Former lawyer who served time in hit-and-run case now runs resource center for ex-prisoners

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A successful New Jersey criminal defense attorney with a drinking problem, John Koufos saw his career and life spiral downward in 2011 when he was involved in a hit-and-run accident that seriously injured a teenager.

He wound up serving less than two years of his six-year sentence in the case, and was then paroled in 2014, sober but homeless, to the Martin’s Place re-entry program in Jersey City. Now he helps run it, New Jersey Advance Media reports.

As director of re-entry for the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, which is operated by former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, Koufos is responsible for overseeing efforts to provide transitional housing, alcohol and drug counseling and job training for those exiting the state’s prisons in targeted communities. The group’s unusually high rate of success in encouraging participants to avoid a return trip to prison resulted in a recent state contract of more than $3 million to expand its services, the Associated Press reports.

“As an accomplished criminal defense attorney, you think you know everything,” Koufos said. “Everything I thought I knew changed when the door closed behind me. I saw my former clients in a way I never had before.”

He says he makes use of his legal background in directing participants to attorneys who can help them.

Related coverage: “‘Rising Star’ in NJ Bar Charged in Hit-and-Run; Legal Assistant Initially Took the Blame for Crash” “Lawyer who reviewed messages while driving gets parole after serving a year in hit-and-run case”

New Jersey Law Journal (sub. req.): “Attorney John Koufos Disbarred”

Updated at 3:49 p.m. to clarify headline.

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