DA Vance Announces Investment of $7.2 Million in New Yorkers Reentering Their Communities After Incarceration

April 10, 2018

Thank you all for being here. And, I’d like to extend a special thank you to our hosts today, the Institute for Family Health.

With me today are: Dr. Mary Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Michael Jacobson, the Executive Director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance; Dr. Neil Calman, President and CEO here at the Institute for Family Health; Ann Jacobs, Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College; Maria Santangelo, Director of Programs at the College and Community Fellowship; Jasmyn Dennis, Senior Housing Counselor from the Osborne Association. And, thank you also to Manhattan Deputy Borough President Matthew Washington for being here today.

Every year, more than 70,000 New Yorkers return to our City following a period of incarceration. The process known as re-entry has come a long way in recent years – in large part thanks to many of the people standing with me here today. Reentry used to mean putting someone on a bus with a few dollars or a Metrocard in their pocket and sending them on their way, hoping for the best.

Slowly but surely, we’ve seen a growing recognition of the challenges these individuals face, and a movement has sprung up to begin the work of properly supporting them. Thanks to this growing movement, for example, it’s now illegal for employers in New York City to ask job applicants about their criminal records, and this “ban the box” movement has spread nationwide.

Thanks also to this movement, my Office was able to seize an opportunity last year to provide complete funding for New York’s first statewide College in Prison program, and now we have seven New York colleges providing college classes at 17 prisons across the state.

Law enforcement should be a part of this movement for successful reentry. Here’s why. According to the state Department of Corrections, 42 percent of people released from New York prisons returned to prison within three years. This revolving door isn’t just a human tragedy for re-entering New Yorkers, their families, and their communities. It’s a public safety problem. When New Yorkers return to their communities without the basic tools they need to reenter successfully, we are all less safe.

So, law enforcement should join this movement on public safety grounds, and we should also join this movement on the basis of our own responsibility and accountability. We should firmly and finally acknowledge that when we play a role in sending someone to prison, we own some of the responsibility for what happens when they get out.

That’s why, today, my Office is investing $7.2 million in four innovative efforts – the Department of Health’s new Health Justice Network, the Prisoner Reentry Institute’s College Initiative program, the College and Community Fellowship’s Build-Out of Student Services, and the Osborne Association’s Kinship Reentry program.

We’re investing these dollars because it makes no sense to send someone to prison without a plan for them to succeed when they get out. These grants are being awarded to the winners of our Reentry Innovation Challenge, a highly selective, yearlong, open-solicitation process seeking high-impact programs to be planned and piloted in New York City, as well as a request for proposals for Reentry Supports and Services enhancement. Both solicitations were facilitated by CUNY ISLG. All of today’s grants are funded entirely from ill-gotten gains seized in our financial crime prosecutions against major banks as part of our Criminal Justice Investment Initiative. Please join me in congratulating each of today’s awardees.

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As I’ve said, this movement has come a long way, and reentering New Yorkers have a better shot at successful reentry today than ever before. But, a crucial factor impacting many members of this population has long been overlooked – and that’s primary health care. We chose to make our announcement here today at the Institute of Family Health because we want to highlight this missing piece in the reentry puzzle. When it comes to successful reentry, health care is the next frontier.

Studies show that people involved in the justice system have disproportionately high rates of chronic health conditions, and many suffer from mental health issues and substance abuse. But poverty, joblessness and other factors make reentering New Yorkers far less likely to access the primary care services they need. Knowing this, it only seems logical that one of the first steps of the reentry process should be connecting formerly incarcerated individuals with proper, stable, medical care.

I’m proud to invest more than $3 million in the Department of Health’s new Health Justice Network, so that our City can do exactly that. This is the largest single investment in primary care for reentering individuals that has ever been made, and we believe this proof of concept will show our state and our nation that investing in healthcare can have a dramatic effect on recidivism and crime reduction. It may even help us close Rikers.

With these dollars, Dr. Bassett and her team will train everyone – from the doctors to the receptionists – here at the Institute and at two other clinics in underserved neighborhoods, all with the singular goal of serving reentering individuals. Our investment will also fund the hiring of peer navigators, who are formerly incarcerated themselves, to work out of these clinics and help newly reentering New Yorkers access primary care and navigate what can be an incredibly complicated system – even for those without a criminal record. So today, we are redefining reentry to include the primary health care needs of these individuals.

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Healthcare is the next frontier in reentry but of course it’s not the only piece. People who feel invested in their jobs, homes, and lives are much less likely to reoffend. Successful reentry is one of the best forms of crime prevention we have, so it only makes sense to continue evolving the meaning of what reentry looks like, until we get it right.

In a moment, I will introduce you to each of the innovative groups receiving our Redefining Reentry grants, and will ask them to tell you about the transformative work they do already and how they will build upon it with this funding.

But first I’d like to ask Michael Jacobson, the Executive Director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance, to say a few words.

It’s my honor now to introduce Dr. Mary Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Next up, our host today, Dr. Neil Calman, President and CEO of the Institute for Family Health.

As I said earlier, one of our signature investments under our Criminal Justice Investment Initiative is our college-in-prison programming, which allows New Yorkers to obtain college credits toward the end of their term of incarceration.

 This was a meaningful first step, but today, thanks to the Prisoner Reentry Institute, we’re able to take it to the next level – by helping reentering individuals continue their education after leaving jail or prison. And, in order to break the familial cycle of incarceration, PRI will begin educating the children of reentering New Yorkers as well. Please welcome Ann Jacobs, Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay, who will speak about this incredible program.

Our next speaker will discuss the powerful programs we are investing in today specifically to support formerly incarcerated women, who often face different challenges than their male counterparts. Please welcome Maria Santangelo, Director of Programs at the College and Community Fellowship.

It’s hard to imagine what a successful reentry process would look like without a stable, viable place to call home. Housing is an incredibly important piece of the reentry puzzle. But in New York City, as we know, housing can be hard to find, and it can come at an impossibly high cost.

Our next speaker will tell you about the Kinship Reentry pilot program we are investing in today, which is an unprecedented effort to enable families to take formerly incarcerated relatives into their homes. Please welcome Jasmyn Dennis, Senior Housing Counselor from the Osborne Association.

Thank you. It’s an honor to be up here with each of you today.