“Castle” In West Harlem Offers Rehabilitation Post-Incarceration

It’s ironic that many people convicted for felonies and sent to prison don’t get the chance to truly rehabilitate until there are released. But, it’s a fact. And while many aren’t afforded this chance either, one place is working to ensure at least some former prisoners are given a running start when the “touch down” on the other side of the razor wire.

Known affectionately as the Castle but formally titled the Fortune Academy, this large building was profiled in a recent New York Times article. Pulitzer Prize winning writer Tina Rosenberg took a look at the Castle and why it works—giving former inmates the tools they so desperately need when coming home from prison.

It’s said over 700,000 people will be released from prison this year across the country. And while that figure is astronomical, it’s not surprising considering this is the most incarcerated country in the world. Unfortunately, we’ve built a system that spends billions on law enforcement and corrections but little on follow-up.

As Rosenberg points out, an inmate released from the custody of the New York prison system receives a bus ticket and $40—not a whole lot to jump start a normal, crime free life. And for those ex inmates who have no family to turn to, their prospect for staying out of police custody is pretty bleak.

The Castle is recognized as one place that is getting the post-incarceration thing right and prisoners getting close to release recognize this. The Fortune Society, who runs the Castle, helps about 4,000 people every year in getting their life back on track. But they can’t help everyone, turning away about 10 applications for every new resident accepted.

So what does The Fortune Society offer that crashing on a friend’s couch doesn’t to former inmates? Well, peer support for one. Many inmates leave prison and return to the same neighborhood, eventually falling into the same crowd and inevitably the same lifestyle that sent them to prison in the first place. The Castle brings together people who are all truly dedicated to rehabilitation and supportive of each other’s similar goals.

Things like safe housing, employment, education, drug treatment, mental health counseling, and simple positive peer groups give these men and women plenty to stay straight for. And for many of them, these resources weren’t available until after they got out of prison.

In an effort to incarcerate as many people as possible, programming in this country’s prisons has fallen. Mental health treatment, job training, and education are limited if they exist at all. And while rehabilitation isn’t the only “goal” of corrections, it’s certainly crucial in ensuring the same customers don’t keep coming back.

In this regard, community supervision is often more successful than prison in ensuring a life free of crime, preventing future criminal charges. It also opens additional resources to the offender, resources not available in prison.

If you are facing criminal charges and are curious about whether you might qualify for probation or other incarceration alternatives, call us today for a free consultation on your case.

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