates an overarching desire to help reformed prisoners get back on their feet. “A lot of those quote unquote tough on crime sort of initiatives…have been failures. Without help, those people return to the same environment prior to their incarceration, and without any change, that cycle will repeat itself again and again and again,” Fulop said in his statement before opening the home’s doors.
Martin’s Place is located in the Hub shopping center and will offer ex-convicts a complete list of treatment options and rehabilitation services. Counseling services will be available for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, as well as job counseling and housing assistance. More often than not, convicted criminals serve their time and are released from jail with nowhere to go. It is not uncommon for released individuals to find that their families have moved or things have changed drastically over the course of their incarceration such that they no longer have a home, financial independence or basic possessions.
The Importance of Martin's Place
A large number of New Jersey jails are filled with people who have been caught using or selling drugs, either as a way to make ends meet or as users stuck in their addictions. But once these criminals have participated in detoxification programs or gone through withdrawal and served out their jail sentences or community service requirements, they often do not have a place to go that will help them stay on their sober paths. Ex-cons usually return to their old stomping grounds, criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey say, and sometimes that includes the places where they could readily get and sell drugs, putting them right back into their former destructive habits.
Now, these released prisoners can work with trained counselors and job specialists to continue their sobriety and re-enter society. Finding work can be extremely difficult with a criminal background, as most employers perform basic background and drug screenings as part of their hiring process. Although the state recently made headway with the "Ban the Box" bill to prevent employers from discriminating against ex-cons immediately upon application, there is still a widespread epidemic of poverty and unemployment among the state’s released prisoners.
The prisoner re-entry program was spearheaded by the Jersey City Employment Training Program and Mayor Fulop made it a crucial part of his platform last year. The city has already spent federal grants totaling $500,000 to move Martin’s Place from its previous location in Journal Square and renovate the new space in the Hub. According to Fulop’s plan, the center’s services will be beneficial not only to ex-cons, but to the city’s unemployed residents as well.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our criminal defense lawyers help New Jersey residents defend against criminal charges and work with institutions like Martin’s Place to get those individuals back on their feet. Contact an HCK attorney to discuss your case today.