Two CUNY institutes have been tapped to oversee the new statewide College-in-Prison Reentry Program announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The program will draw upon on the broad skills and experience of the Institute for State and Local Governance staff and the deep expertise of the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The prison education program will provide college-level instruction leading to bachelor’s or associate degrees, or industry-recognized certificates, to incarcerated individuals with less than five years remaining on their sentences.
“To talk about the power of education to transform lives, give hope and open doors is not lofty conjecture, but rather thoroughly researched and documented fact,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “This initiative will be essential to ensuring that those seeking to turn their lives around have access to the most valuable resource they need to succeed. CUNY is proud to play a key role in implementing a program that will not only help incarcerated individuals rejoin society but benefit New York as a whole.”
The $7.3 million College-in-Prison Reentry Program will bring teachers from seven colleges and universities to 17 New York State prisons. It will create more than 2,500 seats for students over the next five years – eventually nearly tripling the current number and bringing in-prison education to many facilities that lack them.
ISLG will have responsibility for overseeing the College-in-Prison program, working closely both with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and with the public and private institutions that will provide the program’s educators. To implement the program, ISLG staff will collaborate with the Prisoner Reentry Institute, which has been developing, managing and evaluating innovative reentry programs since 2005. The John Jay institute will receive $2.37 million, a third of the program’s budget, to serve as the program’s education and reentry coordinator in collaboration with the State University of New York.
The College-in-Prison program is part of the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), established by District Attorney Vance to use $250 million from criminal forfeiture funds for innovative projects to improve public safety, prevent crime, and promote a fair and effective justice system. To carry it out, he selected ISLG as the technical assistance provider for CJII.
The prisoner education program is the newest of many projects at ISLG. The institute is a research and policy institute that helps state and local governments deliver more effective and equitable public services. It was co-founded in 2013 by two veterans of New York City government: Its director, Michael Jacobson, a former commissioner of both the city’s correction and probation departments and currently professor of sociology at The Graduate Center; and Marc Shaw, a former first deputy mayor and now the University’s interim chief operating officer, who chairs the institute’s advisory board.
ISLG has forged partnerships with major foundations and government entities to develop and oversee projects aimed at helping local and state governments across the country do a better job serving the public interest.
One of the institute’s most ambitious and potentially impactful projects is a $75 million initiative, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to help cities and towns across the country reduce the populations and racial disparities of their jails. Twenty local governments have been selected as pilot sites, each implementing measures whose effectiveness will be assessed for wider adoption.
“Most of the attention on criminal justice reform and the country’s high rate of incarceration is focused on state and federal prisons,” Jacobson said. “But there are 12 million people going to local jails each year – that’s an astounding number.”