Gina DeVito, Esq., managing attorney of ReLeSe
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
P.O. Box 32040
Newark, NJ 07102
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Release Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Media Contact: Christine Ziomek (201) 796-7788
Study Cites Increased Employment and Housing Rates in Addition to Almost Non-Existent Recidivism Rate of ReLeSe Clients Interviewed
NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 18, 2014 – A study by the National Development & Research Institutes (NDRI) cites the wide-ranging positive impact on the reentry population and community at large of Volunteer Lawyers for Justice’s Newark Reentry Legal Services (VLJ’s ReLeSe). Based in Newark, N.J., VLJ’s ReLeSe provides pro-bono legal assistance to ex-offenders to aid in addressing the civil legal matters that serve as barriers to successful community reintegration. NDRI’s study highlighted statistically significant increases in employment (36% to 53%), in housing/living on one’s own (57% to 66%), and an almost non-existent recidivism rate (1 in 76) of the ReLeSe clients surveyed.
“The evidence from this study is quite powerful. Our ReLeSe program is an essential component of successful transitions from incarceration back to life at home and within the community,” said Gina DeVito, Esq., managing attorney of ReLeSe.
Through ReLeSe’s driver’s license clinic and direct representation, ReLeSe and its volunteer attorneys assist clients with driver’s license restoration and resolution of long out-standing municipal matters. ReLeSe also provides assistance with modification of child support orders and the expungement of criminal records. According to the record review data by NDRI in the study, almost 80% of those legally eligible achieved a clean record through expungement and nearly one-third regained driving privileges through a full driver’s license restoration with ReLeSe’s assistance. “We’ve seen time and time again how a criminal record or lack of a valid driver’s license proves an insurmountable barrier to employment,” noted DeVito. “Providing legal aid to ex-offenders in these areas paves the way for them to find gainful employment, which is one of their main goals as they strive to get their lives back on track.”
NDRI Study Spans Nearly Five Years of Data
NDRI’s study, which received support from The Fund for New Jersey, relied on 188 record reviews and 76 interviews with individuals who received ReLeSe services from January 2007 through July 2012. The average ReLeSe client in the study was 41.4 years of age, male (65%), African American/Black (86%), single (70%), unemployed at intake (83%) and had obtained a high school diploma or GED (88%). More than six different agencies referred clients to ReLeSe, including Newark One-Stop, which referred more than half of the clients studied. Part of the New Jersey Department of Labor, Newark One-Stop provides comprehensive supportive services to those seeking employment, including unemployment benefits.
“The study also spotlighted how in 2012 our volunteer attorneys donated a total of 3,226 hours to ReLeSe, which equates to more than $400,000 in billable hours,” added DeVito. “When it comes to the positive impact our program is having, we have to thank our volunteer attorneys first and foremost.”
Founded in 1967, NDRI is a non-profit research and educational organization. It is dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge in the areas of criminal justice; urban problems; youth at risk; drug and alcohol abuse, treatment and recovery; HIV, AIDS, and HCV; therapeutic communities; and related areas of public health.
A state-wide 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, VLJ works to ensure fair and equal treatment within the legal system. In addition to ReLeSe, programs include free legal counsel and advice, educational seminars on various legal matters, and direct representation for at-risk individuals facing critical civil legal issues.