The Fortune Society News of the Week — the week of March 27, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

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


College classes in maximum security: ‘It gives you meaning’

More than 650,000 [justice-involved individuals reenter back into the community] every year in the U.S., but no federal agency tracks the unemployment rate for this population. Experts say reluctance among employers to hire [formerly incarcerated individuals] means many drop out of the labor force altogether. But there are a handful of novel initiatives trying to turn that narrative around, by bringing college education and professional training, and even entrepreneurship programs behind bars since they can reduce financial and social costs to society. Joanne Page, CEO of The Fortune Society, says that odds are already stacked against [justice-involved men and women], who are often ineligible for social safety net programs, may have strained family relations, and have little to no professional network to fall back on.



A foodpreneur uses a commercial kitchen and local CrossFit gyms to grow a Paleo startup

A commercial kitchen such as the Entrepreneurial Space in Queens, New York makes starting my business Paleo With Love a little easier. The availability of culinary assistants is a major plus in such a space because as the business grows, help starts to cost extra and usually needs to be vetted prior to hiring. Another amazing thing is that they are involved in helping others by bringing in interns from the Fortune Society. Giving someone a second chance and providing work for them, at the same time getting free help to grow my business is a great addition to the resources the Entrepreneur Space provides.



How this Brooklyn agency is helping [formerly incarcerated individuals] return to the arts

This past Thursday, a national creative agency aimed to bring awareness to social justice issues in pop culture announced that they will be awarding a $100,000 fellowship for artists who were once incarcerated. The disparity between the number of blacks and the number of whites who are incarcerated have been well documented and even those who are fortunate enough to see a release date face an unfair hiring bias because of their criminal records. Which is why the Soze Academy’s new fellowship is both ideal and practical.



Collateral consequences: protecting public safety or encouraging recidivism?

When most people think about the consequences of a criminal conviction, they imagine a court-ordered prison sentence or probation, which normally has a definite beginning and an end. Many probably think that when “prison bars and chains are removed,” punishment has come to an end, and reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen can begin. But that is far from true. In fact, more than 46,000 local, state, and federal civil laws and regulations—known as “collateral consequences” of conviction, as opposed to the “direct consequences” of conviction—restrict the activities of [formerly incarcerated individuals] and curtail their liberties after they are released from confinement or their period of probation ends.

The Heritage Foundation


Cuts to alternatives to incarceration programs are foolish (commentary)

In the midst of a heroin and opiate epidemic that has ravaged Staten Island and communities throughout New York, Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2017-2018 State budget includes little-noticed, poorly timed and unwise cuts of more than $2 million from programs that help people access treatment for their [substance use]. Slated for the chopping block –as reported by the Legal Action Center– are alternatives to incarceration (ATI) and reentry programs that provide critical services for people struggling to overcome [substance use] and rebuild their lives. If state legislators don’t restore these funds in current budget talks, many of the people that are served by ATI programs will be hurt.


Young people of color are central to debate over ‘Raising The Age’

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York attended an event at a Manhattan synagogue in which he sharply criticized the city for not closing Rikers Island, the city’s notorious jail. “[Young adults] are literally dying because of the policy we have today,” Cuomo said. Raising the age has become one of Cuomo’s legislative priorities: New York is one of just two states that automatically tries 16-year-olds as adults. Critics of the state’s current policies point to their stark racial outcomes: in New York City, 9 out of 10 young [justice-involved individuals] sentenced to adult prison are black or Latino. Marc Schindler, the executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington D.C, put these policies in explicit racial terms. “If these policies were disproportionately impacting middle and upper class white [young adults], these policies wouldn’t be allowed to exist,” he said.

Maine Public


Jail officials urge Mayor de Blasio to contain violent Rikers [incarcerated individuals]

Federal prosecutors say it’s broken. [Justice-involved individuals], visitors, lawyers, correction officers, and even Gov. Cuomo say it’s “hell.” But despite a culture of violence that’s resisted reform for decades and a movement to close it — backed by politicians, celebrities, and activists — political realities appear to have Rikers Island headed for a makeover, not a shutdown.

NY Daily News


Why I came around to backing the push to close Rikers Island

When I first heard of the “Close Rikers” campaign, I was skeptical. But after months of research, I am now convinced of the right path forward. We must take the steps today to allow us to close Rikers Island for good. Today, Rikers represents a profound failure of our criminal justice system and a black eye for New York City. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara once referred to it as “a corrections crucible that seems more inspired by ‘Lord of the Flies’ than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention.”

NY Daily News


The formerly incarcerated still struggle to find work

Darrin Howell, a [formerly incarcerated individual] who couldn’t find a job when he was freed, is now a high-profile advocate for reforming the laws that helped block people like him from finding work after they earned their freedom. Prior to his two years behind bars, he had held temporary clerical or administrative jobs at a hospital, a bank, and an insurance company. But after his release from the Suffolk County House of Correction, those kinds of places wouldn’t touch him, Howell says.

Boston Globe


Choosing Post-Prison Reentry Programs That Work

Each year 650,000 [justice-involved individuals] exit prisons; a disproportionate share are black men. Indeed, at least one-quarter of black men have criminal justice involvement. Without effective reentry programs, joblessness and recidivism follow. All agree that educational enhancements should be an important component of reentry initiatives. There is, however, a struggle between those who advocate expanding access to academic programs leading to four-year degrees versus those who emphasize certificate and other training programs.

Gotham Gazette


The prison where [incarcerated indviduals] help each other die with dignity

It’s six p.m. on a summer Wednesday, and Billy Canady Jr., 47, is beginning his shift as a hospice volunteer. His patient, Carl Stevens, is dying of cancer. Canady has been looking after Stevens for a little over two weeks. At this point, caring for him means sitting by the bed to keep him company because Stevens is still largely self-sufficient. They have a few things in common: both love German shepherds and value family. And, most importantly, both are [incarcerated individuals] at Osborn Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison in northern Connecticut.


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