What to Know
- Everyone in NYC jails will receive re-entry services by the end of this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday
- The $10 million initiative will provide counseling to inmates starting the day they enter jail and offer post-release counseling and jobs
- The city's jail population has dropped by 18 percent since the mayor took office in 2014
In an effort to continue lowering the city's jail population, every person in the Department of Correction's custody will receive re-entry services by the end of 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
The $10 million Jails to Jobs initiative will help connect convicts with employment opportunities outside of jail. Additionally, each inmate will receive five hours of personalized job training and counseling while in jail to support long-term stability after their release.
By year's end, each person who enters city jails will meet with a counselor to assess their areas of need starting on their first day in custody.
Former Rikers Island inmate Leviticus Mitchell said being in jail was difficult to endure. He said he'd "made some mistakes" that landed him behind bars at just 14 years old.
Today, he's got a job and helps counsel former inmates. He fully supports the mayor's new plan to help thousands of former inmates like him, and says the job counseling he got helped him turn his attitude around for good.
"That was a devastating experience and told me how to value freedom," he said.
"Everyone deserves a second chance," the mayor said. "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."
Paid, short-term transitional employment will help 8,500 inmates secure a long-term gig, which could reduce recidivism by 22 percent, according to research. The jobs would last a maximum of two months.
K Bain, who runs a non-profit at Queensbridge Houses aimed at deterring young people from crime, said the city's plan, while well-intentioned, still leaves former inmates at risk of not finding employment for the long term.
"The stigma that comes along with being incarcerated is stronger than ever," he said. "I think two months is too short a time, but it's a step in the right direction."
Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance also announced a $15 million investment Wednesday to improve re-entry services throughout the city. Funded by the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, the investment will go toward proposals that will enhance current re-entry services for released inmates and programs with a proven track record of success.
The DA's office is also launching an innovation challenge to test progressive strategies that will improve the city's re-entry services and address the wide-ranging needs of individuals leaving jail.
The city will continue its partnership with the City University of New York to offer 500 people who complete their jail sentences educational subsidies to help them earn certificates or credentials for career advancement.
Since de Blasio took office in 2014, the Riker's Island population has dropped by 23 percent and the city's jail population has dropped 18 percent, the mayor's office said.