[Criminal Justice News]
City Council Speaker Johnson: “Sending people back to jail because of technical, non-criminal parole violations is senseless. It is unfair to take away one’s freedom just because the person missed a curfew, failed a drug test or missed an appointment with a parole officer. It is inconceivable that we have reduced the City’s jail population, yet the number of people behind bars for technical parole violations is increasing. As we continue to work to close Rikers and reform our criminal justice system, we need to provide parolees with the support they need to return to their communities and thrive.”
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Anti-mass incarceration groups are hailing the New York City Council’s funding of alternatives to incarceration.

Yesterday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Committee on Criminal Justice Chair Keith Powers, announced that $13.5 million is designated in this year’s fiscal budget to fund and support alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programs in an effort to continue to reduce the city’s jail population.

As part of the City Council’s push for parole reform and its commitment to create post-release opportunities, the money will help fund programs that provide individuals involved with the criminal justice system with a wide array of services to help them stay out of prison, particularly for minor or technical parole violations.

Nearly 8% of the city’s jail population are people who violated minor parole requirements, like failing a drug test or missing a curfew. While the State Legislature considers the Less is More Act, a proposal that would reduce the number of individuals detained for technical and low-level parole violations, the City Council is supporting programs that provide New Yorkers on parole with the services they need to go back to their communities, including job placement, vocational training, substance abuse counseling, and short and long-term housing.

By expanding ATI programs, judges will have better alternatives to keep individuals out of jail, including programs that allow parole judges to help parolees get services they need to avoid returning to jail. Additionally, the Council will fund programs that will help determine when individuals arrested for minor parole violations should be released back to their communities and not spend any unnecessary time in jail.

Funding will establish new ATI programming; support operations at a new Felony ATI Court Part in Brooklyn Supreme Court; and offer justice-involved individuals with a pathway to higher education. For Fiscal Year 2020, the Council will fund more than 20 community-oriented service providers.

“Sending people back to jail because of technical, non-criminal parole violations is senseless. It is unfair to take away one’s freedom just because the person missed a curfew, failed a drug test or missed an appointment with a parole officer. It is inconceivable that we have reduced the City’s jail population, yet the number of people behind bars for technical parole violations is increasing. As we continue to work to close Rikers and reform our criminal justice system, we need to provide parolees with the support they need to return to their communities and thrive. I commend Council Member Powers and the entire City Council for the tireless work and leadership in our efforts to reform the criminal justice system and make it more just and fair,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.

“Parole was designed to keep people out of detention, not put people back in it. In order to ensure that we close Rikers and transform our criminal justice system, we must stop incarcerating people for minor parole violations. This $13.5 million commitment will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. I want to thank Speaker Johnson and my colleagues for their dedication to establishing a more humane justice system,” said Council Member Keith Powers, Chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice.

“The NYC ATI and Reentry Coalition commend the New York City Council for its long-standing commitment to funding alternatives to incarceration in NYC. Today’s announcement reflects the Council’s ongoing leadership in reforming New York City’s justice system. Jail closure can’t happen without expanding ATI and reentry services and the Coalition plays a critical role in how the city reimagines public safety. Coalition members have proven track records of providing services to break the devastating cycle of crime, incarceration, and recidivism, and strengthen families and communities city-wide. These programs also help to save millions in tax dollars every year and build a more equitable criminal justice system for our City overall,” said Tracie Gardner of the Legal Action Center and Coordinator for the NYC ATI and Reentry Coalition, composed of Bronx Connect, CASES, College and Community Fellowship, Center for Employment Opportunities, Center for Community Alternatives, EAC Network, Fortune Society, Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, Legal Action Center, Osborne Association and Women’s Prison Association.

The City Council’s support for life-changing programs that decrease recidivism and offer more New Yorkers a way out of the criminal justice system is essential. The people of our City owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Speaker Corey Johnson and Criminal Justice Committee Chair Keith Powers for their bold progressive leadership in securing increased funding in the City budget for programs which provide a solid platform to New Yorkers involved in the criminal justice system to rebuild their lives and strengthen families and neighborhoods. GOSO’s holistic approach of offering mental health, educational, vocational and job readiness programming dramatically reduces the number of young people who are incarcerated and helps to ensure that they are working and/or in school. As the demand for resources like these continues to rise, criminal justice reform policies which put robust reentry services at the forefront are more vital than ever. The City Council’s leadership under Speaker Johnson and Council Member Powers in this arena is among the most innovative and practical in the nation,” said Getting Out and Staying Out President and CEO Mark L. Goldsmith.

“We are thankful to New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson for believing in alternatives to incarceration. Young people who grow up poor in New York City may have limited choices, face barriers, and are more likely to make decisions that could land them in a revolving-door cycle of poverty and incarceration. With support from the Speaker’s Office, we at Avenues for Justice impact hundreds of youth each year who are getting the second chance they deserve, and whose potential would be wasted without alternative sentencing,” said Judith Evans Smith, Chief Operating Officer, Avenues for Justice (AFJ).

“The Fortune Society is committed to being a strong partner in driving down incarceration while making sure that New York remains the safest large city in America. We are grateful for the strong support we receive from Speaker Johnson and the City Council. The significant appropriations we have received from the Council through the Alternatives to Incarceration Initiative will fund important programs that will reduce unnecessary incarceration in the current year while working toward the longer term goal of closing Rikers Island. The funding will strengthen New York City’s national leadership in reducing both crime and incarceration. Fortune Society is also proud to be a part of the larger ATI Reentry Coalition which has worked for decades to reduce over-reliance on incarceration and help people successfully reenter society,” said JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society.

“At this critical moment for reducing the number of people held at Rikers Island, we are grateful to the City Council and the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson for significant support of and belief in alternatives to incarceration and parole revocation. The City’s increased funding will allow members of the ATI/Reentry Coalition to continue to work with NYC towards a smaller, safer, and fairer criminal legal system. Osborne is especially grateful for this dedicated funding to work with the more than 600 people who are held in NYC for parole violations to reduce the average daily population at Rikers Island, support individuals in their effort to restore parole eligibility, and encourage long term reentry success through connections to community-based programs and service,” said Osborne Association President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes.

“The funding announced today underlines the Council’s commitment to continuing to innovate toward a fairer and more effective justice system for all New Yorkers. The Council’s continued support has been invaluable to the Center for Court Innovation’s success improving public safety, reducing the use of incarceration, and promoting healthier neighborhoods,” said Greg Berman, director, Center for Court Innovation.

“Brooklyn Defender Services is very pleased that the New York City Council is supporting Alternative to Incarceration funding. Brooklyn residents who get arrested will benefit greatly from appropriate programming that both reduces the use of incarceration and also provides useful services that can turn a bad moment in their lives into an opportunity. In our experience, many people are caught up in the criminal legal system because they are young, addicted or living in poverty. Alternative options that address these underlying issues will help New York City close Rikers Island and reduce greatly the number of people that face the horrible and traumatic experience of incarceration. Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson and the Brooklyn Delegation for their support for closing Rikers Island and creating humane options for the community we serve,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defenders Services, a public defense organization in Kings County.

“This year’s expansion of funding for Alternatives to Incarceration programs reflects the New York City Council’s commitment to raising the standard of living for all New Yorkers and to creating a fair and equitable community. The HOPE Program is proud to serve as an ATI partner in order to divert individuals from detention or incarceration to jobs, thereby avoiding recidivism; contributing to their families; supporting local businesses; and through our green jobs training programs, advancing the sustainability of the City at large,” said Jennifer Mitchell, Executive Director at HOPE Program.

“The Women’s Prison Association (WPA) is thankful for the City Council’s continued support of our highly effective advocacy and alternative to incarceration services for women. This expanded funding will ensure that WPA provides more women with individualized, gender-aware support as they heal from trauma and violence, without exacerbating those experiences on Rikers Island. We are proud to be a part of New York City’s innovative efforts to end mass incarceration and support women and families with constructive, community-based responses,” said Georgia Lerner, Executive Director, Women’s Prison Association (WPA).

“We are most grateful to Speaker Johnson and all the members of the City Council for the ongoing support that Network Support Services has received for our ATI programming. The generous grant for 2019 – 2020 enables us to serve 50% more men and women; creating productive and connected members of society. With your continued support, we will close the gap from our 8% recidivism rate to 0%,” said Thorin Daye, Executive Director, Network Support Services.

“SCO Family of Services applauds New York Council Speaker Corey Johnson for his leadership and support of the Alternative to Incarceration initiative. This funding has enabled youth in our Brooklyn based programs to develop positive relationships with local law enforcement, learn the challenges of law enforcement jobs, and enable local police precincts to meet their neighbors in our residential and community based programs. These interactions have helped to break down stigma between these communities and forge meaningful partnerships between local police and the communities they serve,” said Keith Little, President & CEO of SCO Family of Services.

“The Council’s leadership and support for alternatives to incarceration and community-based programs have transformed lives and strengthened communities. We are grateful for the Council’s support for the Institute for Transformative Mentoring, which has enabled us to offer training and support to credible messengers from more than 30 organizations,” said Kristin Morse, Executive Director, Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.

“Laudable efforts to reform bail, speedy trial and discovery are huge victories, but must be accompanied by community alternatives brought to scale. The Speaker’s leadership in this regard will enhance the public safety of every New York City neighborhood,” said David Condliffe, Executive Director, Center for Community Alternatives.

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