NEW YORK’S PRISON PIPELINE

A growing number of upstate New York inmates are granted parole from prison, allowing them to return home to New York City. But, a NY1 investigation reveals that those inmates do not have a home to go to and are destined for a dismal and dangerous life in the city’s shelter system. Spectrum NY1 News reporter Courtney Gross is here to share her investigation into the New York prison to shelter pipeline.

Aired on March 15, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> EVERY YEAR THOUSANDS OF INMATES IN UPSTATE PRISONS ARE GRANTED PAROLE, ALLOWING THEM TO RETURN HOME TO NEW YORK CITY.

BUT WITH THAT NEWFOUND FREEDOM COMES PROFOUND CHALLENGES, A NEW YORK -- THE INVESTIGATION WAS LED BY POLITICAL REPORTER COURTNEY GROSS.

TONIGHT AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE, ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY.

HERE'S A LOOK.

IT'S A CRISP 34 DEGREES AND CHRISTOPHER KAMINSKI DOESN'T HAVE A COAT.

IT'S A LITTLE OVERWHELMING RIGHT NOW, YOU KNOW?

MY FIRST DAY OUT.

JUST SWEAT PANTS AND A SWEATSHIRT TO HIS NAME, THE SAME CLOTHES HE WORE FOR RECREATION INSIDE THIS STATE PRISON HOURS EARLIER.

HE WAS JUST RELEASED AFTER SPENDING ABOUT NINE YEARS BEHIND BARS.

HE WAS GIVEN A SINGLE RIDE METRO CARD AND $40.

THEN PRISON OFFICIALS SENT HIM ON HIS WAY.

THE BEGINNING OF A LONG PATH TO GET A PERMANENT BED.

AFTER NEARLY A DECADE, MRS.

KAMINSKI'S FIRST STOP BACK INTO SOCIETY.

IT'S LIKE WE'RE CATTLE, YOU KNOW, WE GO FROM HOLDING AREA TO ANOTHER HOLDING AREA.

BUT AT LEAST HERE YOU GOT AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING AND TRY TO MAKE IT.

THOUSANDS HAVE BEEN RIGHT HERE BEFORE, A NEW YORK ONE INVESTIGATION HAS UNCOVERED THAT THE NEW YORK CITY SHELTER SYSTEM HAS BECOME A TOP DESTINATION FOR INMATES LEAVING STATE PRISON.

MORE AND MORE OF THESE PAROLEES ARE COMING FROM UPSTATE PRISONS RIGHT INTO THE SHELTER SYSTEM.

IN 2014, ABOUT 9,300 TIMES, AN INMATE LEFT A STATE PRISON TO RETURN TO NEW YORK CITY.

23% OF THE TIME, THAT FORMER INMATE WENT STRAIGHT INTO A NEW YORK CITY HOMELESS SHELTER.

IN 2015, THAT NUMBER GREW.

MORE INMATES WERE HEADING TO SHELTER.

AND IT WENT UP AGAIN IN 2016.

IN 2017, MORE THAN HALF THE TIME, 54%, THEY WERE HEADING TO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

THAT MEANS LAST YEAR WHEN AN INMATE GOT PAROLED AND CAME BACK TO THE FIVE BOROUGHS, EVERY OTHER TIME, THAT INMATE WENT STRAIGHT INTO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

IT MEANS ON AVERAGE, 11 TIMES A DAY, SOMEONE IS REPORTING FROM PRISON TO HILSHELTER, SOMETIMES AFTER SPENDING DECADES BEHIND BARS.

IN BROOKLYN, A SHELTER RESIDENT WHO DID NOT WANT TO BE SHOWN ON CAMERA SHOWED US HIS PAROLE PAPER WORK, AFTER 30 YEARS OF BEING LOCKED UP FOR MURDER, HE WAS SENT STRAIGHT TO THE BELLEVUE SHELTER.

THE SAME PLACE KAMINSKI WAS SENT.

HE'S BEEN SENT UPSTATE SEVERAL TIMES IN 26 YEARS.

THE CHARGES WERE ROBBERY RELATED OF VARYING DEGREES.

HE HAD A PRACTICE OF HOLDING SOMEONE UP TO GET MONEY TO BUY DRUGS, TO BUY HEROIN, SOMETHING HE FIRST TRIED AT 13 YEARS OLD.

THIS TIME HE HOPED TO GET INTO A PROGRAM CALLED THE DOUGH FUND.

NO ONE SHOULD STAY IN A SHELTER.

A LOT OF DRUGS IN THESE PLACES.

AND DRUGS ARE DEFINITELY KAMINSKI'S PROBLEM.

FRESH OUT OF PRISON, HE'S THRUST INTO A SYSTEM THAT'S FLOODED WITH THE SAME VICE.

A DAY IN AND HE'S TRANSFERRED HERE.

THE BEDFORD ATLANTIC ARMORY IN BROOKLYN.

WHEN WE MET HIM OUTSIDE OF THE SHELTER, A WEEK INTO FREEDOM AND HOMELESSNESS, THE SYSTEM WAS ALL RIGHT WEARING HIM DOWN.

I HAD THIS ONE PLAN, I WAS READY, WILLING AND ABLE.

NOW I'M STUCK HERE, AND I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE, I WANTED TO BE ALREADY DOING SOMETHING.

HE WAITS TO HEAR BACK FROM THAT PROGRAM TRYING TO STAY SOBER.

THERE IS BOREDOM AND NOTHING TO DO, ANGER FRUSTRATION.

[ BLEEP ] IT'S LIKE I'M ON A MISSION.

BUT I'M GOING TO RIDE IT OUT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

HIS RESOLVE FAILS.

THE NEXT MORNING, KAMINSKI BRO BOUGHT OF BAG OF HEROIN FOR $6, HE BOUGHT IT ON THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE BEDFORD ARMORY SHELTER.

SOMEBODY SAID I GOT A BAG FOR $6, ANYBODY INTERESTED?

I SAID YOU KNOW WHAT?

I HAVEN'T HAD ANY IN ABOUT 10 YEARS.

I'M STRESSED OUT, HATING THIS PLACE.

SO I GET THIS BAG TO EASE SOME OF THE STRESS.

IT DIDN'T DO NOTHING, JUST MADE THINGS WORSE.

THE RELAPSE PUT KAMCAM KAMIN CHANCES OF GOING INTO THE BEDFORD CENTER IN JEOPARDY.

EVERY TIME I COMMITTED A CRIME, IT WAS FOR HEROIN, MONEY FOR HEROIN.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT NOW?

ALL THE TIME.

I'M 50 YEARS OLD, 20 YEARS JUST WENT BY.

AT THE SHELTER, KAMINSKI SAYS HE'S OFTEN IDLE WITH NOWHERE TO GO, FILLING THE DAYS BY WALKING, RIDING THE TRAIN, SCRAPING BY ON VOUCHERS FOR CLOTHES.

AND FREE MAEALS FROM CHURCHES.

HE'S TRYING TO JADJUST TO HIS NW REALITY, FROM INMATE TO HOMELESS.

FROM A WARD OF THE STATE, TO THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CITY.

IN THIS PARTICULAR CASE, WE WILL INVESTIGATE IT AND WE APPRECIATE ANY INFORMATION YOU CAN GIVE US ABOUT IT.

WE ARE OURSELVES FOCUSING ON RECONNECTING PAROLEES TO THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN THE COMMUNITY SO THEY DON'T END UP IN A SHELTER AND WE CERTAINLY WELCOME ANY HELP FROM THE STATE OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

WE HAVE EVEN SEEN FOLKS WHO ARE COMING IN FROM THE SHELTERS OR PRISONS WHO HAVE ADDRESSES THEY THINK THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO TO, AND THEY'RE EITHER NOT APPROVED YET OR DENIED.

IT MAKES THE PAROLE OFFICER'S JOB EASIER TO KEEP ALL OF THEIR CLIENTS IN THE SAME PLACE.

WE HAVE REACHED OUT TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION TO GO ON CAMERA FOR THIS STORY.

THEY DECLINED.

BUT A SPOKESMAN ARGUES SHELTERS ARE OFTEN JUST TEMPORARY FOR THESE PAROLEES.

HE SAYS THAT AT ANY GIVEN TIME, THERE ARE 60 PAROLEES IN THE SHELTER SYSTEM, SUGGESTING THAT THE POPULATION IS FLUID.

HE COULD NOT TELL US THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF STAY FOR THE AVERAGE PAROLEE.

RE-ENTRY SERVICES BEGIN FOUR MONTHS BEFORE A RELEASE DATE AND THEY WORK WITH INDIVIDUALS TO EXHAUST ALL POSSIBLE HOUSING OPTIONS BEFORE TRANSFERRING THE RESPONSIBILITY TO THE CITY.

THEY SAY THEY CONTINUE TO WORK WITH THEM TO FIND PERMANENT HOUSING SOLUTIONS.

IT'S THOSE SOLUTIONS KAMINSKI AND OTHERS LIKE HIM WOULD LIKE TO SEE.

IT'S HARD, GUYS, THEY CAN'T GO ANYWHERE, THEY GOT NO MONEY, THEY CAN'T GO NOTHING.

AND JOINING ME NOW IS NEW YORK ONE POLITICAL REPORTER COURTNEY GROSS.

COURTNEY, THAT WAS AN AMAZING PIECE.

THANK YOU.

INCREDIBLY INFORMATIVE.

BUT I HAVE TO SAY DEPRESSING.

YES.

HOW DID YOU GET CONNECTED WITH CHRISTOPHER KAMINSKI?

ONCE I FOUND OUT THIS PROBLEM WAS HAPPENING IN OCTOBER OF LAST YEAR, WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME HANGING OUT OUTSIDE OF SHELTERS, LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO WAS ON PAROLE, WHO HAD JUST BEEN RELEASED, WHO WAS EXPERIENCING THESE PROBLEMS, GOING THROUGH THE SHELTER SYSTEM OR JUST TRYING TO DETAIL THEIR EXPERIENCE IN THE SHELTER SYSTEM AND I HAD BEEN HANGING OUT OUTSIDE OF THE BELLEVUE SHELTER ONE DAY, IT WAS A VERY COLD JANUARY AFTERNOON AND I SAW ONE WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN A MAROON SWEATSHIRT AND I SAID TO MYSELF, THAT PERSON MUST HAVE JUST GOTTEN OUT.

SO I GUESS HE MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT HE WAS HEADING TO A HOMELESS SHELTER.

BUT WHAT'S YOUR SENSE?

DO YOU THINK THAT HE WAS PREPARED FOR THE DIFFICULT TRANSITION THAT WAS AWAITING HIM SUFFICIENTLY?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

THE STATE WILL TELL YOU THAT THEY START RE-ENTRY SERVICES FOUR MONTHS BEFORE ANYONE IS RELEASED.

NOW KAMINSKI, IN PREPARATION FOR THAT RELEASE WAS TRANSFERRED TO THE QUEENS BOROUGH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY IN QUEENS WHERE HE HAD BEEN MADE AWARE OF CERTAIN SERVICES THAT WERE AVAILABLE TO HIM LIKE THE DOUGH FUND OR THE OSBORNE ASSOCIATION OR THE FORTUNE SOCIETY AND HE HAD SET HIS SIGHTS ON THE DOE FUND, THIS SHELTER PROGRAM THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

AND HE EXPECTED IT TO HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY.

HE TOLD ME WHEN I MET HIM THAT HE WOULD BE TRANSFERRED TO THE DOUGH CENTER THE NEXT DAY AND THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

THE NUMBER OF PAROLEES THAT HAVE GONE FROM PRISONS TO SHELTERS HAVE DOUBLED SINCE 2014, WHY IS THAT?

INITIALLY THEY DIDN'T GIVE US A REASON.

THEY SAID THEY DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY IT WAS HAPPENING.

IT WASN'T UNTIL A FEW DAYS AFTER THE STORY RAN WHEN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE STARTED TALKING TO US ABOUT IT WHEN THEY BLAMED IT ON THE FACT THAT THREE-QUARTER HOUSES WERE SHUT DOWN.

AND INTERESTINGLY IT BECAME THIS POLITICAL THING THAT IT WAS THE MAYOR THAT SHUT DOWN THOSE THREE-QUARTER HOUSES, THEREFORE IT WASN'T THE STATE'S FAULT, IT WAS THE MAYOR'S FAULT.

AND PREDICTABLY, PERHAPS THE MAYOR USED YOUR PIECE TO BASH ALBANY AND BALBANY BASHED THE MAYOR AND THE PROBLEM REMAINS.

BUT OBVIOUSLY THE CRIMES THAT CHRISTOPHER KAMINSKI COMMITTED WERE TO GET DRUGS.

HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE ON ANY LEVEL?

IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

WHEN PEOPLE ARE GETTING OUT OF PRISON, REALLY THE RE-ENTRY INTRODUCE SHOULD BE STARTING THE DAY SOMEONE ENTERS PRISON, IT SHOULDN'T NECESSARILY BE STARTING FOUR MONTHS BEFORE THEY LEAVE.

.

IT'S THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE MAN NEEDS, CORRECT?

AND AS WE SAW HE SUCCUMBED TO HEROIN?

HE DID.

HOW CAN HE TALK ABOUT THAT ON TELEVISION BEING A PAROLEE AND NOT GET SENT BACK TO JAIL.

HE WAS HESITANT TO TALK ABOUT HIS RELAPSE, AND WHEN I SAID IT WAS AN IMPORTANT STORY AND IT WAS HIGHLIGHTING AN ISSUE THAT WAS GOING ON IN THE STATE.

AND HE ALSO SAID THAT WHEN HE'S GONE THROUGH PAROLE SEVERAL TIMES, TYPICALLY A PAROLEE IS GIVEN SEVERAL BAD URINE TESTS, SEVERAL CHANCES BEFORE THEY'RE SENT BACK.

AND AS WE SAID, CHRISTOPHER IS DEMORALIZED.

I GUESS HE'S TYPICAL OF PEOPLE WHO END UP IN THE SHELTERS?

AS PART OF THIS STORY WE TALKED TO A LOT OF PAROLEES NOT JUST KAMINSKI, AND THEY TELL THE SAME STORY, THAT THEY'RE ESSENTIALLY SET UP TO FAIL, THEY'RE ENTERING A SYSTEM WITH DRUGS AND VIOLENCE AND THERE'S NO WAY FOR THEM TO GET BACK ON THEIR FEET AND GET A JOB AND TRY TO START THEIR LIFE ALL OVER AGAIN.

HAVE YOU STAYED IN CONTACT WITH CHRISTOPHER?

HOW'S HE DOING NOW?

WE SPOKE TO HIM LAST WEEK AND HE WAS TRANSFERRED TO A DIFFERENT SHELTER AND THE DA WAS TRYING TO GET HIM INTO A 28-DAY PROGRAM.

SO THAT WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR HIM.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

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