In its first few months, The Immediate Access: Technology Re-entry Program, developed by Queens Defenders and The Queens Public Library, has already equipped twenty-five parolees who were recently released with mobile devices, a data plan, and access to Tech Navigators, who help participants access services, complete housing assistance applications, apply for jobs, and more. This program will expand to serve seventy-five individuals over the next two years.

This innovative program aims to support participants in many ways now that the world has so dramatically changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals returning to their communities from incarceration have to navigate more digital – and in many ways more complex – job markets and application processes, communications platforms, and basic services like securing a driver’s license or ID card. Immediate Access participants are guided by 1:1 Tech Navigators to get their ID’s, participate in OSHA trainings and general job readiness services to lead to employment.  In addition, they can use their internet access to enroll in schools, workshops, and programs that support successful pathways based on their interests.

Queens Defenders Program Director Brandon Jefferies said of the program, “The Immediate Access Program, funded though the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is a collaboration with Queens Library helping people on parole that deal with wide ranging service gaps coming home. In society today, without technology and necessities such as ID’s, the barriers turn into a traumatizing reality. Couple that with COVID-19 and it can feel insurmountable. Technology Navigators provide free training to individuals recently released from prison and help them achieve success with a phone, data plan, and other support services. I believe that this Queens Defenders collaboration with Queens Public Library can create a new standard of care for those coming home.”

25 participants are currently receiving free smart phones, data plans, skills training, and job training from our recently hired Technology Navigators Andres Rossel and Tiffany Antiles. These Navigators provide each participant with resources that are needed to take on this technology focused world and avoid recidivism.

For more information about the grant that funded this program read the press release here