Nonprofits Leverage Goldman Sachs for Detention Programs

A set of New York City nonprofits are working together to keep Rikers Island juvenile detention center residents from returning, and are using money from investment banker Goldman Sachs to do it. About half of the 16- to 18- year-old males who pass through Rikers Island will return within a year, according to David Butler, who’s heading the team working on the project at nonprofit social research organization MDRC.  “Anything we can do to change that is good,” he said. MDRC will oversee the ABLE program, which will be mandatory for the young men at Rikers by the time it is fully rolled out in January 2013 for a four-year run. The Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience is a method of teaching things like personal responsibility, anger management and impulse control with the aim of restructuring the student’s way of thinking. And it could not have been deployed on the Rikers scale, perhaps 3,400 students annually, without the cash Goldman Sachs agreed to provide.

Promising Impact? Mayor Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs

Sometimes it seems there is an inherent conflict of interest between those who work in the field of juvenile justice and their goal of reducing youth involvement with the system. Providing a quality program that reduces recidivism, lessens the length of detention, or lowers the overall number of incarcerated youths can, in the long run, lead to the closing of facilities, shrinking allocations, and fewer jobs. Success can lead to obsolescence. There seems to be a built-in reverse incentive structure, where success never goes unpunished. This is not to say there aren’t a lot of good people doing this work, people who are dedicated to working toward something positive, and a lot of innovative strategies have been developed that seem to be working.