Contact: Jeff Maclin
(212) 614-5538 (office)
(718) 309-2346 (cell)
The Community Service Society’s Next Door Project (NDP) is looking for volunteers aged 55 and over to help fellow New Yorkers understand, clean up mistakes in and learn how to discuss their conviction histories when applying for employment and housing. Specially trained by skilled attorneys and dedicated supervisory staff, our counselors find satisfaction in working to increase their clients’ ability to become self-sufficient, contributing members of their communities. Many NDP counselors live in neighborhoods with high incarceration rates; all believe in second chances.
An estimated one in three New Yorkers has a criminal record. Compounding the situation, an estimated 45 percent of New York State’s official Records of Arrest and Prosecution (“RAP sheets”) have at least one error. While nearly 70 percent of convictions are for low-level crimes—misdemeanors and violations, not felonies – even individuals with the least serious convictions find that no matter how long it has been since their involvement with the criminal justice system, they face barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities that hinder their ability to move ahead. Effectively barred from fully participating in the economic and civic life of their communities, New Yorkers with conviction histories may feel discouraged and without hope.
NDP counselors help to change this reality. With training and ongoing support from NDP staff and CSS attorneys, volunteers gain a basic understanding of New York criminal law, discover how to spot and fix mistakes on rap sheets, learn the truth about the real-life consequences of criminal convictions, and learn to educate individuals so that the words in their records are not the story of their lives. Working one-on-one with clients and with support of NDP staff, volunteers review RAP sheets for errors, inform clients how to fix the errors and help them do so if necessary, and make sure that clients fully understand their criminal records and are well prepared to discuss them in job interviews and applications for housing. Clients also receive help obtaining a sample criminal background check maintained by a consumer credit reporting agency, so that they can review what an employer may typically see and correct errors if needed. In addition, volunteers determine whether clients are eligible for Certificates of Relief from Disabilities or Certificates of Good Conduct, official New York State documents that demonstrate rehabilitation and help clients in the application process. Finally, volunteers have the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve made a significant difference in clients’ lives.
The Community Service Society (CSS) is an informed, independent, and unwavering voice for positive action on behalf of more than 3 million low-income New Yorkers. We draw on a 170-year history of excellence in addressing the root causes of economic disparity through research, advocacy, and innovative program models that strengthen and benefit all New Yorkers. In the process, CSS advances pragmatic, practical solutions – such as NDP – that strengthen and benefit our city and create opportunity and prosperity for all New Yorkers.
To learn more about the opportunity to volunteer with NDP, please call Hazel Beckles Young Lao, Project Director at 212 614 5556. Please also call to reserve your seat at the NDP Information Session and Open House, to be held on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013 from 9:30AM to 11:00AM at CSS, located at 105 E 22nd Street, 4th Floor, Conference Room 4A. Refreshments will be served and your questions will be answered. We look forward to seeing you there!