Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
David A. Paterson, Governor
Brian Fischer, Commissioner (DOCS)

DCJS Contact: John Caher (DCJS), (518) 457-8415 or (518) 225-5240 (cell)
DOCS Contact: Erik Kriss (DOCS), (518) 457-8182 or (518) 275-6280 (cell)

For immediate release:

September 17, 2009

Paterson Administration Announces $14 million in Re-entry Grants

Job creation grants to help implement Rockefeller Drug Law reforms

Governor David A. Paterson and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell today announced grants of $14 million in federal stimulus funds to support re-entry initiatives crucial to the implementation of Rockefeller Drug Law reform.

Receiving the grants are four New York City-based organizations – the Center for Employment Opportunities; Doe Fund; Fortune Society; and Osborne Association – and the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

“Eliminating the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws and focusing on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration has been a major goal of my administration, a goal we achieved through Legislation I signed on April 24,” Governor Paterson said. “However, to successfully transition from an incarceration-based system to a treatment-based system we must have the infrastructure to assist former offenders and to prepare them for a drug-free and crime-free life.”

Deputy Secretary O’Donnell added: “These grants, which will help provide transitional employment for former offenders statewide, both upstate and downstate, represent a major step forward in our efforts to transform individuals’ lives and protect the public. Each of these providers has a proven record in securing jobs for people with criminal records. Each has agreed to target resources toward offenders who will be judicially diverted or resentenced as part of the Rockefeller Drug Reform.”

Additionally, the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) is in line for $2 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding over the next two years to teach inmates nearing release how to search for jobs using modern computer programs upon release. Additionally, a separate, $800,000 two-year stimulus grant will help DOCS train prison instructors in proven techniques for teaching inmate-students of widely varying abilities.

Correctional Services Commissioner Brian Fischer said: “The effort to help ex-offenders find productive jobs begins long before they leave prison. Education and computer literacy are they keys to success in today’s information society, but many inmates lack a basic education and many haven’t used computers in years -- if ever. These stimulus funds will help prepare inmates – more than 95 percent of whom will return home -- for the real world, and will benefit society by giving offenders the tools they need to become productive citizens.”

Andrea W. Evans, chairwoman of the New York State Board of Parole and Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Parole, added: “Earning a paycheck through legitimate means is one of the keys to success for those leaving prison. By providing transitional employment to ex-offenders, today’s grant recipients have the potential to change and improve the lives of many people.”

The stimulus awards are as follows:

Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO): $5 million

CEO will receive $5 million to place approximately 675 parolees in transitional jobs over the next two years in New York City and several upstate counties. CEO will provide a full range of pre-employment training, job development, placement and retention services to all people enrolled in transitional jobs. Funds will allow CEO to create the infrastructure to bring its proven employment model to those in need of services in urban upstate counties while also preserving and creating employment capacity in New York City.

Mindy Tarlow, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, of CEO, said: “This investment will allow CEO to preserve and create jobs for people returning from prison and going on parole in New York City and, for the first time, will allow us to bring much needed employment services to parolees in urban upstate counties. Parolees in these counties need help getting jobs more than ever and we couldn’t be happier to have this chance to serve them for the first time. Securing a job during the fragile period after release from prison is crucial, not just for these job-seekers, but for their children, families and communities. A successful employment reentry strategy benefits all New Yorkers by improving public safety and building the economic prosperity of communities by increasing the number of employed tax-paying citizens.”

Ms. Tarlow noted that CEO will be bringing its full employment model to urban upstate counties, with first year efforts centered on Erie and Albany Counties.

“By forming strategic partnerships with local governmental and non-profit organizations, CEO will replicate its existing service model in these communities, building transitional jobs capacity to serve parolees returning to Erie and Albany counties,” Ms. Tarlow said. “This will allow parolees the opportunity to earn much-needed dollars while they learn basic work skills that, with CEO's support, will help lead to full time jobs. CEO will staff both offices with local employees.”

The Doe Fund: $3 million

The Doe Fund (TDF) will receive $3 million to expand its Ready, Willing & Able program, with a focus on Rockefeller resentencing cases and violent offenders who have served long periods of incarceration. Known as the “men in blue” program, participants can be seen cleaning 160 miles of New York City streets and sidewalks each day and are paid above the New York State Minimum Wage for these transitional jobs. In addition, they are provided with comprehensive support services; random drug testing and onsite Alcoholics Anonymous/ Narcotics Anonymous meetings; anger management and financial literacy courses; occupational skills training; career development services; and lifetime graduate support. Those with special skills or high levels of motivation will be offered “fast track” employment options, and TDF will provide matching funds of $550,000 for the program. Statistics show that less than 5 percent of Ready, Willing & Able graduates are rearrested within the first year after their release from incarceration.

George T. McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund, said: “Most individuals leave incarceration with the simple desire to earn an honest living so that they never have to return. It is absolutely crucial -- not just from a public safety standpoint, but morally -- that we give new releasees the chance to build better futures for themselves and for their children. This funding will help more 'men in blue' leave behind lives of substance abuse and incarceration to become responsible parents and role models in communities that desperately need them.”

The Fortune Society: $2 million

The Fortune Society will receive $2 million over a two-year period to provide clients with job-readiness training and placement into stable full-time and transitional jobs. Over 500 new participants will be enrolled over the two year period and 256 will be placed in permanent jobs at wages above $9/hour. Simultaneously, Fortune will place 90 individuals into subsidized transitional employment to adequately prepare them for entry into the mainstream workforce. Each participant will also have access to Fortune’s myriad wrap-around services, including access to housing, education, counseling, substance abuse treatment, family services, health services, mental health services, and rigorous follow-up.

JoAnne Page, Fortune’s President and CEO said, “Regardless of who we are, each of us makes a difference – positive or negative – in the lives of our families and communities. Fortune’s mission is to help men and women break out of the cycle of crime and incarceration by giving them a strong foundation and the tools they need. Getting and holding a job is a key step in that journey. Fortune is grateful to be awarded funding that will allow us to assist our clients to support themselves and those who rely on them through legitimate employment.”

Osborne Association: $2 million

The Osborne Association is awarded $2 million over a two year period for the creation of a Green Career Center providing job opportunities and support services to 130 formerly incarcerated persons in the first year and 192 in year two. Enrollment will be followed by two weeks of soft skill training, 4 weeks of hard skill training in marketable skills (construction, energy efficiency, duct cleaning, bio-fuel conversion, building solar panels), and then placement in permanent jobs at an average starting wage of $12/hr. Career coaches will conduct vocational screening assessments, administer workplace readiness workshops, work with employers, monitor client performance and re-engage if needed.

Elizabeth Gaynes, Executive Director of the Osborne Association, said: “With these funds, the Osborne Association will launch a new Green Career Center, providing formerly incarcerated men and women with the skills and jobs they need to succeed in careers within the emerging environmental sector. The fiscal and climate crises have forced us to recycle and reconsider how we use our precious resources, and there is no resource more precious than people. People leaving prison can re-purpose their lives and contribute to growing an economy that benefits all of us.”

Department of Correctional Services: $2.8 million

DOCS is awarded $2.8 million over two years for two projects:

  • The “Digital Literacy Program” ($1 million for each of the next two years) provides inmates within six months of release with hands-on training at special computer workstations using a software package that presents a simulated web-browser experience without compromising the state’s interest in ensuring that inmates do not actually surf the net. The inmates are encouraged to use public libraries and other public resources upon release to conduct job searches with their new computer skills.
  • A $397,336 allocation for each of the next two years will support the Department’s Special Education programs, including the “Quantum Learning Program” to train DOCS Title I and Special Education teachers in methods to teach students of widely varying abilities in Special Needs Units and correctional facilities with inmates under age 21. This approach has produced high GED (General Educational Development, or high school equivalency) passing rates in DOCS’ Shock Incarceration facilities. DOCS’ Division of Education intends to use some of the funding for specialized educational hardware and software to assist young offenders who have visual and hearing disabilities.