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DA Vance Announces Investments to Prevent Crime and Reform the Justice System

The Manhattan District Attorney

$19M in Funding Available to Divert Low-Level Offenders from the Justice System, Develop Social Enterprises to Employ Formerly Incarcerated and At-Risk New Yorkers, and Support Youth Aging out of the Foster Care System

New Requests for Proposals Available at CJII.org

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced three significant investments aimed at preventing crime and reforming the justice system, including new funding opportunities for: early diversion programs for low-level misdemeanor offenders; social enterprises for young people and formerly incarcerated individuals; and innovative transition programs for youth who are transitioning out of foster care. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is funding these initiatives through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which it created using criminal forfeiture funds – separate from the Office’s annual budget or taxpayer dollars – obtained through settlements with international banks for violating U.S. sanctions. A strategic plan outlining the fund’s vision, goals, and specific funding priorities for innovative and effective community projects can be found here.

“The criminal forfeiture dollars seized by my Office represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance public safety,” said District Attorney Vance. “The lasting investments we are making today – in safe alternatives to incarceration, in social enterprises to employ justice-involved and at-risk New Yorkers, and in lifelines for youth aging out of foster care – will result in fewer New Yorkers coming into the justice system in the first place, and fewer New Yorkers cycling back through it after a period of incarceration. Now is the time for innovation. We encourage all organizations with creative solutions in these areas to apply for funding.”

City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance (“CUNY ISLG”) Executive Director Michael P. Jacobson said: “District Attorney Vance’s investment in these important initiatives demonstrates his commitment to supporting programs that are community based. In particular, I applaud his efforts to keep low-risk individuals out of the justice system and to improve public safety through programs that help support at-risk young adults and formerly incarcerated individuals to succeed in their own communities.”

Early Diversion Programs

The District Attorney’s Office is seeking proposals to create early diversion programs that take place after arrest and before arraignment for eligible New Yorkers of all ages who are issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) by the police for a low-level offense. Early diversion programs will provide participants with opportunities to avoid prosecution and an arrest record – and be connected to service providers in their community – while being held accountable for their misdemeanor offense in a community setting.

This Request for Proposals (RFP) is modeled after the success of the Project Reset pilot program, a collaboration among the District Attorney’s Office, the Center for Court Innovation (CCI), and NYPD. Under Project Reset, 16- and 17-year-olds who are arrested for low-level offenses and do not have a serious criminal record are eligible to complete two-session “youth court” programs, or other age-appropriate interventions, administered by CCI. Teens who complete Project Reset have their cases dismissed without ever setting foot in a courtroom. 109 teenage defendants have completed the Project Reset program since its inception in March 2015. The RFP being announced today will expand early diversion programs to New Yorkers of all ages arrested for low-level offenses.

Investment in early diversion enhances public safety and accelerates reform in the justice system by providing more effective, community-based responses that hold offenders accountable and provide opportunities for positive development. This approach also conserves intensive and expensive court responses for more serious criminal cases.

Applicants are invited to submit proposals for programs specifically tailored to young adults, or for programs applicable to the entire adult population. The District Attorney’s Office will provide total funding of up to $6.5 million over three-and-one-half years. Diversion programs being funded under this RFP are expected to serve more than 8,500 New Yorkers.

Social Enterprises

The District Attorney’s Office is also seeking proposals to create “social enterprise” employment opportunities for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers – the first-ever such funding opportunity from a criminal justice agency in the United States.

Social enterprises are non-profit organizations (or non-profit divisions of for-profit entities) which blend the social welfare mission of a non-profit organization with the market-driven approach of a business. Under this RFP – developed in collaboration with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (“EDC”) – up to $7.3 million will be made available to fund social enterprises which: (i) provide meaningful training and career opportunities to young people at elevated risk of justice-system involvement as well as formerly incarcerated New Yorkers reentering their communities; and (ii) generate a positive economic impact in underserved New York City neighborhoods.

Social enterprises offer positive economic impact within communities that offer fewer job opportunities, thus helping to curb the cycle of poverty and unemployment that often correlates with justice-system involvement. Additionally, social enterprises offer job opportunities for individuals reentering communities following incarceration, who typically face significant barriers to employment, including deterioration of job-related skills, and employer attitudes and policies.

Applicants are invited to propose new enterprises, or to scale up existing enterprises. The District Attorney’s Office will fund up to four social enterprise programs, with $7.3 million in aggregate funding available over three-and-one-half years.

EDC President Maria Torres-Springer said: “We know that a good job can play a huge part in an individual’s successful reentry to society, which is why the de Blasio Administration is focused on both growing jobs and providing the support services that can help at-risk New Yorkers access them. Social enterprises offer an innovative and comprehensive solution to barriers to employment. We are extremely grateful to District Attorney Vance for his leadership on this issue, and proud to have worked with him to develop this important initiative.”

Youth Aging out of Foster Care

Finally, the District Attorney’s Office is seeking proposals – developed in collaboration with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) – to provide educational, employment, and housing services to youth aged between 16 and 24 who are “aging out” of New York City’s foster care system. In 2015, 616 young New Yorkers “aged out” of the foster care system without being adopted or returned to the custody of a parent or guardian. Funding will be made available for proposals which support this population’s educational attainment, workforce development, and housing permanency.

Many young people involved in the foster care system are at increased risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. Foster youth face higher rates of incarceration than the general population. A 2015 study focused on a group of young New Yorkers who were discharged from foster care between the ages of 13 and 18 found that 15 percent were incarcerated within six years. Of the foster youth who aged out of the New York City child welfare system in the mid-2000s, one in ten entered a homeless shelter within one year, and one in five entered a shelter within three years. Investments in remedial education and pathways to employment best equip this population to transition out of care successfully.

Applicants are invited to submit proposals for new or newly expanded programs that provide educational, employment, and housing services to youth aged between 16 and 24 who are transitioning out of New York City’s foster care system. The District Attorney’s Office will provide $5.3 million over three-and-one-half years under this RFP.

ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrion said: “Improving education, employment and housing outcomes for older youth in foster care is a top priority for ACS and the City. We are grateful for this partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney Office that will invest in our young people’s future and nurture their potential. This partnership builds on several initiatives underway that secure pathways of success for youth in foster care.”          

CJII Research and Consultation Process

The CJII plan and investments are the result of an extensive process incorporating research, data analysis, and outreach to community leaders and stakeholders conducted by CUNY ISLG. As the technical assistance provider, ISLG analyzed research in areas affecting public safety in New York City, including systemic factors at the neighborhood level that have an impact on crime, and data from a number of agencies involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, ISLG conducted extensive interviews with more than 250 experts in the criminal justice community and related fields, including clinical practitioners; leaders from philanthropic, non-profit, and grassroots organizations; representatives of local, state, and federal government agencies; academics; and elected officials. Following this process, ISLG worked with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to develop a comprehensive set of investments that, together, will have a significant, lasting impact on public safety and justice reform in New York City. ISLG will provide program oversight and performance measurement to grantees selected under CJII.

Previously Announced Investments

In June 2016, District Attorney Vance announced funding to: expand the Project Reset diversion program to serve additional qualifying teenagers ($600,000); increase access to services for victims of crime ($11.4 million); support youth and family development ($13 million); create youth opportunity hubs to provide adolescents and young adults with coordinated services in four target neighborhoods ($51.5 million); and develop community navigators to connect individuals to the resources and services they need to prevent future crime and re-victimization ($1.6 million).

These funding opportunities follow other recent, transformative investments by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, including: $7.5 million to pay for college programming at New York State prisons; $90 million to equip the NYPD with tablets, handheld devices, and mobile databases for every police officer and patrol car; $101 million for critical NYCHA security upgrades, including cameras, lighting and keyless access; $38 million to help end the national backlog of untested rape kits; $40 million towards the City’s comprehensive mental health initiatives, including $14 million for supervised release for eligible defendants pre-trial; $25 million to form the cross-border, cross-sector, not-for-profit Global Cyber Alliance; and $7.5 million to expand Saturday Night Lights, the District Attorney’s Office’s signature youth violence prevention initiative operating in 14 locations across Manhattan. 

Additional funding opportunities that support efforts to prevent crime, improve approaches to working with victims of crime, and enhance diversion and reentry options for people involved in the criminal justice system, will be announced in the coming months.