Unlike other programs at Rikers Island aimed at reducing recidivism among individuals who have been sentenced, the Individualized Correction Achievement Network – or I-CAN – will focus on individuals being held at Rikers who have not been found guilty.
“We are focusing primarily on prisoners who are awaiting trial, not those who have already been convicted and sentenced,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “We have other programs for those [prisoners].”
Initiatives that focus on pre-trial detainees have proven successful in various state-run prison systems, but New York will be the first city to implement such a program.
The city will partner with The Fortune Society and the Osborne Association to run I-CAN, targeting high-risk individuals, or inmates who have exhibited issues with staying out of the prison system once they are released.
“Many of them are just sick and tired,” said Elizabeth Gaynes, president and CEO of the Osborne Association. “They’re people that are doing life on the installment plan six months at a time. That moment when they say ‘I’m ready, this is it, I need to change,’ that’s the moment we need to be there to say ‘there’s another possibility.”
The program will help inmates get official identification, earn their GED, and address substance abuse, all to help them be successful once they are released from prison.
“If you don’t even have identification, you aren’t going to be able to get a job,” said Bloomberg.
During 2012, 88,000 inmates were released from Rikers Island. Of those, only 17 percent went on to the state prison system for longer sentences, while 76 percent went home. Among adult inmates, 42 percent who went home were back in jail within a year, while that figure was 69 percent among high-risk individuals, or the inmates targeted by I-CAN.
The program will begin in four of Rikers Island’s ten facilities, expanding to the rest of the prison system by the end of this year. So far, the program is working with 142 individuals considered a high risk for recidivism, according to Department of Corrections Commissioner Dora Schriro.
“If you engage with people while they are locked up, you can build a bond and start the work that lets you hold them solid when they get out,” said JoAnne Page, president and CEO of The Fortune Society.
The city will not pay either The Fortune Society or the Osborne Association for participating in I-CAN if the program does not produce tangible results. A successful outcome is if a released inmate stays out of prison for at least a year.
“We will pay for outcomes achieved, not actions taken,” said Bloomberg, who said the city has budgeted $3.6 million for the program.