Spotlight

Spotlight

Each month, the Office of Sponsored Programs will spotlight a different PI and their research. If you are interested in being featured in our next spotlight, please email sponsoredprograms@jjay.cuny.edu. Please be sure to provide us with an abstract (3-5 paragraphs) about your research, explanation of your recent project, the amount your project (s) were funded for, special events that you are hosting or coordinating, obstacles or challenges you faced during the application process, if applicable, and a photo of yourself.   

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Ann Jacobs,
 Executive Director of the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI)
John Jay College of  Criminal Justice

The Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI)* is focused on creating opportunities for people to live successfully in the community after involvement with the justice system. Ann Jacobs took the helm of PRI in 2011 and has since grown the organization nearly tenfold. Jacobs has done so by systematically assessing the landscape of criminal justice reform in New York City and State, and then determining how PRI can address unmet needs through strategic partnerships that develop justice professionals, change systems, and provide ed-ucational services to people with conviction histories.

In 2011 PRI launched CUNY’s college-in-prison program, the Prison-to-College Pipeline (P2CP) at Otisville Correctional Facility. PRI extended its continuum of educational ser-vices for currently- and formerly-incarcerated students in 2015 by absorbing College Initi-ative (CI), a community-based program to support students with past justice involvement in their pursuit of higher education. In recent years PRI was awarded City funding to sup-port CI and to develop additional programs for individuals with lived experiences in the justice system. In the first six months of 2019 alone, 100 new students joined the CI com-munity. In any given year, CI works with over 300 students across 22 CUNY campuses and a number of private colleges. This spring, PRI hosted the largest CI graduation cele-bration in the program’s history, with 30 CI students completing degrees, including AAs, BAs, MAs, one PhD, and one JD.
Informed by its direct service work, PRI also works to improve the systems in which it operates. With funding from the Ford Foundation, PRI undertook a descriptive study of New York’s college-in-prison programs. Funding from the An-drew W. Mellon Foundation enabled the completion and publication of a report on that research, Mapping the Land-scape of Higher Education in New York State Prisons, and a similar study of the ways in which CUNY engages and sup-ports the college success of students who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The Mellon Foundation just awarded PRI a $1.5 million grant to build on its work to develop a more comprehensive and integrated system of both college in NYS prisons and across CUNY. PRI also partners with CUNY’s Institute on State and Local Governance and with SUNY to provide technical assistance to college-in-prison providers funded through the District Attorney of New York (DANY) Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII).

PRI’s work explores the intersection between justice and other systems, incorporates the voices and participation of di-rectly impacted individuals, and leverages its position within the country’s largest urban university system. Earlier this year PRI launched a Navigator Certificate in Human Services and Community Justice program, which prepares individu-als with lived experience in the justice system for careers in the human services field. The Navigator Certificate curricu-lum was developed after consultation with employers and previously incarcerated potential students, and working in conjunction with John Jay College’s Professional Studies and the departments responsible for the new Human Services and Community Justice major—the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Counseling and Human Ser-vices. PRI also operates three fellowships, funded by the Pinkerton Foundation, the Tow Foundation, and the David Rockefeller Fund, to develop the next generation of leaders in juvenile justice, policy advocacy, and philanthropy, respec-tively.

PRI addresses policies that impact its students—particularly removing barriers to housing and higher education for indi-viduals with past justice system involvement. Since 2014 PRI has convened a network of housing, legal services, and criminal justice experts to advocate for changing the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) policy of permanently excluding individuals with criminal justice contact from NYCHA housing. Since PRI undertook this effort, the number of tenants permanently excluded from NYCHA housing per year dropped by over 50 percent from 2016 to 2018.

Now approaching the fifteenth anniversary of its founding, PRI plans to continue expanding its direct services, improving systems, and identifying opportunities to improve the reentry and higher education fields. *Please note that PRI is currently in the process of changing its name. PRI considers terms like “prisoner” and “inmate” to be limiting and derogato-ry. While PRI’s language has evolved with changing norms since its founding in 2005, its name has not yet. PRI is now working to find a new name that better reflects its work and values, and supports its vision for the future.


*Please note that PRI is currently in the process of changing its name. PRI considers terms like “prisoner” and “inmate” to be limiting and derogato-ry. While PRI’s language has evolved with changing norms since its founding in 2005, its name has not yet. PRI is now working to find a new name that better reflects its work and values, and supports its vision for the future.