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Federal grant will help Syracuse youth transition from criminal system to society


Syracuse is getting some federal funds that will help youth transition from the criminal system back into society.

Twenty-four-year-old David Lefler was in and out of the Jamesville Correctional Facility for several years. He says it was hard to stay out of trouble once jail became a way of life.

"If you really don’t care, then it’s just going to keep happening,” Lefler says. “You’re going to hang out with the wrong person, and next thing you know you’re in a car with a bag of dope and you’re going to jail.”

What turned it around for him was hitting bottom and being able to transition into a program offered by the Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse.

"You’ve got to want to stay out of jail, and be a contributing member of society instead of a thug running the streets. And I learned that in the past year,” Lefler says.

Now he has a job and is able to see his three-year-old son once a week. Lefler says he’s happy.

These success stories can become more common, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They’re funding a new program, along with the Department of Justice, with a $100,000 grant. The program will allow HUD to work with the Syracuse Housing Authority to find youth a permanent path out of jail.

Holly Leicht, HUD regional administrator, says working together is especially important.

"It’s difficult for anybody to transition from the criminal system back into society, but we feel youth are a particularly challenged population, because they didn’t have the skills before they went into the system to navigate that world," she says.

The grant is expected to help about 100 youth transition into society after spending time behind bars. Syracuse is among 18 communities nationwide winning the $100,000 grant.