Organizations Work to Strengthen Prisoner Reentry Programs
Jim McGreevey, Executive Director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, and John Koufos, Executive Director of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, discuss how they successfully transition former inmates back into society.
"Welcome to "New Jersey Capitol Report." I'm Steve Adubato. And I'm Rafael Pi Roman. Recently, Steve spoke with former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey about his life after politics, which has been largely committed to helping inmates and ex-offenders transition back into society through the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and the Jersey City Employment and Training Program. Governor McGreevey was joined by the executive director of the Reentry Corporation, John Koufos, and here now is that conversation. Steve Adubato here. We are at NJIT. It is my honor and pleasure to introduce two very special guests. First, the former governor of the great state of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey. Also, he is the executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program. And his colleague, John Koufos, executive director of New Jersey Reentry Corporation and deputy reentry director at Jersey City Employment and Training Program. Good to see you guys. Great to be with you, Stephen. Beyond the fact that you have complicated titles -- other than the governorship, that we all get -- let's put this in context, Jim. We've talked off-line a lot about this, and you've become a leader in the state on prisoner reentry. Tell us exactly what the New Jersey Reentry Corporation is, and then put this guy's story into context. What we're about is, in New Jersey, we have 20,000 people that are in state prisons. We have people all throughout county jails. And tragically in this country, we're 5 percent of the world's population. We're 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. As a country, we lock up and imprison more fellow Americans than any country in the world. Russia's second. And obviously, locking people up, for my mind, doesn't necessarily do much good. If you were going to treat a drug addict, if you were going to treat an alcoholic, you wouldn't necessarily put them in the midst of someone who's violently criminal, and I think that's been the philosophy of Democrats and Republicans in New Jersey. And particularly, to give credit to Governor Christie, to understanding at the end of the long day, it's better to treat somebody for a disease than merely incarcerate them. And so, we worked cooperatively in Jersey City on employment, on housing, on addiction services, and through the largess and the commitment of the governor and bipartisan basis of the legislature, we've expanded to Newark, expanded to Paterson, to Toms River, and to Kearny. And John can tell his own story. So, I spent the first roughly 8 to 10 years of my life as a criminal defense lawyer, doing trials, murders, and things of that nature. But a 20-year battle with alcohol was looming overhead..."