New York bill would offer $2,600 to inmates for support after prison

A new bill up in Albany would give people leaving prison around $2,600 to help them get on their feet.

Introduced by State Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblyman Eddie Gibbs, this bill would require the money be doled out over the course of six months – with formerly incarcerated individuals receiving about $400 each month.

Samra Haider with the Center for Employment Opportunities, which is backing the bill, says that an initiative like this has shown it can cut down on recidivism.

"By almost 30%," Haider said. "It just helps them give a little breathing room allow them to focus on their job search, re-acclimate to the community, and so we think that will really help an individual's reentry home from prison."

But right now there are no limitations on how or where the $2,600 can be spent.

"In New York crime pays, literally," State Senator George Borrello said.

(Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Senator Borrello says that he is strongly against this bill and pointed to a list of recent criminal justice reform bills that have passed the state legislature over the past few years.

Borrello says that the state should prioritize other legislation at this time.
"My colleagues seem to think that these these are folks that are a victim of circumstances," Borrello said. "You chose to commit a crime in New York State. If you really are concerned about how much money you're going to have in your pocket when you leave prison, then don't go there to begin with."

Right now when people leave prison they are given $40, which comes from their garnished earnings behind bars.

"In this economy that amount is barely enough to get groceries or purchase clothes for a job interview," bill sponsor Assemblyman Gibbs said. "The first 72 hours after release are crucial in determining an individual's successful reintegration into society. By increasing the amount to up to $2550 in the span of a few months we allow folks the opportunity to reach their full potential. This isn't just a social justice bill but a public safety one. We need to start offering real support to folks re-entering society if we want to reduce recidivism and ensure stability and dignity for all."

Ismael Diaz Jr with center for community alternatives, who  also spent some time in prison, says that those $40 does little to help people reintegrate into society.

"This $40 that they give you, they’ve been doing this for over 50 years," Diaz Jr said. "$40 50 years ago was worth a lot more than it is right now."
The sponsors of the bill are asking that 25 million dollars be set aside for this new initiative.