Russell Sage College announced a new initiative to meet workforce needs in community corrections at an August 22, 2023, news conference. Pictured from left to right are Lori Haggerty, deputy director of the Albany County Probation Department; William Connors, director of the Albany County Probation Department; Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy; Russell Sage College President Christopher Ames; Professor Carol DiMambro, program director for the M.S. in Criminal Justice and Community Corrections at Russell Sage; and Starlyn D'Angelo, director of corporate and government relations at Russell Sage (Photo by Tamara Hansen)
Russell Sage College announced a new initiative to meet workforce needs in community corrections at an August 22, 2023, news conference. Pictured from left to right are Lori Haggerty, deputy director of the Albany County Probation Department; William Connors, director of the Albany County Probation Department; Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy; Russell Sage College President Christopher Ames; Professor Carol DiMambro, program director for the M.S. in Criminal Justice and Community Corrections at Russell Sage; and Starlyn D’Angelo, director of corporate and government relations at Russell Sage (Photo by Tamara Hansen)

Russell Sage College has launched an initiative to meet the needs of the criminal justice system workforce as it shifts to a focus on shorter prison sentences, alternatives to incarceration, and increased demand for leaders in community corrections. The announcement was made alongside Albany County officials during an August 22 news conference on Russell Sage’s Albany campus.

Since 2011, New York State has closed 24 correctional facilities, and the New York State prison population dropped by 44%, from nearly 56,000 inmates in 2011 to just over 31,000 in 2022, according to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

This shift comes as more people are serving sentences in the community through probation, which is alternative community-based sentencing; parole, which is early prison release community-based sentencing; and alternative to incarceration programs. This places a strain on the probation and parole workforce and drives the need for more community corrections professionals.

“Our partnership couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “Over the last several years, there has been a significant shift of the probation workload in light of Bail Reform and Raise the Age Legislation. As such, the Probation Department is supervising and monitoring offenders they have not seen in the past, those who have committed more serious, violent offenses. This has been coupled with a challenge nationwide to find qualified people to fill vacancies across various fields. We are looking forward to this collaboration helping us build a stronger workforce.”

The Russell Sage Community Corrections Workforce Development Initiative addresses the shift toward community corrections in four ways:

Offering an online master’s degree program for community corrections professionals and those who want to enter the field: In 2023, Russell Sage launched the nation’s first online master’s degree in Criminal Justice & Community Corrections, which prepares students for the significant changes in the criminal justice field. This affordable 36-credit master’s degree includes courses in institutional corrections and offender rehabilitation, offender reentry and reintegration, community corrections, restorative justice, abnormal psychology, addiction, and more.

Partnering with Albany County, a leader in community corrections, to address workforce shortages and establish the first of many agreements across the state: Russell Sage and Albany County have formed a partnership that will provide Albany County employees with a tuition discount for the Criminal Justice and Community Corrections master’s degree program and offer a payment structure that works in tandem with the county’s employee tuition reimbursement benefit. This will help the county to attract and retain qualified probation professionals. Russell Sage is seeking to replicate this agreement with agencies and departments across the state and beyond to meet workforce needs.

Providing free training for professionals in the field: On Saturday, August 26, professionals in this field are invited to a free day-long workshop on the college’s Albany campus. The workshop will cover self-care for those working in the field, trauma-informed care, and suicide prevention. The training is free but advance registration is required online.

Shine a spotlight on organizations seeking community corrections professionals: To become a probation officer in New York state, candidates must have either a graduate degree in the social sciences or a bachelor’s degree plus two years of experience in counseling or casework. County and state probation officials are desperate for qualified community corrections professionals. Russell Sage will more deeply incorporate these employers into its career events.

“The field of corrections is changing rapidly in response to the high cost of maintaining prisons, racial disparities, changes in sentencing laws, bail reform, and growing public interest in community-based programs,” said Russell Sage President Christopher Ames.

“Russell Sage College has long been dedicated to building healthier communities. While we are well known for our programs in the health professions, including nursing, nutrition, and physical and occupational therapy, building healthy communities also means taking a holistic view of our criminal justice program and refining best practices for rehabilitation, reintegration, and alternatives to incarceration”

Organizations and departments seeking to partner with Russell Sage on the new degree program should contact Carol DiMambro, program director, at [email protected].

About Russell Sage College: Russell Sage College serves more than 2,100 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs on co-ed campuses in Albany and Troy, New York, as well as online. The Russell Sage experience includes The Gator Gateway, a curated, supported pathway to success for all undergraduate students, and noted programs in the health sciences, education, and the visual and performing arts. A Russell Sage graduate will forever “Be. Know. Do.” enhancing their lives and the lives of those around them.

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