$17M in social programs to be slashed from NYC jails, DOC to provide services in-house, city says

The city Correction Department has proposed slashing $17 million from five major social service providers in the jails, including the Fortune Society and the Osborne Association, claiming the agency can provide the same services in-house.

The proposal was quickly blasted by a City Council member and a senior official with the Fortune Society as a move that would have a detrimental affect on the jail population and on public safety outside the jails.

“It’s a pipe dream that DOC would be able to deliver quality services to the incarcerated population anywhere near the level at what the providers have been doing for decades,” said Ronald Day, vice president of programs and research with Fortune, which has been working in the jails for more than 50 years.

“They have not built up the capacity to do this or the trust that you need to do this on a daily basis,” he added.

For decades, outside nonprofits have been brought in to offer services in these areas because the department has struggled to provide them to detainees.

Correction officials said the cuts are one part of a 4% overall reduction in the DOC budget called for by the Adams administration. They claimed attendance in the programs is about 30% on average, calling it a “high expenditure with low usage” by people in jail.

“The department will assume the responsibilities previously carried out by contracted providers, and continues to offer dozens of additional programs to people in custody, including educational programming, fine/performing arts, and other enrichment activities,” spokesman Frank Dwyer said Monday.

But Day said that last year, Fortune alone served more than 2,000 people in the jails with a range of support programs and did more than 1,500 discharge plans. The $17 million annual expenditure is a drop in the bucket set against DOC’s $1.2 billion budget, he noted.

“The city has been focused on public safety. All of these services enhance public safety, not only in the jails but when people are released to the community,” he said, referring to a constant rhetorical theme of the Adams administration.

“We know people are five times more likely to work with us when they are released if we work with them in the facilities,” Day added.

In addition to Fortune and Osborne, the cuts will affect the SCO Family of Services, Greenhope Services for Woman and Fedcap Rehabilitation Services.

The cuts can be reached in other ways that don’t curtail the services, objected Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.

”We are very concerned. Through committee correspondence, we have asked for clarity from the Mayor’s office,” her spokesman Edward Amador said in a statement.

“We do not think providing these services in-house is more effective. We believe outside contractors are more effective,” he added. “They can find this money in vacancies and in overtime spending. Instead of cutting services, we need to build them out more, including better mental health services. We need to get people out of Rikers.”

The voluntary detainee programs provide 90-minute sessions that assist with reentry and counsel behavioral intervention, family and wellness.

These programs help detainees with job training, financial literacy and other life skills. They also guide detainees to prevent recidivism and provide substance abuse, anger management and trauma therapy, according to the DOC.