BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Michael Feldman turned 31 on Oct. 4.
He was in prison, but getting out soon, and ready for a new beginning.
That sentiment lasted only a short time because he would be dead less than three weeks later.
“He was having a hard time coping, with just, life because it’s so different than being locked up,” said close friend Tiffany Albakari.
Feldman was released last month from a correctional facility in Ohio, fresh off a seven-month stint for various felonies, including charges involving child pornography and firearms.
His first stop, the Buffalo Halfway House on Glenwood Avenue.
“He had money saved up and he was just looking forward to getting out,” Albakari said.
But Albakari said beyond his struggle to adjust to life outside prison, Michael was a known drug user.
“When he first got there, he tested dirty,” Albakari said. “He also tested dirty again. And the second time he tested dirty, he requested to be put into drug and alcohol classes.”
Just days later, Michael would be found dead in his room at the halfway house.
Toxicology results won’t be available for weeks, according to the Erie County Department of Health. Feldman’s manner and mode of death were not released.
But family, friends and law enforcement sources suspect drug overdose.
The halfway house does not have on site the life-saving drug Narcan, which is available over the counter. Nor is their staff trained to administer it.
When asked why, the agency’s executive director, Leslie Greathouse, said a contract with the U.S. Department of Justice prevents them from doing so. The halfway house is taxpayer funded.
However, representatives from the Bureau of Prisons — an arm of the DOJ — said that’s not the case.
According to their statement: “There is no BOP policy or restriction preventing the use of Narcan in BOP contract facilities (halfway houses) and BOP has no objection to its use in residential reentry centers (halfway houses). Each residential reentry center, is also required, however, to follow state and local laws.”
There are no local or state laws that would prevent the halfway house from administering the drug, according to the health department.
For Albakari, a discrepancy like that is what’s so upsetting.
“At the end of the day, this is a federal program,” she said. “They should be helping these people, and helping them to readjust to life and giving them that second chance. And they definitely shouldn’t be having people dying on anybody’s watch.”