In the criminal justice system, the corrections branch is meant to punish and rehabilitate those who have violated the law. Unfortunately, it often falls short on the latter. People who are released from prison are encouraged to start anew, yet they are given few resources to do so.
It is difficult for ex-prisoners to reintegrate into society when they often have very little education, money, connections and job experience. Having a conviction on one’s records makes it even harder to find housing and jobs. Without any resources to help them reintegrate into society, it is more likely that they will end up back in prison.The Osborne Association is hoping to combat this issue by transforming a shuttered Bronx prison into a re-entry center.
The Osborne Association, a nonprofit that operates in correctional facilities across the state, has received $657,000 from Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. to convert Fulton Correctional Facility into Fulton Economic Development and Community Reentry Center. It will provide job training, education and housing for former prisoners.
The Fulton building has gone through several transformations. Prior to being a prison, it served as a community center, a synagogue and a nursing home. The Osborne Association aims to return the building to its community roots. Their ultimate goal is “turning this former prison into a beacon of hope and possibility in the Bronx,” said Osborne Executive Director Elizabeth Gaynes.
This could become the city’s largest re-entry center. The Bronx is arguably where it is most needed.
“We know, and work to show the world, that the Bronx is a place where people prosper, where they are offered meaningful opportunities to succeed, to realize their potential and to transcend their past to become productive members of their community,” Diaz Jr. said.
According to the 2011 data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 4,700 Bronx residents are on parole and 10,000 are on probation. Crime has been declining in the borough, but it still has the highest number of incarcerated or paroled residents in the city.
Since many city prisons were closed, prisoners who reside in the boroughs are often sent to correctional facilities far upstate. This practice has been condemned for prioritizing punishment over rehabilitation. Displacing people from their communities makes it even more difficult to reintegrate.
After being displaced, “so many inmates come back to the Bronx and without programs like the ones Osborne offer, they wouldn’t have the skills they need to get back into society,” state Senator Gustavo Rivera says. Approximately 60 percent of the state’s prison population comes from the city. Nearly 11,000 inmates are released back to the Bronx each year from state prisons. The 2013 New York recidivism rate was slightly under 40 percent.
Bronx officials overwhelmingly support this endeavor. Nearly all Bronx officials co-signed the letter of support from Senator Rivera and Diaz.
“The transformed Fulton Correctional Facility will address the needs of our citizens, men and women who are returning home, by offering them interim housing, workforce development through job training, job creation and job placement and supportive services,” the president said. Rivera said that the Fulton building could have been sold to a developer, but they opted to give it to Osborne because “we are turning this building into a symbol of renewal and perseverance, just like the Bronx.”