NEW YORK – Stanley Richards lengthy confronted the label of “previously incarcerated individual.”
For many years, he is additionally labored to assist others return dwelling from jails and prisons. He is served on an oversight board for New York Metropolis’s jail system, and the Obama administration named him a “champion of change.”
“None of us are the worst issues that we have ever executed,” Richards mentioned.
Richards is the primary individual on the senior workers of the town’s Division of Correction who was previously incarcerated in its jails. As first deputy commissioner, Richards will oversee applications and operations at an important time as the town strikes towards closing the Rikers Island.
In an interview with USA TODAY on Tuesday, Richards mentioned he was excited to get to work on participating each correction officers and the jail’s inhabitants. He sees all his work as a part of the bigger plan to shut Rikers.
“I’m, by my nature, very hopeful. However I am not naïve. I do know that is going to be a large endeavor,” he mentioned. “I liken it to turning a cruise ship in the course of the Hudson. It should take quite a few turns, and it’s a must to take your time. However nonetheless, I am excited to be main this effort as first deputy commissioner for applications and operations.”
A Bronx native, Richards spent two and a half years on Rikers within the 1980s earlier than serving 4 and a half years of a nine-year jail sentence. Throughout his time within the legal justice system, he mentioned, he by no means imagined he’d lwork within the Division of Correction.
“The circumstances during which we reside – tasks, poverty – these are actual, these experiences are actual. They’re painful, however they do not outline who you might be,” he mentioned.
Town plans to shut Rikers by 2027 and open smaller jails within the boroughs. Wednesday, the Division of Correction fingers management of a facility during which Richards was housed on the island to the Division of Citywide Administrative Companies.
In his new function, Richards will oversee the jail system’s applications for incarcerated folks, day-to day operations, an help program for correctional workers and their households and the borough-based jail initiative.
In a press release, Mayor Invoice de Blasio mentioned Richards has been “on the forefront of legal justice reform for many years.”
“His lived expertise makes him uniquely certified to remodel our jails and create a system that focuses on rehabilitation. I’m assured that he’ll transfer us ahead in our work to create a jail system that’s smaller, safer and extra humane,” he mentioned.
Richards’ appointment comes as the town recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, crime has spiked and a new mayor will take workplace in lower than a yr. Adjustments to state bail legal guidelines have stirred controversy.
Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi, who took over because the division’s head in June, informed USA TODAY that a part of Richards’ work will probably be rebooting Rikers’ applications and in-person visits that had been shut down through the pandemic.
Schiraldi expects Richards to proceed his work specializing in reentry applications. Richards is government vp of the Fortune Society, a New York Metropolis nonprofit group targeted on service for incarcerated and previously incarcerated people as they return dwelling.
About two-thirds of individuals housed in Rikers return dwelling when they’re launched, relatively than being transferred to state jail, Schiraldi mentioned.
“For us, we have to have a really critical stream, a really critical handoff between what goes on inside and what goes on outdoors,” he mentioned. “So we wish Stanley and his crew to make it possible for we’re doing the sorts of issues inside that may assist folks reacclimate when they get out.”
Richards started working on the Fortune Society in 1991. He served as deputy director of consumer intervention on the Hunter School Heart on AIDS, Medication and Group Well being however returned to the Fortune Society, rising to the group’s senior management.
He was a part of de Blasio’s job drive that crafted a plan to shut Rikers. He was the primary previously incarcerated individual to serve on the Board of Correction, an oversight physique for the Division of Correction.
In 2014, Richards’ work earned him acknowledgment from President Barack Obama as a “champion of change” for reentry and employment.
“After I got here dwelling from jail, the one factor I wished to do was to assist folks see that they could possibly be one thing completely different,” Richards mentioned.
Schiraldi famous that Richards making historical past within the division doesn’t outline him.
“Like anyone else, when previously incarcerated folks now begin to break boundaries, too usually they will get outlined by being previously incarcerated folks,” Schiraldi mentioned. “He is not simply good for a previously incarcerated individual. He is simply good.”
Observe USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller