Today, Osborne Association — a leading nonprofit organization serving individuals, families, and communities affected by incarceration — urgently calls for the attention of city officials and the public concerning devastating budget cuts to critical programs.
Brad Cauthen, our Director of Jail-based Services and Workforce Development, recently testified on losing $17 million in Department of Correction (DOC) funding that once supported programming at Rikers Island and other New York City jails. The loss of this funding led to the termination of over 75 dedicated service staff, nearly half of whom were previously incarcerated. The cuts have left a void in crucial programming, such as employment readiness, anger management, and rebuilding family relationships.
These funding cuts compromise the safety and well-being of those in custody and those who work in jails. Osborne, among other organizations, had been held accountable for its programs through stringent data submission to the DOC. Now, we question the ability of DOC to provide the legally mandated 5 hours of daily programming across all housing areas.
Similarly, Moses EL-Sun White, Senior Case Manager in the Children, Youth & Family Services division, submitted testimony that highlighted the termination of our Next STEPS program. This program, designed to serve young adults in NYCHA housing developments with high rates of violence and arrest, was abruptly canceled. It has left young people questioning who they can turn to for vital services like job readiness, resume building, and emotional support.
Osborne Association has a longstanding commitment to programming that brings about tangible, positive change. An evaluation of the Arches program, which inspired Next STEPS, revealed significant decreases in reconviction rates among participants. Such evidence underscores the importance of these services, not only for the individuals directly impacted but for public safety and community well-being.
Given the already tense environment at Rikers and the invaluable importance of mentorship for our city’s youth, it is imperative to reinstate these lost funds. We recognize the city’s budgetary constraints but believe that cutting funding to programs that deliver vital public services is a step in the wrong direction.
“We are at a critical juncture where short-term budget cuts risk long-term societal costs,” says Osborne President and CEO Archana Jayaram. “We need to consider not just the fiscal implications but the human toll these cuts take on our communities.”
We urgently request the City Council to closely monitor program provision, seek access to the DOC’s internal program database, and consider additional legislation to remedy this dire situation.