The Fortune Society News of the Week — the week of March 20, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.


David Rothenberg’s Fortune

Rabbi, tzaddik, shaman: there may be something of all of these in David Rothenberg, who was celebrated Feb. 24 at an “Evening With David” on the roof of the Castle, a beautiful five-story neo-Gothic structure in Harlem at 140th Street and Riverside Drive that is run as a halfway house by the Fortune Society for 60 [formerly incarcerated individuals]. The celebration marked the 50th year of Rothenberg’s founding of Fortune (which takes its name from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29), a New York-city-based reentry organization that helps thousands of [justice-involved individuals find a path to success, including through housing and work].

Tablet Magazine


Bronx Barriers: Knowing your rights

At the time of his arrest, [Fortune client Leviticus Mitchell] didn’t realize the police weren’t allowed to question him without a parent present, given that he was a minor. And he has learned since that the first thing he should have done was ask for a lawyer before he said anything to police.

Mitchell learned a hard lesson about the law and his rights, one that might have been avoided if he had known them. The Bronx Defenders, a non-profit group offering free legal defense services to Bronx residents, holds know your rights workshops hoping to prevent outcomes like Mitchell’s. Walter Rodriguez is charged with organizing these sessions. He said at the start of every single one, the trainer asks five true or false questions on police interactions.

Nordwood News


Press Release: Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Department of Health announce successful rollout of “Justice-involved Supportive Housing” program to break the cycle through jail and shelter

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene today announced that 97 individuals in New York City who most frequently cycled through jail on low-level charges, stayed in City shelters, and struggled with behavioral health needs have been connected to permanent supportive housing through a program called “Justice-Involved Supportive Housing.” JoAnne Page, President and CEO of the Fortune Society, said “The Fortune Society is honored to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in a range of initiatives to help reduce the disproportionate incarceration and homelessness rates of individuals with behavioral health needs.”



Increasing opportunity for returned citizens in the Big Apple

The Fortune Society is a reentry organization in the heart of New York City whose mission is to “foster a world where all who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society.” Assisting returned citizens with both work placement and development, and offering living space for those needing it, Fortune Society has created a community of individuals engaged in quality and innovative programming to help reduce recidivism and increase opportunity



What dip in high school credential means for NYC employment

Stanley Richards was one of thousands upon thousands of people who took and passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam in New York state. It put him on the path to earning a college degree while still behind bars. He was one of the last inmates to benefit from a state-funded higher education program for prisoners that was terminated in the mid-1990s, the “tough on crime” years. Richards is now Senior Vice President at The Fortune Society, which provides housing, education, training and other support for [formerly incarcerated individuals] in New York City. But the very thing that Richards credits for starting him on the path to where he is today, is no more: N.Y. state technically discontinued the GED exam in 2014.

Next City


Occupational licensing reform will benefit millions of Americans

Chances are good that most of us know or know of someone who has a criminal record. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as many as 100 million U.S. citizens have a criminal record. Those who are friends, family, or neighbors of these individuals are well aware of the unique set of challenges that previously [incarcerated] persons face when seeking employment. Testimony prepared for the U.S. Senate in February 2016 on occupational licensing unveiled that 19 states do not currently have established standards for judging the relevance of a criminal conviction to a person’s ability to competently perform a licensed job. This means that in these states, it does not matter whether the crime committed relates to the position or not. Licensing boards have the authority to disqualify any individual with a criminal background from obtaining a license to work.

The Hill


State senate agrees to include raising age of criminal liability to 18 in budget

This year, for the first time, the Republican-controlled Senate has agreed to include raising the age of criminal liability in New York State to 18. “We have to make sure that nonviolent offenses, as well as misdemeanors, are heard in family court for 16- and 17-year-olds,” said Jeff Klein, the leader of the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference. “We have to move toward rehabilitation, not incarceration.”



Cuomo knocks the de Blasio administration’s ‘impotence’ for keeping Rikers Island open

Gov. Cuomo took a swipe Monday night at Mayor de Blasio, saying he had a limp response to the calls to shut down “savage” and “inhumane” Rikers Island. Cuomo made the comments at an event for “Raise the Age,” a bill that seeks to have 16-and-17 year olds who get arrested sent to family court rather than Rikers Island. “The city has said we can’t do it, it’s too hard. Impotence is not a defense for me,” the governor said. According to Cuomo, 95% of children arrested in New York are children of color, and teenage inmates are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than adults.

NY Daily News


Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017

Wait, does the United States have 1.3 million or more than 2 million people in prison? Are most people in state and federal prisons [incarcerated] for drug offenses? This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why people are [incarcerated] in all of those different types of facilities.

Prison Policy Initiative


Out of prison, then back in? Unique plan aims to break cycle

Roca is a nonprofit that seeks to steer hundreds of Massachusetts’ highest-risk young men away from a return behind bars, using a distinctive blend of relentlessness and patience. Even the most [challenging] participants are exhorted to persist with its multi-year education and job programs…

Associated Press


Pregnant [incarcerated women] say a federal jail is no place for them, and some judges agree

The treatment of women, pregnant and otherwise, at the Metropolitan Detention Center has alarmed a number of judges. One federal judge has apologized to a woman who had been pregnant while at the jail, saying her treatment was a source of shame for him. Another federal judge expressed reluctance about sending women to the jail because what she had heard about the conditions there made it sound more like “a prison in Turkey or some third-world country” than a federal prison in the United States.

The New York Times

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