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Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a trip to Rikers Island last week to announce a new program to help inmates stay out of jail once they are released.
The program is designed to help recently released offenders ease back into society and prevent a return trip to jail, a process known as recidivism, by equipping that person with the tools to start a new life.
The rate of recidivism for high-risk inmates is large. Among inmates whom the city Department of Correction considers likely to enter the criminal justice system again, about 70 percent in fact find themselves back behind bars within a year — a number the program hopes to reduce by 10 percent.
“This is the first jail-based re-entry program model to combine best practices with a nationally validated, evidence-based assessment tool and pay-for-success program delivery,” Bloomberg said.
The program is called the Individualized Correction Achievement Network, also known as I-CAN, and will be rolled out in four facilities on Rikers, but expanded to the city’s entire jail system by the end of the year.
The city will pay nonprofits based on how well they help offenders get jobs, earn a GED or stay sober — tools that will help them stay out of trouble, according to Bloomberg. Previously, the city dished out funds based on how often the offenders reported to appointments.
The program will also pay nonprofits to help the offenders with more basic amenities such as getting a driver’s license or identification card, which can pose a surprisingly large obstacle to finding a job, according to the mayor.
“If a life of crime is the only thing open to you, you’ll sometimes fall into that trap,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg spoke alongside the head of Correction and representatives from nonprofits that will be doing the groundwork on the project.
“Our experience and the experience of re-entry providers in jails and prisons across the country have shown how important it is to have a seamless and supportive transition from incarceration to needed services in the community,” said JoAnne Page, president of the Fortune Society, one of the participating nonprofits.
The mayor also touted New York City’s low incarceration rate. Since the year 2001, the city’s incarceration rate has dropped by 32 percent, whereas nationwide it has increased by 5 percent, according to Bloomberg.
The city’s lower number of inmates has also dovetailed with a decrease in overall crime over the same period, which according to a study published by the Vera Institute of Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice and the JFA Institute, nonprofit legal advocacy groups, proved it is possible to achieve a lower crime rate without increasing the number of people sent to prison.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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