Wrap up investigation, already

Friday, March 28, 2014
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We don’t know exactly what state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been looking for in his investigation of Peter Young Housing, Industries and Treatment, or what he has found. But we sure wish he’d make it quicker, or the organization won’t survive. And its programs are needed.

Peter Young was a priest in Albany’s crime-ridden South End more than 50 years ago when he recognized what government still has not — i.e., drug addicted ex-prisoners and others who have hit bottom need comprehensive and sustained help to get back on their feet. That means low-cost, supervised housing in half-way houses and apartments, as well as tutoring, counseling, vocational training and help finding jobs. Young’s operation is a broad network of foundations, businesses and nonprofit corporations that extends from the Capital Region to New York City to Buffalo. It employs 450 workers across the state and serves 10,000 people annually.

This approach is cheaper than a bunch of segmented government programs and works better. Young has said in the past that nine out of 10 people are rehabilitated and go on to lead productive lives, compared to a statewide recidivism rate of 40 percent.

But the entire operation is now in jeopardy because of Schneiderman’s prolonged investigation, which began in December 2012 after an executive was found to have stolen more than $200,000 from a Troy half-way house through check-cashing and other schemes. In the meantime, other state agencies have been withholding grants and contracts. As a result, funds for Young’s programs are running out, requiring layoffs and closure of some facilities.

An investigation and audit were warranted to see if there were other crimes or financial irregularities, but the matter should not have dragged on this long. If there was widespread wrongdoing, then Young’s operation, no matter how worthy, deserves to be shut down. But that shouldn't happen as an unintended consequence of a drawn-out investigation that finds nothing major.

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March 28, 2014
9:04 a.m.

There's more going on with this organization than the Troy issue. Whether additional issues rise to A.G. involvement is uncertain.

It probably should either collapse, or be taken over by a non-sectarian human service entity. From its inception, it has been a mirky mixture of politics, finance, religion, and reductionistic rehabilitation services. What began as a genuine attempt to offer personal recovery programs for Catholic politicians and bankers, morphed into a bait n switch employment program for incarcerated substance abusers. These services are certainly necessary and laudable. However, the unspoken conditions which accompanied them undermine true individual recovery. I have seen what Fr. Young's personal influence can force state agencies into doing. It is short sighted, and frequently not in the individuals being served best interests. Funds going to his programs are better used by others offering the same services.

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