LOCKPORT - A new program to help convicted criminals find jobs while on probation was approved Tuesday by the Niagara County Legislature.
Finding a job often is a condition of probation terms imposed by judges, and the state is trying to develop a statewide strategy to prevent criminals from reoffending.
The county received a state grant of more than $187,000 for the Employment Focused Services program in 2017, with renewal options for each of the next four years.
The grant will be used to pay the salaries of a probation officer and an employment counselor, who until now had been paid through a state grant for a different employment program for probationers.
It was called the 200 Percent of Poverty Program, because only criminals whose incomes were less than twice the poverty threshold were allowed to participate.
Under the new program, there is no income limit, Probation Director John J. Cicchetti said, but only criminals deemed "high-risk" for employment failure are to be included.
"Our time and money are better spent on people who need it most," Cicchetti said. "I thought we had a good chance (at the grant) because of the good work we were doing in the 200 Percent of Poverty Program."
Cicchetti said the new program's benchmarks call for more emphasis on job placement and retention than under the previous program.
The county Employment and Training Department cooperated with the Probation Department in applying for the grant. "They help with the interviewing skills, resume skills," Cicchetti said.
His department will receive $110,000 of the grant, while Employment and Training will use the remaining $77,000.
Also Tuesday, the Legislature unanimously sold a lot at James Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard in Niagara Falls to the city for $1. The city intends to construct a new firefighter training tower on the lot, which once was the location of a county-owned training tower.
The $500,000 cost will be paid through a grant from the state Dormitory Authority, obtained for the city by Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, D-Lewiston.