How Our Country Talks About The War On Drugs Is Backwards by Joy Blackwood - OurFuture
“How our country talks about the war on drugs is backwards,” said Kassandra Frederique, in her opening remarks to the first-ever convening of the People’s Action Overdose Crisis Cohort in Washington, D.C.“Criminalization of drug use and drug prohibition was no accident.”
Frederique, the Managing Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance, shared these insights with the more than sixty members of People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy’s Opioid Network who gathered with health care experts, providers and advocates for three days in December to confront the opioid crisis through strategy, policy and direct action. Many of those gathered shared how they have experienced the pain and loss of the opioid crisis in their own lives and in their families.
This first-ever convening of grassroots leaders impacted by our country’s failure to adequately address the opioid crisis included a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill, End the Overdose Crisis and the War on Drugs, with the Freshman Working Group on Addiction, chaired by Congressman David Trone of Maryland’s sixth district. Formed February 2019, this newly elected bipartisan group of 36 freshmen members of the House of Representatives came together to understand the extent of the impacts of addiction and jointly promote policies to reduce overdoses and deaths.
“We can stop this… Now’s the time to do it!” said Jeremiah Jaynes, a member of Down Home North Carolina, on Capitol Hill. Jaynes shared how he is still living with the struggle against addiction, and how the war on drugs has claimed his prospective future of becoming an engineer. Today, he has made it his lifelong mission to fight to end the drug war. Chantel St. Laurent from Maine People’s Alliance shared how she is one of the fortunate ones who has survived this crisis. She is now in long-term recovery and has avoided incarceration, and she has struggled with the stigma and shame of seeking treatment and services for her addiction.
Frederique reminded those gathered that the roots of today’s opioid crisis can be found in the failed policies of the “War on Drugs in the 1970s,” which was purposefully designed to control and criminalize black people, black families and marginalized communities, rather than address the root causes of addiction. This approach culminated in the overdose crisis we face today, in which we must advocate for bold transformational approaches to reducing harm and recovering lives, as well as fight to address the systemic issues that limit access to care and lifesaving treatments.
“Let’s stop burying our children and loved ones,” said Brenda Siegel, from Rights and Democracy Vermont, as she told her story. She was joined in sharing powerful testimony on Capitol Hill by Cathy Phason from Michigan United, Shantae Owens from Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL) from New York, and Heather Shapter of the New Jersey Organizing Project.
Perry Hopkins, a Baltimore resident from Maryland Communities United who worked closely with former Congressman Elijah Cummings, lead sponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 2019, shared that if he hadn’t had access to Naloxone, an emergency intervention which can reverse the effects of an overdose, he would not have survived to tell his story firsthand. It took three doses of Naloxone to revive Hopkins to get him into an ambulance that saved his life.
As we now enter the second session of the 116th Congress, People’s Action and the People’s Action Institute call on our representatives in both the House and Senate to advance critical pieces of legislation that will move us a step forward in responding effectively in a compassionate way to end the opioid epidemic. Along with our partners and allies, we are unified in our strong support for the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act (H.R. 2569/S. 1365) and the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act (H.R. 2482/S. 2074), and adamantly oppose the Stopping Overdose of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act (H.R. 2935/S. 1622).
The opioid crisis has claimed so many lives, and is dismantling the very fabric of our communities. What we need now is solutions, treatment and public education. As a progressive multiracial, working class network of more than a million people, we demand that Congress transform our country’s response to this crisis from the failed approach of stigmatizing and criminalizing drug users into a compassionate approach that places public health and harm reduction solutions, treatment and care at the forefront. The evidence is in, we know how to do it, so let’s work together – elected officials, practitioners and grassroots leaders – to save lives and make it so.
Sandy contractor fraud is still a problem — NJ bill tries to help by Dino Flammia, New Jersey 101.5
More than seven years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall and decimated the Jersey Shore, victims of contractor fraud are still struggling to be made whole.
A bill getting its final vote in Trenton on Monday would make it easier for these folks to recover grant money they may have lost to unscrupulous builders.
The proposed law, sponsored by legislators on both sides of the aisle, would get rid of the current requirement that Sandy victims provide a document indicating their contractor has been charged with a crime involving fraud or theft by deception in order to receive fraud-response funding from the state Department of Community Affairs.
This document, commonly known as a charging document, has proven to be very difficult for many to obtain, according to New Jersey Organizing Project, an Ocean County-based group that advocates for victims of the 2012 storm.
"It is not as easy as walking in to the police station and saying I was robbed or my contractor didn't do the work. It's not that simple," said Jody Stewart, a community organizer for the group.
So they're hoping the full Senate gives the green light Monday to the measure that would provide an alternate method for fraud victims to apply for relief. Under the measure, DCA would be authorized to distribute funding as long as a law enforcement agency — from local police to the Office of the Attorney General — has reasonable cause to believe a contractor violated the consumer fraud act.
"Whether the delay for working families to return to their homes is caused by fraud, deception, or just plain incompetence, these families shouldn't suffer any longer," said state Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic. "They were awarded a grant to rebuild their homes that was essentially stolen from them by unscrupulous contractors, and yet bureaucracy makes it difficult for families to find relief."
The measure was approved unanimously by the full Assembly in May. While voting in favor of the measure during a committee hearing on Jan. 6, state Sen. Samuel Thompson, R-Middlesex, said he intends to introduce legislation that would remove the charging-document requirement for victims of all future disasters.
Stewart said NJOP is aware of 800 people involved with the state's RREM (Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation) program who are still not home.
If approved by the Senate, the measure would be sent to Gov. Phil Murphy.
‘We’re All Trying To Rebuild’: Many Jersey Shore Residents Still Living In Limbo 7 Years After Superstorm Sandy
‘We’re All Trying To Rebuild’: Many Jersey Shore Residents Still Living In Limbo 7 Years After Superstorm Sandy by Cleve Bryan - CBS Philly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today marks the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. The deadly storm pummeled the Jersey Shore and other parts of the Northeast with heavy rain and winds of up to 115 mph.
Twelve people were killed in New Jersey.
The storm caused widespread destruction, costing about $37 billion.
Seven years after the storm slammed into some shore towns like Ventnor, there are many homes that are still not repaired, with residents still continuing to live in limbo.
New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs says about 700 people in the post-Sandy rebuilding program have still not completed work to their homes.
Several people who attended a rally in Ventnor were victims of fraud and had to have their home repaired more than once, forcing them to live in and out of hotels and apartments for the last seven years.
For them, today’s anniversary is a reminder of rebuilding frustrations that have not gone away.
“Well, seven years ago we were hit with Superstorm Sandy and it was devastating to our entire community. We’re all trying to rebuild. A lot of us had stumbling blocks along the way like contractor fraud and various issues, and by the time those were resolved, the funding, the gap funding, went away,” Beth Torsiello said. “Our insurance doesn’t cover enough to actually rebuild the house.”
Others like Fran Baronowitz are facing what are known as “clawbacks,” where the government wants them to pay back Sandy recovery money they may have applied for inappropriately.
“They want over $35,000 from me,” Baronowitz said.
Torsiello and Baronowitz attended the rally in Ventnor as Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new interagency council on climate resilience to develop a statewide strategy.
Over the last seven years, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen coastal communities by building up 127 miles of dunes along the Jersey Shore.
Many shore leaders say the next step is addressing back bay flooding, especially in light of climate change and sea level rise.
“The climate is changing, it is warming and you can argue forever why it’s occurring but it’s pretty obvious to anybody with common sense that’s occurring. And we’re going to have to provide for it,” Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said.
An estimated 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.
On 7th Anniversary of Sandy Homeowners Deal with Clawbacks Rising Flood Insurance Rates by Nanette Galloway - Downbeach
VENTNOR – Seven years after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Jersey shore, residents gathered at the home of survivor Fran Baronowitz in the Ventnor Heights section today to share stories about the aftermath of the storm.
Although it was nowhere near the high water during the October 2012 storm, street flooding made it difficult to reach Baronowitz’s house. The Dorset Avenue bridge was also closed due to flooding. Those who gathered today expressed concern that their communities are no more ready for extreme weather and flooding than they were seven years ago.
While some families still aren’t back in their homes after Sandy, those who are face the reality of grant clawbacks and the rising costs of flood insurance.
Baronowitz was asked to give back $30,000 in grant funds.
According to the New Jersey Organizing Project, 11% percent of families in the RREM program still have not completed construction or elevation projects and 23% have not completed their close outs. Community members are concerned it will become unaffordable to live in the homes they worked so hard to rebuild.
Many families do not have enough funding to complete their recovery. If it were not for the Supplemental Funding program that Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Organizing Project announced on the Sandy anniversary in 2018, many would not be home.
“It’s critical that as many families as possible get access to this funding as soon as possible so they can move forward,” said Alison Arne of the NJOP.
Storm survivors are being asked to pay back their own insurance money, loans and grants because of an outdated and dysfunctional disaster recovery system, Arne said.
“The state took a major step forward when Gov. Murphy announced a freeze on clawbacks last year. But a freeze does not mean money is not owed, just that repayment is not due at this time,” she said.
“Two years after I moved back in my lifted house, I got a letter from RREM requesting over $35,000 back,” Baronowitz said. “It shocked me, because I did everything I was supposed to do.”
While recovery efforts are ongoing, FEMA is preparing to update flood maps and the cost of flood insurance premiums. The new maps could double the number of properties in designated flood zones and double the cost of premiums every four years.
Effective flood mitigation, caps on premium increases and oversight over private insurers, is needed, Arne said.
“If our flood insurance rates triple or quadruple over the next few years, all the fighting we’ve done over the last seven years will have been useless, and our communities will crumble,” NJOP President Joe Mangino said. “We will continue to fight together to make sure Sandy families get home, can afford to stay home and are better prepared for future storms.”
The NJOP also held events this week in Brick and Toms River.
VIDEO - 700 families still not rebuilt 7 years after Superstorm Sandy in NJ - WPVI – Philadelphia, YahooNews.com
Seven years after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the New Jersey coast, about 700 families still have not finished rebuilding.
Superstorm Sandy Families Applaud New Opportunities for Recovery - by Victoria Ford, Sandpaper - April 10th 2019
With Monday’s announcement of up to $100 million in disaster aid to be redirected to help 957 families still stuck in the construction phase of the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program came a flood of relief for those who continue to struggle 6½ years after Superstorm Sandy turned their lives upside down. RREM is the state’s largest disaster rebuilding program, but it has not done enough for everyone impacted by the superstorm.
The application process for the newly available funding will begin in June. Homeowners who accept the aid agree to live in the rebuilt homes for at least five years.
Still-displaced Sandy survivor Nancy Caira of Waretown called the funding a “lifeline” at a time when she and her husband, Tony, had almost begun to give up. The New Jersey Organizing Project member joined Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Bob Menendez, Rep. Frank Pallone, Sen. Vin Gopal and local officials in Neptune to announce important new opportunities.
During Monday’s news conference, Murphy expressed his hope that the added financial support will “make New Jersey whole again, after the worst natural disaster in our state’s history.”
In addition to the supplemental funding New Jersey will roll out, the state has extended rental assistance of $1,300 a month for still-displaced families for up to 40 months (previously a maximum of 21 months) and placed a freeze on “clawbacks,” whereby the state is recalling grant funds.
“We are thankful for recognition from the governor, senator and congressman for grassroots Sandy families and organizations like ours who have been pushing for these important changes, and we look forward to keeping up the fight to get families home,” said NJOP Board President Joe Mangino of Manahawkin.
Still, some remain cautiously optimistic. “We have learned when our disaster recovery programs fail, families get sicker and broker,” said NJOP’s Doug Quinn of Toms River. “We hope these new changes encourage families to keep up the fight. If the process seems off, we’d encourage families to reach out to us.”
The supplemental fund is a newly created $50 million pool available to homeowners who have yet to finish, or even start, construction because they lack sufficient resources. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave New Jersey $4.2 billion for Sandy recovery in 2013; about $1.2 billion of it has yet to be spent.
NJOP will host community meetings to make sure homeowners are confident in moving forward in their recovery and in the application process, and will continue to take action to reduce and forgive clawbacks. Those meetings are on Saturday, April 27, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ventnor Public Library; Saturday, May 4, 2 to 4 p.m. at Seeds of Service in Brick; and Sunday, May 19, 1 to 3 p.m. at the Elks Club in Belford.
NJOP was formed in 2014 by nine Superstorm Sandy victims and has since grown to over 4,300 members.
The organizing project has fought for and won rental assistance for Sandy families, transparency in Sandy spending, and foreclosure protections. Led by communities on the front lines of climate change and disaster, NJOP builds power to address the threats, health challenges and economic inequality New Jerseyans face and works for affordable healthcare – e.g., expanding access to treatment for people struggling with opioid addiction – and for reform in disaster recovery systems, to benefit families and to make communities better prepared for flooding and future storms.
FOR SANDY FAMILIES STILL REBUILDING, NEW FUNDS COMING THIS SUMMER by Michael Symons, NJ 101.5 - April 8th 2019
Nearly 1,000 families still not back in homes damaged six and a half years ago by Superstorm Sandy will be able to apply to the state for supplemental recovery funds beginning in early summer.
Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez were among the state and federal officials on hand Monday at the Shark River Municipal Marina in Neptune to announce changes to the state’s Sandy recovery programs designed to help homeowners finally make it over the finish line.
The changes were approved Feb. 22 by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, and announced by the state Monday.
“For many New Jerseyans, Sandy is just a memory,” Murphy said. "But for roughly a thousand families still rebuilding through the state’s programs, Superstorm Sandy never left.”
“With this significant amount of new funding and rental assistance, we now have hope that all Sandy families will have the financial support they need to finish their rebuilding projects, to return home and to truly make New Jersey whole again after the worst natural disaster in our state’s history,” he said.
The $150,000 limit on grants through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program is being lifted through a new ‘supplemental fund’ providing additional construction funds. So long as a homeowner stays in their home for five years, the additional zero-interest loan won’t have to be repaid.Two big changes were announced.
“The supplemental fund is going to make it possible to return the safety, the security, the comfort and the predictability that we all know as home,” said Kevin McGee, executive director of the St. Bernard’s Project in New Jersey.
Additionally, families who are receiving up to $1,300 a month in rental assistance are now eligible to receive benefits for an additional 19 months – 40 months in total, rather than 21. Murphy said some “could have faced financial ruin” by paying both a mortgage and rent if the program expired in June.
“They all share the same dream of returning home and getting on with their lives,” Menendez said. “Their marathon is not yet over, but today I see the finish line on the horizon.”
N.J. expands recovery programs for displaced Sandy victims - by Justin Auciello, WHYY - April 8th, 2019
Millions of funds will be available for New Jersey Superstorm Sandy victims that remain out of their homes, state and federal officials announced Monday.
Speaking at the Shark River Municipal Marina in Neptune Township, Gov. Phil Murphy announced an update to a three-prong plan to assist residents who remain displaced nearly six-and-a-half years after Sandy devastated the state.
The plan calls for the removing the $150,000 cap on Sandy-related grant funding; expanding rental assistance to a total of 40 months for residents in the state rebuilding programs (capped at $1,300 a month); and reallocating $55 million of federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to homeowners in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation and the Low-to-Moderate Income Homeowner Rebuilding programs.
“Since we announced these programs six months ago, we have made tremendous progress for those who have spent years waiting to return home,” Murphy said.
The governor said the marina, which was destroyed by the storm, “was rebuilt stronger and more resilient” adding that it “exemplifies what we want for every community, and every individual and every structure that was hit by Sandy.”
More than 1,000 New Jersey homeowners remain displaced.
Nancy Caira of the New Jersey Organizing Project, formed after Superstorm Sandy to fight for an equitable recovery, praised the new programs.
“There’s hope now, there’s finally hope,” she said. “Today is pretty remarkable — remarkable for me, my husband, and over 1,000 other New Jerseyans just like us who are still not home.”
Governor Murphy Takes Major Step Forward to Provide More Funding to Sandy-Impacted Homeowners - InsiderNJ - April 8th 2019
NEPTUNE – Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, Senator Bob Menendez, Congressman Frank Pallone, and state Senator Vin Gopal today visited Neptune’s Shark River Municipal Marina to discuss the State’s plan to remove the cap on access to Sandy-related funds, allowing homeowners who have long been in limbo to complete construction on their primary homes. Additionally, those still impacted by Sandy will be able to get additional months of rental assistance. These efforts to support homeowners in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) Program and the Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) Homeowner Rebuilding Program to the finish line were recently approved by the federal government.
“My Administration’s goal is to get more funding into the hands of Sandy-impacted families who have run out of money and legitimately need additional resources to finish construction. Since we announced these programs six months ago, we have made tremendous progress for those who have spent years waiting to return home,” said Governor Murphy. “Federal approval of our plan puts us one significant step closer to making this a reality. For the families who have yet to complete their rebuilding efforts, we recognize the difficulties you’ve endured. But we hope the actions we’ve taken over the last year eliminate the challenges that remain and demonstrate our commitment to helping all who were so devastated by Superstorm Sandy.”
“The 1,200 or so New Jerseyans who remain in the state rebuilding program have been through hell and back again. Some were defrauded by their building contractor; some had to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting flood insurance companies in court; and some remain paralyzed by the fear of dreaded claw-back letters,” said Senator Menendez. “These Sandy survivors have faced many different obstacles. But at the end of the day they all share the same dream of returning home and getting on with their lives. Their marathon is not yet over but today the finish line is on the horizon, and the day they can return home is within reach.”
“It has been nearly six and a half years since Sandy devastated our shore communities,” said Rep. Pallone. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that New Jerseyans continue to recover to this day. This assistance, which will come from the Sandy relief package that I fought for in Congress, will significantly help to remove financial barriers for New Jersey residents who are still working to return to their homes. I applaud Governor Murphy and my colleagues in Congress for their steadfast support in this ongoing recovery.”
“My Department’s Sandy Recovery Division has ramped up efforts to help homeowners finish rebuilding once and for all,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, who serves as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA). “Throughout the month of March, we held well-attended outreach sessions about the additional funding in communities that were hit hard by Sandy. No longer will people in the RREM Program and LMI Program be limited to a $150,000 grant.”
“Thousands of New Jerseyans had the course of their life altered forever, and so many still deal with the impacts today,” said State Senator Vin Gopal. “While we continue to fight for support at the state level, ensuring we hold Sandy-repair contractors accountable, I am elated to join Gov. Murphy and our federal representatives today to announce $50 million that will go toward one of the most important Sandy recovery goals we can achieve: keeping New Jerseyans in their homes.”
Previously, homeowners in the RREM Program and the LMI Program were limited to a maximum grant award of $150,000 to rebuild their primary residence. Because the grant award is not sufficient for some homeowners to complete their project, DCA requested and received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reallocate $50 million of federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to the RREM Program and the LMI Program to provide additional construction funding that should remove any financial roadblocks to a full recovery for these families.
Also, homeowners in the RREM Program and LMI Program who are in construction can receive up to $1,300 per month through the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) while their homes are being rebuilt. The Murphy Administration successfully petitioned the federal government to allow homeowners to now receive up to a total of 40 months of rental assistance funded with CDBG-DR dollars. Rental assistance was previously limited by federal regulations to 21 months.
“Homeowners continue to work towards completing construction, but the financial strain of an additional rental payment can be the difference between finishing or abandoning the project,” said Charles Richman, Executive Director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA), which administers the Rental Assistance Program. “We at the NJHMFA are proud to help those families who were severely impacted by Sandy make ends meet so they can return home.”
DCA allocated $50 million to create a Supplemental Fund exclusively for homeowners in the RREM Program and the LMI Program who have a program-calculated unmet need and who have yet to complete construction. Awards from the Supplemental Fund will be uncapped, will be calculated based on the remaining program-eligible work needed to finish the project, and will take into account other funding sources. Homeowners who accept a Supplemental Fund award will be required to live in the home for five years following construction completion.
DCA plans to make applications for the Supplemental Fund available in early summer.
“More than six years later, struggling Sandy families need a lifeline to get across the finish line and finally make it back home. The New Jersey Organizing Project welcomes this lifeline,” said Amanda Devecka-Rinear, Executive Director of the New Jersey Organizing Project (NJOP). “Both the extension of rental assistance and the creation of a supplemental fund create hope and options where previously there were none. We look forward to continuing to work together to make sure families don’t have to struggle alone.”
DCA’s Sandy Recovery Division hosted evening and weekend outreach sessions about the Supplemental Fund throughout the month of March to packed rooms in communities such as Atlantic City, Brick, Little Ferry, Toms River, and Union Beach. Information about the outreach sessions and the Supplemental Fund was provided via direct phone calls and emails to every homeowner in the RREM Program and the LMI Program who is still rebuilding and who may be eligible for supplemental funding.
Crooked Sandy contractor bound for halfway house after less than year in prison by Russ Zimmer and Jean Mikle - Asbury Park Press
A serial fraudster who preyed on dozens of superstorm Sandy victims has been moved to a community release program after spending less than 200 days in prison.
Jamie Lawson, 43, was transferred last week out of a prison in South Jersey and into the custody of an assessment center, one stop from a work-release program. This revelation has infuriated his victims, at least one of whom is still out of their home because of Lawson's thievery.
“Oh my God, angry," Carol Ferraioli told the Asbury Park Press when asked how she felt about Lawson's transfer out of prison. "That was the first thing out of my mouth when we left the courtroom (after Lawson's sentencing) — that that man would be out of prison before I was back in my home.”
In July, Lawson was sentenced to a term of 3½ to 10 years in prison after he admitted to fleecing 41 superstorm Sandy victims out of nearly $2 million. See Lawson's sentencing in the video above this story.
His formula involved contracting with Sandy victims to elevate and rebuild homes. Ultimately, Lawson would spend the money on "personal expenses" and perform little or no work for the homeowner.
Lawson was featured in a Press investigation that exposed the loopholes in New Jersey law that allows felons like Lawson to register as home improvement contractors without a background check to ensure that they aren't predators who pack up and move to another state when their grift is discovered.
John Ongrady Jr. who was Lawson's first victim on the Shore, called the news "another slap in the face" but added that he wasn't blindsided.
"This guy is a conman like you wouldn’t believe. He’s amazing," said Ongrady, a retiree who lives in Toms River with his wife, Sheila. "Right now, he’s conning these probation people, I know it. You have to talk to this guy to understand.”
Lawson performed some of the work he promised for the Ferraiolis, who were living in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown when Sandy struck. However, doing the job and doing it well are two very different accomplishments.
In the process of elevating their home, which is still up on cribbing today, Lawson ruined the house. It must be lowered, demolished and rebuilt.
Carol Ferraioli told the Press in a recent interview that their financing is nearly in order, and that she and her husband, Anthony, will be reimbursed by the state for the disaster aid money that Lawson stole from them. Still, it may be two years before they are able to move back to their neighborhood, she said.
“It was a 10-year sentence and then it's that he only has to serve two-and-a-half," Ferraioli said. "I just get so angry when I think about all this.”
Lawson had a lengthy criminal history by the time he began operations in New Jersey in the wake of Sandy.After he was indicted for on nine felony counts in Ocean County in December 2016, Lawson fled and was on the run for six months.
Eventually, Lawson was arrested by U.S. Marshals in South Carolina and brought back to New Jersey, where he stretched out the legal process by agreeing to plead guilty, then changing his mind before flipping back again.
His sentence required a minimum of 3½ years incarceration, but Lawson was given credit for the 400 days he spent behind bars at the county jail awaiting trial.
At one point before his sentencing, Lawson offered $300,000 in restitution for his victims, but the state could not accept the money because there were no assurances it didn't come from victims elsewhere, William Scharfenberg, supervising assistant Ocean County prosecutor, has said.
Lawson has criminal records in North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and New Jersey. Authorities have said he would travel to states after natural disasters and begin doing home improvement work, taking advantage of vulnerable homeowners who were desperate to get back into their damaged homes.
Lawson was moved to Talbot Hall in Kearny on Feb. 12, according to a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Corrections.
"When residents reach their treatment goals, they are referred to an appropriate halfway house to begin participation in work-release programs," reads a description of Talbot Hall on the website of the Education & Health Centers of America, a private company that runs Talbot and five other treatment centers for the state of New Jersey.
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