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Goldman Sachs to Help Fund NYC Program to Cut Jail Recidivism

New York City will try to reduce the recidivism of young male convicts housed on Rikers Island with a four-year program run by nonprofits and financed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The bank will invest $9.6 million through a so-called social-impact bond, meaning it will profit only if the plan achieves its goals. New York officials said the program is the first of its kind in the U.S.

“In this new model, private investors fund the intervention through a nonprofit contractor and the government pays the contractor only if the program meets its goals,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office said in a news release.

For Goldman Sachs to earn a profit, the program will need to reduce recidivism by at least 10 percent. City payments to MDRC, a nonprofit social-policy group created by the Ford Foundation that will monitor and run the program, also will be based on its degree of success. The Vera Institute of Justice will independently assess the program’s effectiveness, the mayor’s office said.

Goldman Sachs will fully fund the four-year program, called the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience, through a loan to New York-based MDRC. Bloomberg Philanthropies, the mayor’s private charity, will provide $7.2 million to MDRC to back a portion of Goldman Sachs’s loan. There will be a cost to the city only if the program succeeds, the mayor’s office said.

New Instrument

“This investment paves the way for a new type of instrument that enables the public sector to leverage upfront funding from the private sector,” Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The program’s targets are inmates age 16 to 18, whose recidivism rate is now about 50 percent, the mayor’s office said. Inmates will receive education, training and counseling to improve personal-responsibility skills, including decision-making and problem-solving, the mayor’s office said.

Two other New York-based nonprofits, the Osborne Association and Friends of Island Academy, will also deliver recreational activities “to reduce idleness, promote team building and afford opportunities for adolescents to practice what they are learning in a variety of settings and circumstances,” the mayor’s office said.

The program is part of the Bloomberg administration’s privately supported $30 million Young Men’s Initiative, which seeks ways to improve productivity and reduce risk of poverty for young males.

It’s also part of a national search by Bloomberg’s foundation to find innovative policies and practices to deal with difficult urban problems, the mayor’s office said. To further that effort, the mayor last month offered $9 million in prizes to U.S. cities through the foundation in a competition for ideas that local governments can use to solve problems.

“Lessons learned from the nation’s first social-impact bond will be shared with other jurisdictions who are eager to test the approach,” the mayor’s news release said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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