DA Vance Invests $7.1 Million in Social Enterprises to Employ At-Risk Youth and Formerly Incarcerated New Yorkers

Posted in: News

Posted on October 23, 2017

Grants Mark First Social Enterprise Funding by a Law Enforcement Agency in the United States

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the investment of $7.1 million in three social enterprises – run by Drive Change, Sweet Generation Bakery, and The HOPE Program – creating employment opportunities and career training for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is providing these grants through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which District Attorney Vance created using criminal forfeiture funds obtained through the Office’s settlements with international banks for violating U.S. sanctions.

“Poverty and unemployment are criminal justice issues,” said District Attorney Vance. “Social enterprises offer a positive economic impact in communities with few job opportunities, and a means of advancement for individuals who may not have job skills, training, or access to employment. In particular, New Yorkers reentering their communities after periods of incarceration face significant barriers to finding the jobs and housing they need to rebuild their lives. We are excited to provide New York City’s social enterprise sector with a $7 million boost.”

City University of New York Institute for State and Local Governance (“CUNY ISLG”) Executive Director Michael P. Jacobson said: “With today’s investment, DA Vance is taking a forward-thinking approach to improving public safety. With these CJII funds, three innovative social enterprise models will be enhancing and expanding their services, providing meaningful employment opportunities for people leaving incarceration and young people at risk. This is a key component for individual’s long-term success and, also, for public safety.”

Jordyn Lexton, Founder and CEO of Drive Change, said: “Young New Yorkers returning home from jail possess immense talent that must be tapped into. With the right investment, young returning citizens can be assets to our communities. Drive Change is proud to receive a grant from CJII to scale our already successful work with these young adults. We will use these important dollars to build a shared food truck space called the Commissary for Social Justice, thereby increasing the number of young people served citywide. While crime is at an all-time low, this investment demonstrates a commitment to reimagine public safety; a commitment we believe is necessary for both safety and justice. Our years of experience have taught Drive Change that utilizing food/hospitality business as a tool for employing and teaching young adults returning home from jail is a key component of the puzzle. We look forward to the day in New York City where the phrase ‘Social Enterprise’ is obsolete because every business is developed with sincere social return in mind.”

Amy Chasan, Executive Director and Founder of Sweet Generation Bakery, said: “Sweet Generation Bakery is thrilled and deeply honored to be a recipient of the Manhattan DA’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative grant. This funding is critical to fulfilling the mission of Sweet Generation’s nonprofit youth program, RISE, making a tangible impact on at-risk and disconnected young people from low-income communities; employing, empowering and preparing them to access quality employment. This funding will enable us to expand our operation and reach, creating the teaching kitchen, program classrooms, counseling space, and production facility we urgently need. By providing meaningful training in job-readiness, entrepreneurship, and social-emotional development, Sweet Generation supports the growth of our participants; in turn reducing the risk of negative life outcomes and having a tremendous positive economic impact on under-resourced NYC communities.”

Jennifer Mitchell, Executive Director of The HOPE Program, said: “HOPE has a 34-year track record of empowering New Yorkers, including many with criminal justice histories, to transform their lives through training, jobs and career advancement. CJII Social Enterprise funding will expand our impact, enable our trainees to earn a paycheck, and with a focus on the green jobs sector, build a more sustainable city. We applaud District Attorney Vance for investing in cutting-edge strategies and we are honored to partner with CJII on this initiative.”

Eleni Janis, Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said: “We need new ways of solving persistent problems and creating full and equal opportunity. Government has an important role in promoting such innovation. The social enterprises celebrated today use smart and sustainable solutions to skills training and employment for at-risk-youth, ensuring long-term positive life outcomes. I congratulate District Attorney Vance on his bold vision, leadership and execution, and thank him and his team for the opportunity to see this innovation come to fruition here in New York.”

Suzi Epstein, Managing Director of Jobs and & Economic Security at the Robin Hood Foundation, said: “As a reviewer of proposals under the Manhattan DA’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative I was honored and humbled to read a wealth of thoughtful and creative concepts. As a member of Robin Hood, a large poverty-fighting organization in New York City, I’m filled with admiration for the many community groups engaged in social enterprise activities focused on individuals at risk of or in the midst of involvement in the criminal justice system.”

Investing in Social Enterprises

Social enterprises are non-profit organizations (or non-profit divisions of for-profit entities) which blend the social welfare mission of a non-profit organization with the market-driven approach of a business. Social enterprises offer positive economic impact within communities that offer fewer job opportunities, helping to curb the cycle of poverty and unemployment that often correlates with justice-system involvement. Additionally, social enterprises offer job opportunities for individuals reentering communities following incarceration, who typically face significant barriers to employment, including deterioration of job-related skills, and employer attitudes and policies.

District Attorney Vance awarded 3 ½-year grants totaling $7.1 million to help three organizations enhance and develop social enterprises that employ young people at risk of becoming involved in the justice system, or New Yorkers reentering their communities after a period of incarceration.

  • Drive Change
    • Award: $3,070,475
    • Primary Demographic: Formerly incarcerated young adults (18-25)
    • Services and Programming: Drive Change’s Commissary for Social Justice will create a mobile food vendor commissary where formerly incarcerated individuals will be trained in culinary arts and business skills related to the needs of mobile vendors.
  • Sweet Generation Bakery
    • Award: $2,179,168
    • Primary Demographic: At-risk and justice involved youth and young adults (ages 16-24)
    • Services and Programming: Sweet Generation Bakery’s Sweet Generation RISE will train youth and young adults in artisanal baking and handcrafted pastries, while also teaching job-readiness, entrepreneurship skills, and fostering social-emotional development.
    • Award: $1,870,904
    • Primary Demographic: At-risk young adults (18-24) and formerly incarcerated individuals
    • Services and Programming: HOPE’s Intervine program will provide soft and hard-skills training and transitional paid job opportunities to participants focused on horticultural, green infrastructure installation and maintenance, and solar photovoltaic installation services.

CJII Research and Consultation Process

Today’s awards follow an open-solicitation, Request for Proposals and review process led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and facilitated by the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (ISLG), CJII’s technical assistance provider. Representatives from New York City agencies and organizations, including the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Robin Hood Foundation, ExpandED Schools, and Echoing Green, participated in the review committee and provided expert feedback.

The CJII plan and investments are the result of an extensive process incorporating research, data analysis, and outreach to community leaders and stakeholders conducted by CUNY ISLG. As the technical assistance provider, ISLG analyzed research in areas affecting public safety in New York City, including systemic factors at the neighborhood level that have an impact on crime, and data from a number of agencies involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, ISLG conducted extensive interviews with more than 250 experts in the criminal justice community and related fields, including clinical practitioners; leaders from philanthropic, non-profit, and grassroots organizations; representatives of local, state, and federal government agencies; academics; and elected officials. Following this process, ISLG worked with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to develop a comprehensive set of investments that, together, will have a significant, lasting impact on public safety and justice reform in New York City. ISLG will provide program oversight and performance measurement to grantees selected under CJII.

Investments in Pre-Arraignment Diversion, Alternatives to Incarceration, and Reentry Programming

In June, District Attorney Vance awarded $6.5 million in grants to divert first time, low-level offenders from the justice system. He previously invested $7.3 million to pay for college programming at New York State prisons; and $600,000 to fund “Project Reset,” a county-wide pre-arraignment diversion program for 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for low-level crimes.

In March, District Attorney Vance announced funding to create innovative programming and support existing services for New Yorkers reentering communities after periods of incarceration ($15 million), and to create a blueprint for a new Manhattan Criminal Court Resource Center to offer services and alternatives to jail for low-level offenders, ranging from meaningful community service to mental health programming. Last fall, District Attorney Vance announced funding to develop an abusive partner intervention program ($1.4 million).

Investments in Access to Victims Services and Youth and Family Programming 

Earlier this month, District Attorney Vance invested $3.75 million in innovative programs for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. In April, District Attorney Vance announced the investment of $11.8 million in services for historically underserved victims of crime, including: people of color; immigrants and non-native English speakers; LGBTQ individuals; and individuals who are D/deaf or hard of hearing. In February, he invested $45.9 million to create and construct “Youth Opportunity Hubs” to knit together community-based providers and build new spaces for young people; as well as $12 million to enhance family and youth development programming. This funding followed earlier investments of $1.5 million for a pilot network of community navigators to guide at-risk individuals to appropriate services and programs; and $7.5 million to expand Saturday Night Lights, the District Attorney’s Office’s signature youth violence prevention initiative operating in 14 locations across Manhattan.

Earlier Transformative Investments

Other transformative investments previously announced by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office include: $90 million to equip the NYPD with tablets, handheld devices, and mobile databases for every police officer and patrol car; $101 million for critical NYCHA security upgrades, including cameras, lighting, and keyless access; $38 million to help end the national backlog of untested rape kits; $40 million towards the City’s comprehensive mental health initiatives, including $14 million for supervised release for eligible defendants pre-trial; and $25 million to form the cross-border, cross-sector, not-for-profit Global Cyber Alliance.

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