Reducing Recidivism at Rikers Island

By Kristen Meriwether
Kristen Meriwether
Kristen Meriwether
February 21, 2013 Updated: February 22, 2013
Epoch Times Photo
Mayor Michael Bloomberg shakes hand with Captain Von Braunsberg at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Riker's Island, New York, Feb. 21, 2013. Some inmates at Rikers Island will be eligible for a new program that will provide them critical resources in an effort to reduce recidivism. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Some inmates at Rikers Island staying as few as 20 days will be eligible for a new program that will provide them critical resources such as ID cards, GED, and ways to stay sober, all in an effort to reduce recidivism. 

“We have to do something to make sure people who are incarcerated are able to survive outside of incarceration without going back into a life of crime,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said from a chapel on Rikers Island on Thursday. “If they go back into a life of crime, nobody is served—they are not and society is certainly not.”

The current rate of recidivism within a year is 69 percent. The mayor hopes with a $3.6 million investment the new plan, called I-CAN (Individualized Correction Achievement Network), will reduce the rate by 10 percent. 

I-CAN will mainly focus on pre-trial inmates deemed “high risk” at returning to crime. The risk factors were determined by years of data gathered at the city’s prisons.

Once evaluated, inmates will receive critical re-entry services, such as education, drug counseling, and even job training and placement. 

The plan will be individually tailored to each inmate, and will start from the day they arrive at four facilities: the Otis Bantum Correction Center, the Anna M. Kross Center, the Eric M. Taylor Center, and the Rose M. Singer Center. If successful, the plan will be expanded to the entire jail system by the end of 2013. 

The services will be provided by groups that already work with inmates at Rikers, such as the Osborne Association, which has worked with current and former inmates for 80 years. The Osborne Association will work with inmates from the Bronx and Brooklyn.

Epoch Times Photo
Elizabeth Gaynes, executive director of the Osborne Association, speaks at the Otis Bantum Correctional Center on Rikers Island on Feb. 21, 2013 in New York. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

The association already used programs like Fresh Start, which provide parenting training, culinary arts training, and even journalism classes to produce a newspaper.

The programs already in place have proven to lower the rate of recidivism for individuals who participate because it is more than just providing a plan for them after they leave—it gives them tools for everyday life.

Elizabeth Gaynes, executive director of the Osborne Association, said inmates used to just get a plan upon exit. 

“They have a plan. It is not a good plan sometimes, but it is a plan,” she said. “They don’t have the support, the services, or the confidence to [carry] it out.”

She said the I-CAN program also gives them the tools to carry out the plan. 

“This is different and it will make a difference.”

Kristen Meriwether