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Southampton wants to make sure inmates don’t become homeless

Southampton Town's supervisor says he wants to find

Southampton Town's supervisor says he wants to find ways to move violent offenders released from the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside out of the community so they don't end up among the area's homeless. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he is seeking ways to transport violent offenders released from the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside out of the community so they don’t end up among the area’s homeless.

Schneiderman said at a recent meeting of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association that he wants the sheriff’s office to notify town officials of releases of “violent felons.” That way, officials could get police officers or taxis to transport them to their homes, relatives’ houses, homeless shelters or the towns where they were arrested, he said.

Schneiderman said he proposed the idea because he has seen several released inmates end up in area motels or on the streets because they don’t have enough money to go elsewhere.

“There may be a cost [for transporting released inmates], but there’s a far greater cost to having them homeless in Riverside or, in many cases, reoffending,” Schneiderman said in a recent interview.

Chief Michael Sharkey of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office said the jail largely holds people who have not yet gone to trial. The inmates who have been sentenced there have usually been convicted of less serious crimes and spend a year or less behind bars.

Sharkey said that after speaking with Southampton Town officials, the sheriff’s office planned to give released inmates information listing public transportation options.

“More importantly, we’re always interested in being a good neighbor, so we’re more than happy at any level of local government to assist them if they have any concerns,” Sharkey said in an interview last month.

About 25 inmates are released every day, and many are picked up by family members, he said. The rest either already have enough money to take public transportation or are given a small stipend for a bus or Long Island Rail Road ticket.

Greta Guarton, executive director of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, said officials should reach out to agencies serving the homeless before at-risk inmates are released.

“Although transportation is certainly an issue for low-income Long Islanders, one-time transport will likely do little to address the needs of a person who is homeless,” Guarton said of Schneiderman’s proposal. “However, in a case where the inmate has a place to live but simply cannot get there, removing that barrier could positively impact that person’s situation.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he supports Schneiderman’s proposal “100 percent” because people from the jail — which has 769 cells and is on the border of Southampton and Riverhead towns — often “wind up” in his town.

“There’s an economic benefit to having the jail there, but there’s also a burden,” Walter said Wednesday. “We want to decrease the burden and increase the benefits.”

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