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TESTIMONY OF THE FORTUNE SOCIETY David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) The New York City Council Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Use and Disability Services Committee March 19, 2012 Presented by: Josue Ramos Community Organizer The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Blvd. Long Island City, NY 11101 Phone: 212-691-7554 Good Morning. I would like to start by thanking Chairperson Koppell and the Committee for convening this important budget hearing. I would especially like to thank the Committee for allowing The Fortune Society (“Fortune”) and the NYC Alternatives to Incarceration/Reentry Coalition (ATI Coalition) to testify. The Fortune Society and others in the Coalition appreciate the City Council’s longstanding support for ATI and reentry programs and request funding be restored to pre-cut levels. Over the past few years, funding to the ATI Coalition has been cut by 50 percent, making it difficult for Fortune and other coalition members to sustain their critical ATI programs. These cuts are untenable for the vitality of these cost-saving and life building programs. Ideally, investment in ATI programs will be a part of the Council's response to the Mayor's preliminary budget and the administrations successful criminal justice strategy. At the very least, the City Council should hold the line in order to preserve the legacy of the Council’s long-standing, visionary success in this area. I’d like to share with you a bit about Fortune’s history. Since Fortune’s founding, it has served as a primary resource for New Yorkers released from jail and prison seeking to build constructive lives in their communities. It now serves more than 4,000 men and women with criminal justice histories annually. All of our programs are designed and implemented to meet the unique needs of this population through skilled, holistic and culturally competent assessment and services. Today, Fortune’s wide array of services include admissions services, alternatives to incarceration, drop-in services, education, employment services, family services, health services, housing services, mental health services, public policy and advocacy, Rikers Island Discharge Enhancement, Single Stop benefits assessment and referral program and substance abuse treatment. One of our greatest strength is the depth of our experience in providing alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programs to criminal justice clients. For nearly forty-five years, The Fortune Society has been a powerful criminal justice advocate and Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) and reentry service provider. Fortune believes community-based ATI programs to be critical, and is a member of the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI)/Reentry Coalition, composed of community service providers offering ATI and/or reentry services. These organizations – Center for Alternative Sentencing & Employment Services, Center for Employment Opportunities, Center for Community Alternatives, Osborne Association Women's Prison Association, Legal Action Center, Fortune Society and TASC/EAC – coordinate our services and target populations to serve the maximum number of criminal justice clients effectively without duplicating services. The service providers in the ATI Coalition from across the City offer alternative to incarceration, reentry, and related programs, including pre-trial services, defender-based advocacy, client specific planning, community service sentencing, drug treatment diversion programs, and legal and employment assistance. These programs divert appropriate individuals who have been arrested or convicted to community supervision and sanctions and connect people who are transitioning from prison or jail into our communities to needed services, such as education, employment, healthcare and housing. These efforts protect the public and save the city and state revenue by reducing jail and prison costs, preventing recidivism and stabilizing these individuals and their families. 1 It is not a coincidence that New York State has the largest network of ATI programs in the country, and—unlike other large states such as California, Florida and Texas—has seen crime and incarceration rates plummet simultaneously, improving public safety and saving much-needed revenue.1 Decades worth of research documents the fact that people in low- income, communities of color are at greater risk of entering the criminal justice system due to the scarcity of prevention programs, early intervention programs, and alternatives to incarceration. NYC ATI funding would support programs such as Fortune’s. For example, Fortune currently operates six specialized ATI services, including a specialized program for women. We also have a program called FlameTREE, for people facing at least one year of incarceration due to felony- level drug convictions, which includes substance abuse treatment; and a new program funded by the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) called Supervision and Treatment of Specialized Offenders (SATSO) to connect ATI clients to comprehensive psychosocial assessments, and when needed, link them to our newly licensed outpatient mental health treatment services provided through the Better Living Center (BLC). This is important because the NYC Department of Correction (DOC) has indicated that the number of prisoners with mental illness is at an all-time high. According to Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society, “One out of every two inmates with mental health issues is returning [to prison] within 12 months, and a third of inmates in the system have mental health issues and those that are returning are staying three times as long as others.”2 A report from the Justice Center said that “a large number of people with mental illness in prison (and especially in jail) have been incarcerated because they displayed in public the symptoms of untreated mental illness.”3 The Better Living Center is the next phase of our incredible history and evolution in meeting the needs of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. Fortune’s BLC is robustly staffed with a Clinical Director/Social Worker who is on-call 24/7, two full-time Social Workers, two part-time Psychiatrists, a part-time Nurse and an Administrative Assistant. As the only NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) licensed Article 31 mental health clinic in New York City specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of the criminal justice involved population, our treatment approach is highly innovative: we treat mental illness in the context of a variety of extrinsic factors, such as poverty, abuse, societal pressure, and trauma caused by the criminal justice system itself. BLC patients, as with all Fortune clients, receive holistic, person-centered and highly individualized care, which entails being connected to our wide array of wrap-around services, including substance abuse treatment, housing (congregate and scatter-site), HIV-specific health services (prevention and treatment), employment services, education, discharge planning, public benefits screening and enrollment, case management and lifetime aftercare. The BLC is able to effectively address these goals by incorporating evidence-based practices, such as Motivational Interviewing (MI), Stages of Change, Seeking Strength, and Wellness Self-Management into our treatment strategies; these person-centered, strength-based approaches influence all of the services that patients receive through the BLC. 1 The contrast between NYS and other large states is dramatic. NYS has the lowest crime rate of the largest states and by far the lowest incarceration rate: As of January 1, 2010, California’s prison population was 169,413, Texas 171,249 people, and Florida 103,915, while New York’s prison population was 58,648. 2 Steve Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of the Legal Aid Society, quoted in a September 30, 2011 article by Courtney Gross, for New York 1, titled “Rikers Island Struggles with Record Mental Illness Numbers.” 3 The Consensus Project Executive Summary a report from the Justice Center, http://consensusproject.org/the_report 2 We are now receiving referrals from a number of hospitals, including Beth Israel Medical Center and Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, and we’re seeing a rising demand in the need for mental health services among the court-involved population. For instance from July 1, 2011 through January 31, 2012, our BLC has admitted a total of 160 clients out of the 190 assessed and evaluated. With approximately 56,0004 people in prison, New York State has the fourth largest prison population in the country. Thousands more are in jail – about to 13,000 in New York City alone – or under some other form of correctional supervision. Every year more than 25,000 individuals are released from state prisons in New York and over 95,000 cycle through local jails. About half of these men and women come from and return to communities in the New York City metropolitan area. The picture is relatively abysmal on the city-level, also. While our jail population has trended downwards from its all–time high in the early nineties, we still have a wicked incarceration problem in NYC, with over 95,000 admissions to Rikers Island in FY10. There are over 13,000 people sitting on Rikers Island. Eighteen percent of these people are already sentenced to City jail time, with an average length of stay of 38 days, and the rest are detainees awaiting trial or prison bound. Fifty seven percent of these people are African American, 33.7% are Latino, and 6.9 percent white. In comparison, NYC’s population is 26.6% African American, 27.0% Latino, 44.7% white. Seventy to eighty percent of people on Rikers have substance abuse histories, 75% are in on drug-related charges, 32% are illiterate, 40% percent require mental health services and 11% suffer from serious and persistent mental illness. Over 5% of these people are released to NYC homeless shelters, while many more wind up in our shelter system within months of release. In addition, according the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 8% of males and 18% of females on Rikers are HIV positive. There we approximate 58,000 discharges in FY10, including 19,500 to Brooklyn, 15,200 to the Bronx, 9,600 to Queens, 9,400 to Manhattan, and 2,200 to Staten Island. Statistics show that 45.5% will return to Rikers Island within a year. For those under age 21, approximately 8000 people, 48% will return in that same time period. Also, with similar demographics, there are over 56,000 people in NYS prisons, and over 13,000 returning to NYC annually. While the ATI and Reentry Coalition serves a broad swath of these people, given diminishing resources, by no means are we even coming close to meeting the needs of the entire population. Fortune Society serves individuals throughout NYC’s five boroughs. Our clients overwhelmingly reside in the neighborhoods that account for the majority of the city’s correctional admissions: the South Bronx and Upper Manhattan; the Brooklyn communities of Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Crown Heights; and the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. These primarily African American and Latino communities are the most high-need neighborhoods in NYC. Collectively they account for a full 54.5% of NYC prison admissions and re-entry even though the population makes up only 22.1% of New York City’s general census. Criminal-justice experts refer to these neighborhoods as “million dollar blocks” because of the amount of money the state spends annually incarcerating residents (Tucker & Cadora, 2003). The Citizens’ Committee for Children found that, in 2001, there were 73.0 total arrests per 1,000 residents in these communities, compared to 31.1 citywide (CCC, 2001). These are the neighborhoods hit hardest by the criminal justice system, and the communities hit hardest, as well, by crime. In Harlem, for instance, there were 8 murders per 4 Please note that statistics herein reflect most recent available data. 3 100,000 people in 2007 compared to 2 murders per 100,000 in all other Manhattan neighborhoods. Black and Latino men accounted for the majority of those victims. The cost per client for most ATI programs in the ATI and Reentry Coalition is $11,000, compared with $272,000 per child for juvenile placement, and $76,000 per person for jail. In FY 2010, New York City spent 1 billion on the Department of Correction, compared with only $20 million on ATI/Reentry programs. If the goal is public safety, the 13,000 men and women released to NYC in FY 10 from NYS DOCS will fail at a rate of 37% within their first three years of release, Coalition program graduates have a new criminal conviction who went through one of the Council-supported programs had over an 80% chance of staying out of the system. At the Fortune Society, for instance, every dollar invested in ATI programs yields three dollars in jail and prison displacement savings to the City and State, while providing individuals an environment that fosters change, allowing clients to stabilize themselves, develop legitimate income streams, build a track record of “clean time” without drug use, and access needed services. These are tough economic times and a time in which the City Council must make difficult decisions about where to invest scarce resources. Those of us in the ATI and Reentry Coalition have a key message to share with you today: Criminal justice is one of the few places in which it is possible to save money and save lives at the same time, and to use the money saved where it is most needed. Study after study has shown that ATI programs save money without increasing risk to community safety, that provision of drug treatment is more cost effective than locking people up, and that supportive housing is a cost-effective investment that prevents greater spending on incarceration and homeless shelters Fortune is a full partner in the City’s effort to further reduce crime and the jail and prison population and build stronger and safer communities. For example, Fortune’s Glenn Martin, Vice President of Development and Public Affairs, serves on the New York City Council Task Force to Combat Gun Violence and CEO JoAnne Page serves on the Advisory Board to the Young Men’s Initiative. Fortune supports Chairperson Crowley’s proposed resolution calling upon the state to require incarcerated adults to be placed in facilities located near the primary place of residence of such individual’s minor children; and the Council’s interest in addressing the problem of stop and frisk. Stop and Frisk has a serious impact on our clients of color: these interactions with law enforcement have the potential to derail reentry progress. The Coalition and The Fortune Society continue to serve as a resource to the City Council and look forward to collaborating. Thank you, again, for the opportunity to testify at this hearing. 4
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