Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Citywide Partners to Develop Targeted Interventions That Improve Public Safety and Reduce the Number of People Who Enter and Return to Jail

April 28, 2016


On National Re-Entry Week, New York City Convenes Council to Better Route Stabilizing Resources to the More Than 45,000 People Returning From Jail Every Year and to Prevent Future Arrest and Incarceration

Approximately 10,000 People Already Await Trial at Home Through City-Funded Diversion Programs Every Year; New Strategy Will Ensure that Effective, Targeted Diversion Options Exist for Individuals Who Can Remain Safely in their Communities

NEW YORK – The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice today announced a strategy to continue safely reducing the Rikers Island population by connecting eligible individuals to effective interventions before and after jail. This strategy aims to drive New York City’s crime rate even lower by reliably assessing who poses a risk of recidivism, appropriately addressing the issues that have led many into contact with the criminal justice system, and connecting people with stabilizing services that help ensure they do not commit new crimes.


“New York City has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Together with our partners, we are constantly seeking new solutions to ensure that costly jail resources are used only when absolutely necessary, and identifying points of intervention to continue to reduce both crime and incarceration,” said Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “The new targeted diversion and re-entry strategy is an opportunity to understand – with specificity – what works and for whom, in order to implement solutions that improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”


Each year, roughly 45,000 people return to New York City from jail and prison. Pre-jail and post-incarceration programs in the City currently divert roughly 10,000 people from jail. The new strategy will ensure that re-entry and diversion resources are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible to reduce jail use safely while promoting public safety.


A multidisciplinary council of 54 organizations and agencies – including City government agency representatives, the courts, district attorneys, defenders, providers, members of the faith community, formerly incarcerated individuals, and advocates – will review data on populations and available options and develop solutions to address unmet needs and improve program effectiveness. Two subcommittees, dedicated to diversion and re-entry, respectively, will each meet quarterly.


Over the next six months, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice will work with the Council to:

  • Comprehensively understand populations in need. Conduct a deep analytic dive to understand the risk, service needs, and characteristics of the target population in order to identify opportunities for intervention.
  • Map available interventions and identify gaps. Comprehensively map available interventions across diversion and re-entry points by creating an electronic catalogue of New York City’s justice and service providers. Identifying existing gaps will help determine what additional resources or partnerships are necessary to address gaps while promoting public safety goals and where to re-invest resources that may currently be supporting less effective programming.
  • Conduct direct outreach with currently incarcerated individuals to better understand re-entry needs. The Mayor’s Office and partners will learn directly about the needs of detainees to better understand what circumstances would contribute to their being able to take full advantage of re-entry services.


The Mayor’s Office is evaluating interventions to ensure that they are effective and matched to target populations. This continual assessment is shaping how the City makes future investments in diversion and re-entry services to ensure that as many people as possible can be safely diverted before entering jail and stabilized after jail to prevent future arrest and incarceration.


To date, the City has successfully developed and refined strategies for certain populations, including:

  • Implementing a supervised release program citywide for 3,000 eligible, lower-risk defendants who would otherwise be detained on bail. Beginning in March 2016, judges citywide now have the option to assign eligible defendants to a program that will supervise them in the community while waiting for trial, allowing them to continue working and living at home instead of being detained in jail. Participation in the program includes a simple reminder system and voluntary referral to supportive services, such as behavioral health care or job training. To date, over 410 individuals are in supervised release programs instead of in jail. Supervised release has shown to get people to come back to court in successful pilot programs conducted in Queens and Manhattan prior to citywide expansion. Learn more here.
  • Matching the New Yorkers who most frequently cycle between jail and shelter with permanent supportive housing. Through the Mayor’s Action Plan for Behavioral Health, the City is working to pair frequent users of jail and shelter with stable, permanent housing that includes dedicated healthcare and other social services. A study of permanent supportive housing in New York City showed that this approach resulted in a 70% reduction in shelter use and a 40% in jail use among the target population. Learn more here.
  • Expanding discharge programs to serve an additional 4,100 individuals. To ensure that the discharged individuals are prepared for successful re-entry, the City is expanding comprehensive discharge planning to an additional 4,100 people and minimizing disruption in public healthcare coverage by connecting people leaving jail to an extended network of services and care managers provided by Health Homes to reduce re-offending and returns to jail.


New York City has experienced the sharpest drop in crime of any city in the nation in the last twenty years. Declines in crime have been matched by a 53 percent reduction in average City jail population, with 2015 showing the lowest yearly crime numbers in the modern COMPSTAT era. To drive down crime, arrests, and the unnecessary use of jail even further, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice seeks to enhance the spectrum of criminal justice responses available to effectively match enforcement to risk and need.


“New York City proudly enforces one of the strongest ban-the-box laws in the nation, giving hard working New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society a fair chance at employment,” said Commissioner and Chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis.“With the addition of the Fair Chance Act in 2015, our work with re-entry programs and with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals took on particular importance. Stable employment is critical to the re-entry process, cuts down on recidivism, and provides people with a pathway toward a brighter economic future. We applaud businesses and all others that consider employees’ talents and skills before their criminal histories, and we urge other cities to give people a fair shot at employment.”


“As chair of New York State Assembly Sub-Committee on Transitional Services,” Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda said,” I applaud the City of New York Mayor on his efforts to provide proper support for the re-entry of formally incarcerated individuals back into society and reducing recidivism. The State Assembly looks forward to continued cooperation between the state and the city and ensuring that proper funding is available to ensure that public safety is priority number one in our state.”


“I applaud the Administration and MOCJ for spearheading a multidisciplinary effort to fundamentally reassess the needs of those who have become involved with the criminal justice system and innovate new and more targeted solutions to address their unmet needs,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson. “Strong reentry and diversion services will reduce the population on Rikers Island, in turn relieving the pressure on the overburdened prison system’s resources and likely decreasing overall violence in our City jails. I thank MOCJ’s Executive Director Elizabeth Glazer for her leadership and ongoing commitment to a criminal justice system that is safe and fair for all.”


“It costs taxpayers money and hurts public safety when individuals can’t find work or housing after incarceration,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman, Chair of the Courts & Legal Services Committee. “Re-entry efforts reduce recidivism and jail time, and the City is right to study how to make them most effective.”


“We are at a critical moment, when incarceration and poverty have become interchangeable outcomes of the same social and economic problems. Thankfully, Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Criminal Justice is transforming the way people in need experience the criminal justice system. We fundamentally believe, as Americans and New Yorkers, that justice only truly exists when it is applied equally. Elizabeth Glazer’s leadership and these reforms bring us closer to that ideal than we ever have been before,” said George T. McDonald, Founder and President of the Doe Fund.


Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “The targeted diversion strategy dovetails with my efforts to reform Rikers Island. By identifying those who should be in jail to protect the community, and diverting those who can be safely monitored outside jail, we can reduce the population and decrease disorder. The re-entry strategy will help prevent crime by addressing the needs of possible recidivists.”


“We have to remember as we recognize National Re-entry Week, that what we’re talking about is individual people making one of the most challenging transitions imaginable: from the day-to-day reality of life inside a correctional facility to the streets and homes that are no longer the places they thought they knew. It is incumbent upon providers to remember that these men and women have unique risks and needs that can be addressed through jail and discharge planning informed by individual screening and assessment. Delivering the right services for the right person can promote a successful transition that benefits not only the individual people returning from incarceration but also their families and communities,” said Joel Copperman, President and CEO at CASES.

“Scaling back decades of harmful criminal justice policies is a complex process. The Fortune Society is proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio and his administration as they implement smart and strategic reforms in many critical areas,” said JoAnne Page, President and CEO of the Fortune Society. “By reevaluating our bail system and sentencing structure, by increasing opportunities for diversion and early release, and by providing necessary pre- and post-release services, together, we can make a meaningful dent in the number of incarcerated New Yorkers, while we ease their transition home and improve public safety all at the same time.”


“The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice’s continuing effort to bring together all the relevant parties and affected communities is leading to great results in reducing the Riker’s Island jail population,” said Stan German, Executive Director of New York County Defender Services.


“At the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), we’ve seen firsthand the impact that can be achieved when we get the right person into the right program at the right time. Evaluations of our program have proven to us that when we get this right, fewer people commit crimes, get rearrested, and end up back in jail,” said Sam Schaeffer of the Center for Employment Opportunities.


“Osborne provides discharge planning services to thousands of individuals leaving Rikers Island each year. We look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to fully explore the best ways to build on the current successes and challenges of the important efforts currently under way and under consideration for the future,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, President and CEO of the Osborne Association.


“I applaud the Mayor and his administration for finally giving re-entry the attention it deserves in New York City,” said Vivian Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship. “With 95% of currently incarcerated individuals one day set to be released, we need to focus on giving those people access to the necessary tools to succeed. Without first strengthening education, housing, and employment based re-entry services, we are merely setting our returning citizens up for failure instead of a second chance to become a productive member of society.”


“We are looking forward to working with the City to reduce the number of people incarcerated each year through expanded diversion opportunities. For those who do face incarceration, individualized re-entry resources are critical. Working together with the City and the Council, there’s no question that we can reduce incarceration and recidivism without compromising public safety,” said Matthew W. Knecht, Managing Attorney of Criminal Defense Practice at The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.


“I believe this is a great opportunity, through the power of collaboration across our city, to realize tangible reduction in recidivism through the efforts of this council,” said Reverend Que English, President of the Bronx Clergy Criminal Justice Roundtable. “The intentional focus on public safety is going to create a safer city for all. I’m pleased to be a part of this council.”


A full list of the 54 organizations that make up the Diversion and Re-Entry Council:
Administration for Children’s Services
Beacon Health Options
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brooklyn District Attorney
Center for Community Alternatives
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Legal Action Center
Legal Aid Society
New York Police Department
Center for Court Innovation
Department of Correction
Department of Homeless Services
Fortune Society
Human Resources Administration
Prisoner Reentry Institute
Vera Institute of Justice
Youth Represent
Department of Probation
Manhattan District Attorney’s Office
NY County Defender Services
Office of Court Administration
Richmond County District Attorney
Vera Institute of Justice – Common Justice
Women’s Prison Association JusticeHome
Bronx Christian Fellowship
Bronx Defenders
Bronx District Attorney
Center for Employment Opportunities
Center for Nu Leadership
College and Community Fellowship
Criminal Justice Agency
Doe Fund
Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families
Edwin Gould STEPS to End Family Violence
Exodus Transitional Community
Greenhope Services for Women
Health + Hospitals
Mayor’s Office
Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice
Neighborhood Defender Services
Network Support Services
NYS Office of Mental Health
Osborne Association
Queens DA
Queens District Attorney
Queens Law Associates
Services for the UnderServed
Urban Youth Alliance International BronxConnect
Women’s Prison Association