- April 2014: $75,000 grant for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program and $75,000 challenge grant
- April 2013: $75,000 grant for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program
- April 2012: $75,000 grant for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program
- April 2011: $75,000 grant for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program
- April 2010: $75,000 grant for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program
- April 2007: $225,000 pledge over 3 years for support of the Alternative to Incarceration Program
- April 2006: $50,000 grant for support of the Family and Pastoral Center
- April 2005: $50,000 grant for support of the Family and Pastoral Center
- March 2004: $25,000 grant for general operating support
- March 2002: $50,000 grant for general operating support
Between 2005 and 2010, two-thirds of released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years of release and three-quarters were arrested within five years of release. The majority of inmates under custody reported that they had at least one living child when they entered prison. Children who have an incarcerated parent have a 50% risk of turning to criminal behavior themselves before they turn 18. Strengthening family networks improves outcomes for both the prisoners and their family members.
In the 1980s, a Catholic priest and two nuns spent years as Rikers Island chaplains working with convicted men and women. They realized that to make a real difference in the lives of the incarcerated with whom they were working, they had to provide holistic family services that would change destructive patterns for all members of the family. As a result of these observations, they founded the Abraham House, located in Mott Haven neighborhood in the South Bronx, in 1993.
The Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program is Abraham House’s core family strengthening program. Participants are referred to the program by the criminal justice system. Up to ten male offenders spend one to three years in its residential program instead of going to prison and an additional 15 individuals, both men and women, participate in the non-residential program. Men in the program are taught how crucial their role in the family is and how appropriate male behavior includes respect for their significant others, love and affection for their children, and being financially and emotionally responsible for their families. All participants must be drug free, attend counseling, participate in job training workshops, and meet the guidelines for behavior as established by the court and Abraham House. In addition, they must complete their GED, enroll in a vocational training program, attend college, or find and hold a job. Abraham House ensures that participants pay off debt, give a portion of their salaries to their families, and create a savings plan. Almost all ATI participants voluntarily participate in Abraham House’s other family and spiritual programs.
In addition, Abraham House offers afterschool care and summer programs for free for PreK-12th grade students. A majority of the students have a parent or sibling who is currently or formerly incarcerated. Staff members trained in counseling, psychology and child development work one-on-one with the children.
Also, the Family Pastoral Center provides case management, counseling, advocacy, and referrals to essential services to help stabilize families impacted by incarceration and poverty.
In 2013, Abraham House reported that participants who attended the program between 2005 and 2012 had a recidivism rate of 4%, which was significantly lower than the 57% rate for all parolees in the Bronx. The program also saves the New York taxpayers millions of dollars each year. In New York State, one year of jail costs $60,000 per inmate. In contrast, one year of the ATI program costs $15,000 per participant. In 2012-13 alone, Abraham House served 24 individuals in the program and saved $1.1 million of taxpayer’s money. By providing a safe community for children at risk of incarceration, the Abraham House also prevents children from going to prison, further saving taxpayers money.
The after-school program serves over 60 students during the school year and over 40 children during the summer. Since the program started in 1999, fewer than 10% of the children have been involved in a crime and all but a handful has demonstrated improvement in at least one major subject area and has been promoted to the next grade each year. Over 60 students have graduated from high school.
Each year, the Family and Pastoral Center serves over 600 families, approximately 4,000 individuals. In addition to holding weekend Masses and providing individuals with counseling services, it operates a Food Pantry that provides 900 meals per week and workers make 250 home visits to members of the community who are not able to make it to the Center.