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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.

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.

  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.
  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.”
  The Consensus Project Executive Summary a report from the Justice Center,

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

    Please note that statistics herein reflect most recent available data.

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

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.


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