The Fortune Society offers an array of In-house social services to nearly
We are nationally renowned for our commitment to providing culturally competent services to individuals with incarceration histories. We achieve this by prioritizing the hiring of individuals who have “lived experience.” Approximately 70% of Fortune’s employees have histories of incarceration, substance use, or experienced homelessness, with nearly 50% having been formerly incarcerated, and over 80% are persons of color. Fortune’s staff members exemplify the importance of new chances and serve as role models for our participants.
Our service programs are frequently recognized, both nationally and internationally, for their quality and innovation. These programs include:
We empower homeless, formerly incarcerated individuals and their families to build better futures through supportive and affordable housing. Low-threshold access to supportive emergency, transitional, and permanent housing is provided at our congregate facilities, The Fortune Academy (“the Castle”) and Castle Gardens, along with our Scatter-Site Housing program. Participants take first steps on their journeys toward becoming self-sufficient members of the community, with the full support of our comprehensive reentry service offerings and culturally competent staff.
Since opening its doors in 2002, our Emergency and Transitional Supportive Housing Program at The Fortune Academy in West Harlem has provided a safe, rehabilitative community for people coming home from incarceration. Through regular case management, we assist residents with a wide array of needs, including gaining and maintaining stable housing and employment, substance use treatment and recovery, financial planning and management, and family reunification.
Adjacent to The Fortune Academy in West Harlem is Castle Gardens, a mixed-use, supportive, and affordable residential development and service center in an environmentally sustainable building. It provides long-term housing solutions for justice-involved individuals facing homelessness and their families, as well as low-income individuals and families from West Harlem and the greater New York area.
Through our Scattered-Site Housing Program, Fortune staff serve as mediators between landlords and tenants, ensuring homeless, formerly incarcerated individuals living in neighborhoods across the five boroughs of New York City have access to safe, stable, and affordable housing.
Our Employment Services program is designed to equip formerly incarcerated jobseekers with skills necessary to obtain employment and thrive in the workplace. We offer a variety of services to help motivated job seekers begin their careers and advance professionally. These services include job readiness workshops, sector-based skills trainings in Green Construction, Environmental Remediation, Culinary Arts, Job Development, and Transportation, as well as job placement assistance and retention services. We also offer subsidized internships, known as Transitional Work, to help job seekers in need of additional hands-on experience advance in their desired careers.
The Soft Skills Job Readiness Training program focuses on interview preparation, plus workplace and retention success. Through the program, jobseekers develop a valuable set of tools for their job search, including instruction on producing a professional resume and how to discuss the content on it, problem solving and time management skills, and practice in answering difficult questions— especially surrounding their criminal justice involvement. Completion of this program is prerequisite for the Skills Training and Internship Programs listed below.
Through our certification-driven Culinary Arts program, participants receive hands-on training in an industrial kitchen, as well as education about the culinary industry. Completion of this program can lead to them earning both the ServSafe and New York City Food Handler’s certifications.
The Green Building Operation and Maintenance program provides an overview of environmental health and safety, building science, facility management, and sustainable construction and deconstruction methods. Participants do preparatory work for and obtain certifications in Basic Carpentry, Electrical/HVAC, and Plumbing, OSHA 10- hour Construction, EPA Lead RRP, G/PRO Operation and Maintenance, and BPI Energy Efficient Building Operation (EEBOPS).
This certification-driven program features a six-week program delivery. In the first three weeks, participants are given an overview of environmental health and safety. For the next three weeks, they receive advanced training in OSHA 10-hour Construction, OSHA 40-hour HAZWOPER, OSHA Confined Space, EPA Lead RRP and Lead in Construction, NYS/NYC Asbestos Handler (Initial), Disaster Site Worker, Global Hazard Communication, and 4-hr Scaffolding.
This program addresses two different groups of participants interested in the field of transportation and commercial driving. Admitted individuals without a basic drivers’ license receive “in-class” and “on-the-road” practice and training, as well as testing to receive a basic driver’s license– a qualification that prepares them for in-demand positions and makes them more marketable as prospective employees.
Admitted individuals already possessing a basic driver’s license will engage in “in-class” and “on-the-road” practice, plus testing, in order to receive a commercial driver’s license (Class-B; Passenger and Air Break Endorsements), which is a qualification in high demand in New York.
The Transitional Work program offers paid, part-time, 10-week internships with partnering employers throughout NYC, coupled with rigorous case management and a weekly job club. This program performs an important “bridging” function for some of our hardest-to-serve participants, generating a work record for them, introducing them to employers, and providing a “lab” where they can work through on-the-job issues.
The Queens County Reentry Task Force partners with The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to provide assistance for individuals who have recently been released from incarceration. Individual service plans made in collaboration with partner organizations helps reintegrate individuals into their communities.
Though our in-person services are specific to individuals with justice involvement in New York City, there are online resources available to help individuals with justice involvement around the country access employment.
Learn about the importance of first impressions through a handshake and smile here. Then, take a look at the following resources from around the web:
Discover a wealth of resources on the Legal Action Center website, including:
And from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, learn what three questions are illegal on job applications in NYC.
Our Education program empowers students to achieve personal and professional goals, such as acquiring basic literacy skills, earning a High School Equivalency diploma, preparation for employment, and encouragement to pursue higher education. Participants have the opportunity to develop essential reading, writing, math, and computer skills with the support of Fortune’s dedicated teachers and volunteer tutors. Our small class sizes allow each individual to progress at his or her own pace, in an environment where all students feel respected and are encouraged to give input on what is being taught. Our instruction is aligned to New York State Common Core learning standards, and includes content areas covered on the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) exam.
We offer our youth, age 16-24, career exploration activities and advocacy opportunities to further connect them to their communities, as well as to their individual professional dreams.
We partner with The Animation Project (TAP) to offer 3D computer animation therapy groups. Our students participate in 11-week classes, co-facilitated by a professional animator and an art therapist, using state-of-the-art animation software to develop short films. These films, which feature themes that revolve around real-life challenges our students face, are showcased quarterly in Fortune’s community space at our Queens Service center.
Our counseling services ensure the alignment of students’ academic and career goals, and that they enroll in the appropriate wrap-around services to help them achieve professional success.
Our Family Services program offers an array of group and individual services to meet the unique needs of formerly incarcerated fathers, mothers, and expectant parents, including:
Family Specialists help parents assess their strengths and needs based on their histories, relationships, and support networks. The specialists also gather information on the parents’ current financial status, as well as their knowledge on parenting concepts. Parents are then enrolled into our Healthy Relationship and Effective Parenting training classes. These classes focus on the role of healthy co-parenting relationships, communication skills, sex, love and relationships, showing and handling feelings, and recognizing and handling anger.
We have developed a special partnership with STEPS to End Family Violence to facilitate workshops for parents, in order to help them change their beliefs and attitudes around interacting with their partners, encourage an environment of mutual respect, and set expectations for the treatment of women in relationships.
Our in-house family law attorney is available to advise parents on their legal rights and responsibilities regarding issues like paternity, child support, and family issues.
The attorney may also act as a legal representative for participants in Family Court, and assist them in the resolution of child custody, family reunification, and other situations they face.
Fortune has established a strong partnership with the NYC Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) to provide educational workshops to parents giving and/or receiving child support and the ways in which it helps families and children. NYC HRA/OCSE provides full information to participants about child support debt reduction options and payment plans, which can reduce the amount owed by low-income parents who make good efforts to maintain employment and make consistent child support payments.
Our family specialists meet with parents at least once a month to address their unique issues and work towards achieving identified goals. These individual sessions help parents establish and strengthen relationships with their children, increase their financial support, and gain tools to increase the quality of their engagement with their children. Additional services addressing child welfare issues are available for parents with active involvement with the NYC Administration for Children Services (ACS).
Our rigorous Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) programs reduce the prison and jail population, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and help hundreds of men and women learn how to lead law-abiding, productive lives each year. This program is made possible through Fortune’s court advocates stationed in four boroughs, who work with Assistant District Attorneys and Defense Attorneys to recruit people facing felony charges. Fortune reports back to the courts on a regular basis regarding participants’ participation in our ATI program and compliance with their mandates. Our program provides the dual benefits of life-stabilizing services and incarceration— those who complete their program successfully receive sentences that require no further incarceration, including probation and community service.
Our standard Freedom ATI program is designed to assist individuals with breaking the cycle of criminal activity by addressing the physical, emotional, psychological, and psychosocial needs specific to those involved in the criminal justice system.
The Flametree ATI program is a licensed, outpatient day-treatment program that is designed to help individuals battling substance abuse make the transition from criminal activity to positive, productive livelihoods. We help participants understand their substance abuse patterns and work with them to develop the necessary skills to maintain sobriety.
Our Mental Health ATI program serves participants who are 18 years of age and over, and in need of mental health services. Our highly skilled clinical staff includes psychiatrists, social workers, a nurse, and a clinic director at our licensed outpatient clinic. Services include psychosocial assessments, psychiatric evaluations, psychotherapy, medication management, and crisis intervention.
The Success ATI program is designed for individuals with substance dependency issues who require a higher level of care. We place participants in a residential treatment setting for a minimum of six months. Our Court Advocates then monitor participants’ progress in treatment and provide progress reports to the court.
Our participants have access to a full spectrum of mental health services through our New York State Office of Mental Health-licensed Better Living Center (BLC), which serves individuals with mental health issues and histories of incarceration. The BLC works to facilitate a seamless transition for individuals with mental health histories of incarceration by providing the supportive environment, treatment, and therapy they need to manage their mental health, while also making progress towards achieving their other life goals.
For walk-in participants, the BLC’s resident psychiatrist provides urgent assessments and referrals where needed. The psychiatrist also provides services to criminal justice-involved individuals who have difficulty obtaining health insurance, whether due to temporary Medicaid issues or lack of documentation.
Individuals enrolled in our behavioral health-focused ATI programs who may benefit from mental health therapy, but do not require being admitted to the clinic, also receive services from our BLC.
In November 2015, our programming grew to include a trained Peer Specialist, who has lived and experienced the mental health system, and is proving to be a very valuable resource to our participants.
Our mental health group focuses on anxiety management and wellness self-management. This offering, which currently sees as least 8 participants a week, will be expanded this year to include co-occurring disorder support groups, utilizing Peers and our MHSC in order to provide supplemental comprehensive, holistic support services.
Our NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services-licensed outpatient substance use treatment services program empowers participants with substance use issues to address and overcome their dependency. Our medically supervised outpatient program provides participant-centered treatment that is geared towards the overall improvement of each participant's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Every participant begins his or her journey with a full assessment and program orientation, followed by intensive individual and group counseling. We also offer lifetime aftercare, so our participants know they can rely on us to help them navigate future challenges that may threaten their ability to maintain success.
The enrollment into our substance use treatment services program involves taking part in an individual intake session. This includes a standardized psychosocial screening, educational and vocational aptitude testing, and a series of baseline drug tests. Participants then enter the intensive treatment phase, which involves individual and group counseling, career development, educational services, and other services specific to their needs.
After being sober for 30 days, participants move into the relapse prevention stage, which includes counseling, maintenance of sobriety, and the development of an aftercare plan. After 60 days of relapse prevention, participants graduate from the program if they have remained drug-free for at least 90 days and made significant progress toward the goals of their treatment plans. Following graduation, Fortune expects and encourages participants to participate in aftercare services. These may include counseling, relapse prevention groups or classes, and participation in other support groups like Narcotics Anonymous.
During the 25 years that we have been licensed to provide substance use treatment, we have found that having relapse prevention resources on site is of enormous value to our general population ATI participants, the majority of whom have substance use histories even if they are not currently in treatment. As appropriate, relapse prevention services can be integrated into their treatment plans, and they can be supported in entering our outpatient treatment or sister agencies’ outpatient or residential treatment programs as appropriate.
Our Health Services team primarily serves individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and provides them with vital discharge planning, case management, health education, and connection to quality, community-based treatment and care. The team also offers participants rapid HIV testing and prevention education. This holistic and integrated approach to serving formerly incarcerated individuals living with HIV/AIDS, or at risk of developing HIV/AIDS, helps ensure their safe and healthy transition back into the community.
Our Rikers Island Transitional Consortium discharge planning team provides screening, intake, assessment, discharge planning, and connection to medical care in the community for PLWHA housed on Rikers Island who are about to be re-enter society.
Our case management program offers HIV/AIDS education, counseling, case management, supportive services, and peer leadership to PLWHA with criminal justice histories.
We provide emergency HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) beds at The Fortune Academy to homeless formerly incarcerated PLWHA. Like all residents of the Fortune Academy, our HASA participants receive intensive wrap-around supports, as well.
People with a history of incarceration deserve healthcare that is compassionate, accessible, and non-stigmatizing. Our Reentry Education Project facilitates hands-on trainings for healthcare providers and clinic staff on the barriers people face as they transition out of prisons and jails, health implications of incarceration, and tools clinics can use to create healing environments and relationships with formerly incarcerated patients.
The Single Stop program helps participants determine if they are eligible to receive public benefits available to low-income individuals. These benefits include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSD), and other forms of public assistance. The program also connects participants with expert advice to help them with a wide range of issues, such as child support, evictions, accessing criminal records, and more. These additional services are offered to all new participants who walk through our doors.
We offer financial management, advisement, and budgeting services, including debt and credit counseling, through our on-site partner, the Financial Clinic.
Once a month, Single Stop brings in staff from the Legal Action Center to help participants review their Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP) sheets. This allows participants to understand the challenges they might face when it comes finding a job, obtaining certifications, or applying for public benefits. If a participant is denied SSI/SSD for which they are qualified, they are referred to Queens Legal Services for free legal assistance. Eligible participants are also assisted in obtaining Certificates of Good Conduct. If received, this certificate may remove any mandatory legal bar imposed as a result of conviction of the crime or crimes specified in the certificate, and is therefore one of the most popular and beneficial services offered by Single Stop.
Our entitlements specialists engage participants and staff to ensure that they register to vote in the upcoming local, state, and national elections. Necessary documents are collected from participants and assistance is offered to homeless individuals in determining the best address to use on their voter registration forms.
Our Food & Nutrition program consists of a variety of offerings, including free hot meals offered on a daily basis to all participants, cooking demonstrations, nutrition education workshops, fresh produce giveaways, and daily participant-run snack bars at all of our facilities.
Access to healthy food is vital for productivity and well-being but many of our participants face food insecurity. Fortunately, our hot meal program serves daily free hot meals to participants at our main service center in Long Island City, Queens and at our transitional housing facility, The Fortune Academy, in Harlem. This program brings staff and participants together for community meals, reduces hunger, and improves well-being.
Every Wednesday afternoon, community members from West Harlem come to our supportive housing facility, Castle Gardens, to pick up freshly grown produce. We also conduct on-site cooking demonstrations there, and have recently launched Fortune Veggie Vouchers, which give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients additional purchasing power to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
We offer Nutrition Education workshops taught by our in-house nutritionist, Jaime McBeth, RDN. Her workshops teach participants how to convert their favorite foods into healthier alternatives; select, store, and preserve fresh produce; prepare nutritious meals; sanitize kitchens; portion control; food safety; and grocery budgeting. We also offer specialized workshops for people living with HIV/AIDS, and hope to soon provide individual dietary sessions for participants with other underlining health issues.
Every week during the summer and fall, the Fortune Fresh Farm Stand sells a variety of locally-grown spices, beans, bread, and iced drinks. We have also launched a Hot Breakfast Bar that serves breakfast sandwiches prepared on-site at our housing facilities in Harlem. Participants manage the day-to-day operations of these stands, giving them opportunities to sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.
At our Sky Garden on the rooftop of Castle Gardens, residents have cultivated 17 planter boxes, several ground planters and beds, and a shelved, vertical garden unit. Every spring, the Sky Garden is awash in rainbow-colored tulips and other perennials. We also use the garden to grow herbs and produce for our cooking demonstrations, nutrition workshops, and our new Fortune-branded sofrito business. Plus, in 2016, we were excited to launch a new herbal meditation garden on an outdoor patio space at our Long Island City, Queens location.
Our creative arts programs support the educational, emotional, and cultural development of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system through creative writing, poetry, spoken word, video production, animation, visual arts, music classes, and theater.
We offer creative writing workshops for participants to help them explore their feelings and create engaging stories. Throughout the workshops, participants learn to shape selected life experiences into well-crafted stories, which are then presented to peers and members of the local community. Fortune’s graduates present their stories at several performances, including our annual Arts Festival.
Our multimedia production class allows students to gain computer and video production skills, and learn all aspects of the filmmaking process by capturing their own stories and sharing with others in the community. Students have the opportunity to capture stories of local community members to produce “mini-documentaries,” and even create full-length films. We also developed a partnership with The Animation Project (TAP), which uses digital art technology as a tool to engage youth in group therapy sessions, cultivating self-expression, improving self-esteem, enhancing social and emotional coping skills, while also fostering the development of practical computer competencies that transfer to many career and education paths.
We offer students individual instruction in guitar, keyboard, and voice. We also hold group music classes, which frequently lead to powerful discussions about participants’ lives, especially as they are expressed in “freestyle” rap songs. Our staff engages participants by asking questions about their favorite artists or songs and their own performance style, inviting them to share the music that most interests them.
Each month, music students and others with musical talents can perform at our Music Café, a lunchtime show for the entire Fortune community. The show is a wonderfully eclectic mix of styles reflecting the diverse age range and background of our community, and often features a wide range of genres, including classical, country, pop, and hip hop.
For more than three years, we have collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to conduct workshops involving artistic expression. These workshops are then featured in the MoMA Community Partners Show.
Since 2010, we have partnered with The Public Theater to give our participants the opportunity to become involved in theater. This partnership has evolved over the years, becoming the most robust and important partnership that we have in the areas of arts and theater. There are a variety of ways that The Public Theater has brought the experience of performing arts to Fortune, including the Mobile Shakespeare Unit, Public Works, and the creation of Fortune’s in-house acting troupe, The Fortune Tellers. Significantly, Fortune staff and participants have participated in the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park productions since 2010.
Our I-CAN (Individualized Corrections Achievement Network) program provides skill-building and discharge preparation services to eligible individuals during their incarceration at New York City Department of Correction (DOC) jails, and continues offering reentry support following their release. We help program participants prepare for release by applying for identification documents in advance, and by providing parenting classes, group counseling, professional development courses, continuing education, and relapse prevention workshops. I-CAN is currently available in all Rikers Island facilities, and plans to expand to all NYC DOC jails.
Participants engaged in Fortune’s I-CAN program participate in our soft-skills trainings, including Workforce 101, relapse prevention, 24/7 Dads, parenting workshops, creative writing classes, and Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), all of which are conducted in Rikers Island facilities. Completion of these classes gives participants the practical tools required to be successful upon reentry.
Fortune arranges for trusted hard-skills training partners to conduct job-ready trainings, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Certification Trainings, GPRO Electrical Certification Training, and Food Handlers Certification Training. By earning these certifications while incarcerated, graduates prepare themselves to either enter the workforce directly upon reentry, or to enter our Employment Services sector-based training program, by-passing the job readiness workshop.
To find community-based services in New York City, visit our Reentry Resource Directory.