Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte
By Michael V. Cusenza
By the end of this year, every person in the Department of Correction’s custody will receive re-entry services to help connect them with jobs and opportunities outside of jail, as well as five hours of programming per day during their stay to address vocational, educational, and therapeutic needs, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced.
The administration’s new system will begin with expanded risk and need assessment on the first day that someone enters jail, offer five hours every day of programming that addresses an individual’s unique needs, and continue with support – including new employment and educational programs – after someone leaves jail and returns to the community. De Blasio cited a 2013 RAND Corporation study that showed that participation in prison education, including both academic and vocational programming, was associated with an over 40-percent reduction in recidivism—saving $4 to $5 for each dollar spent.
Jails to Jobs
Peer Navigators: Everyone leaving City jails after serving a sentence will be paired with a Peer Navigator from a new public health-informed program in which peers who have successfully stabilized after incarceration help those who are recently released to achieve the same stability.
Transitional Employment: Everyone leaving City jails after serving a sentence will be offered paid, short-term transitional employment to help with securing a long-term job. De Blasio noted that research has shown that connecting those recently released from prison to short-term transitional jobs can reduce recidivism by 22 percent.
Trained workforce providers: All City-funded workforce professionals will be trained on issues and laws related to working with people with criminal records, including the Fair Chance Act, legislation signed by de Blasio that prohibits discrimination based on a person’s arrest record or criminal conviction.
Additionally, de Blasio noted, the City will continue its partnership with the City University of New York to offer 500 people per year who leave City jails after serving a sentence educational subsidies to support getting certificates and other credentials that promote career advancement, including the opportunity to become a certified peer and join the Peer Navigators for the Jails to Jobs program.
“We share a common goal of preventing crime in New York City and programs aimed at breaking the cycle of recidivism will help reduce crime and make our communities safer for all,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
The mayor’s re-entry services announcement came one day after City Comptroller Scott Stringer released an audit that found that City departments of Correction and Education are unable to prove they gave many young adult inmates held on Rikers Island the opportunity to attend the City’s Rikers-based high school, even though they are legally entitled to educational services.
“Offering young inmates the chance to attend high school is not only smart policy, it’s required by law,” Stringer said. “But the Department of Correction doesn’t adhere to its own rules to make sure that the law is followed. That’s wrong, because if we’re going to reverse decades of backwards criminal justice policies, it’s going to be with bigger and better schools — not bigger and tougher prisons.”