March 29, 2017
Jail population down 18% since Mayor took office
NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio today announced that 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. The Mayor also reiterated major reductions in the jail population in the last three years.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. We’re working to break the cycle of returning to jail for those in City custody by making sure they have opportunities to learn and grow while in jail, and connecting them with the re-entry services to support a pathway to stability when they leave,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Re-Entry Services for All Detainees by End of 2017
Re-entry services are critical to preventing recidivism and ensuring that people leaving DOC custody have opportunities to embark on a productive and stable path. The City is building a system in which every person who enters city jails will be provided with new tools and services that will help to promote a stable future. By addressing vocational, educational, therapeutic and other needs in an individualized way, time inside jail can be used productively to lay a foundation that can prevent future interaction with the criminal justice system.
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. A 2013 RAND Corporation study 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.
By the end of 2017, every single person who enters City jails will be meeting with counselors, starting day one, who will assess their unique risks and needs. These counselors will work with detainees to develop an individualized approach for their time in custody that will include efforts to identify vocational and educational needs and help them connect with the right programs during their stay. Everyone in City custody will be matched with five hours per day of vocational, educational, and therapeutic programming that will help lay a foundation to best support long-term stability after release.
Jails to Jobs
Educational subsidies: Additionally, 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.
This re-entry initiative will be implemented in partnership with the New York City Diversion and Re-Entry Council, which includes over 100 leaders from various parts of the criminal justice system.
Serious Violence is Decreasing in DOC Facilities
Since the Mayor took office, the jail population has decreased 18% – from an average population of 11,478 in December 2013 to an average of 9,362 this month. The population just at Rikers Island has fallen 23%. This drop was largely driven by intentional efforts to reduce the number of people who go into jail and how long they stay – while still protecting public safety.
The successful diversion of those who do not belong in jail has meant a higher concentration of inmates who are more likely to commit violent acts. Despite this challenge, serious violent incidents are decreasing by double digit percentages in nearly every category. These decreases affirm the shift away from punitive segregation to more effective rehabilitation methods.
From calendar year 2014 to 2016:
The drop in incidents resulting in any type of injury – coupled with an increase in uses of force without injury – indicate that new de-escalation trainings for staff have helped officers learn successful strategies to end fights or intervene in tricky situations without anyone getting hurt.
While the jails are still seeing an increase in stabbings and slashings, those incidents represent less than 1.5% of all jail violence, and contraband confiscations increased 33% from 2015 to 2016. The administration continues to advocate the State to change the law that would permit the Department to use ionizing body scanners that are more effective at finding small blades. Since the department stopped using these scanners in 2013 under State law, slashing and stabbing incidents have risen, and returning them to use as soon as possible is a key part of the strategy to make our jails safer.
In a separate, related announcement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today released two Requests for Proposals to create innovative programming and support existing services for New Yorkers reentering communities after periods of incarceration. Using criminal forfeiture funds obtained through settlements with international banks that violated U.S. sanctions, the District Attorney’s Office is also funding the creation of a blueprint for a new Manhattan Criminal Court Resource Center to better enable low-level offenders to navigate and utilize programs and services that comprise non-jail sentences, ranging from community service to mental health programs.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said, “Any effort to reduce crime must address the needs of those returning to our communities after being incarcerated. Unless we provide these individuals with access to the resources they need – from employment to supportive housing to mental health services – the cycle of recidivism is bound to continue. Similarly, as we work to reduce unnecessary incarceration, we know we must not only expand sentencing options for low-level offenders that do not include jail, but provide better access to these programs and services for the thousands of defendants that come through our courts each year. I look forward to investing in programs that have been proven to be successful in reducing recidivism, and to learning more about the new and innovative work happening in this field, with an eye toward funding more projects in the future.”
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “We support re-entry programs and other efforts to rehabilitate formerly incarcerated people.”
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “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.”
Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry, Speaker Pro-Tempore, stated "The importance of governmental support for reentry programs cannot be overstated. I commend Mayor de Blasio for unveiling an initiative that recognizes the importance of a robust offender reentry plan. Providing educational and vocational training that will be useful upon release greatly increases the chance that an offender will be able to find gainful employment; and maintaining gainful employment is integral to breaking the cycle of crime plaguing many families and improving the public safety of our communities. The success of these individuals stands to benefit our entire State while their failure will only feed the revolving door of incarceration - this initiative is a positive step towards ending this cycle."
“City jails, like Rikers, are too often thought of as a ‘revolving door,’ having inmates return to prison at some point after their initial stay” said Assembly Member David Weprin, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction. “This is no longer acceptable in New York; and in an effort to reduce recidivism and turn our correctional facilities into the rehabilitative agencies we need them to be in order to reduce crime, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a bold initiative to increase re-entry services for inmates across the City. By providing inmates with vocational and educational training as well as services to support a stable life after jail, New York City will ensure that people who leave jail will have the opportunity to lead a productive and crime-free future.”
Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda said, “As chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Transitional Services for recently released and former inmates, I salute Mayor de Blasio on this excellent plan. Not only is it a major benefit to those incarcerated, but it will also go a long way to reducing the recidivism rate, which will help drop the dramatic plunge in crime in the city even further. Bravo and much success!”
“Implementing important services like these is exactly the type of reform our criminal justice system is in desperate need of,” said Assembly Member Pamela Harris. “We must be doing all we can to rehabilitate people, make sure they have the skills and support they need to make a successful transition back into the community and put them on the path to a better future. As a former correction officer, I’ve seen firsthand the good these programs can do and know they’ll increase public safety and strengthen our neighborhoods.”
“As we work to lower the population in our city’s jails through a number of criminal justice reforms, this is very welcome news,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Supportive re-entry services can help reduce recidivism and provide the dignity needed to be productive upon leaving our corrections system. The City is working hard to stop the pipeline into prisons and providing more productive options to potential repeat offenders. This is key to being a city that cares.”
“Transitioning back into the workforce after being in jail is one of the hardest steps for New Yorkers who want to turn their life in a better direction,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “These trainings and re-entry services will be a valuable resource for those who need a hand up and want to build a better future for themselves and their families. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to breaking down the barriers many New Yorkers face when they are trying to change their life for the better.”
Vanessa Gibson, Chair of Public Safety Committee said, “Re-entry services are critical in enabling the formerly incarcerated lead productive, law-abiding lives. I commend Mayor de Blasio for making the commitment to fully fund needs assessment and re-entry services in our city jails. Further, I applaud the Mayor, Commissioner Joseph Ponte, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Executive Director Elizabeth Glazer, and all stakeholders involved in lowering the overall Rikers population by 18% since 2014, when Mayor de Blasio took office. Our city is made safer through more jobs, not fuller jails and I applaud this renewed focus on re-entry and rehabilitation.”
"These reforms to our city's criminal justice system will make our community safer and honor our values by demonstrating respect for human dignity,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The plan presented today is a smart approach that will send a message of hope to those re-entering society from the criminal justice system. After serving time, it is difficult, if not impossible, for many to adjust to a new life, find a job, and feel accepted in a society that often stigmatizes them. This new approach will give the necessary tools needed for a truly fresh start."
Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of the Fortune Society said, “By providing risk assessment and reentry services on Day One to every person in custody on Rikers Island, Mayor de Blasio is helping create a solid base on which thousands of men and women can build productive lives when they come home to their own communities. This pioneering and visionary approach will not only save tax payer dollars in reincarceration and criminal justice-related costs, it will save countless lives and make our City stronger.”
George T. McDonald, Founder and President, The Doe Fund said, "The drop in jail population is a reason for all of us to celebrate. But as we know all too well, it’s the critical period immediately following a person's release-- and whether they can find work-- that determines whether or not they'll return to the criminal justice system. We are deeply gratified by the Mayor's commitment to transitional services for people in city jails, particularly when it comes to transitional employment. By recognizing the role that employment plays in diverting people away from jail, the Mayor's office is standing up for New Yorkers whose paths to incarceration began not with crime, but with poverty."
“As an organization that works directly with people preparing to return to the community from jail, we know firsthand the value of transitional employment, education, and connection to supportive services like housing and healthcare. We commend the City’s new plan to begin reentry services on day one and to focus on the supports all people need to build and rebuild their lives," said Elizabeth Gaynes, CEO of the Osborne Association.
“Research has shown time and again—and common sense tells us—that we should do everything possible to make sure that people leaving incarceration have the tools they need to lead productive lives in the community. We also know that there is no one-sized-fits all approach to reentry success, and that people entering jails have diverse and often difficult challenges that contribute to jail’s revolving door. Today’s announcement that everyone entering New York City’s jail will have the chance to be connected to the programs that best match their needs will open up doors of opportunity to thousands of New Yorkers. We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to improving reentry services, breaking cycles of incarceration, and ultimately, making our city safer and stronger,” said Nicholas Turner, President, Vera Institute of Justice.
“As a gender-responsive organization, Providence House knows the serious consequences incarceration has on New York City women, their families, and our communities, said Sister Janet Kinney, CSJ, Executive Director, Providence House. “Comprehensive, well-funded re-entry programs are proven to help these women secure stable housing, find and keep employment, and avoid further criminal justice involvement over the long term. We applaud Mayor de Blasio and his Office of Criminal Justice for working toward a much more effective and humane approach.”
“STRIVE believes deeply in the power of employment to create second chances for men and women leaving incarceration and seeking a better future for themselves and their families,” said Phil Weinberg, President & CEO of STRIVE International, a leading nonprofit employment and training organization based in East Harlem. “We are proud to partner with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Correction to provide innovative programming at Rikers Island and in the community. These are exceptional investments in our city’s safety that build pathways to opportunities for New Yorkers.”
"Good news indeed for all those who want to rebuild their lives post incarceration but who cannot do it without concrete support and the firm belief that it is possible!" said Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, Executive Director of Hour Children.
Ann Jacobs, Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute said, "New York City continues to invest in a robust and creative multi-faceted strategy to equip people who have been cycling through Rikers to achieve the stability and self-sufficiency that they desire for themselves, and that we want for them."