• College Initiative College Initiative


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Mission Statement

To create pathways from criminal justice involvement to college and beyond and to establish and support communities invested in their own success.

Our work reflects our deep passion and strategic commitment to empowering men and women involved in the criminal justice system to become stabilizing forces in their communities, advocates for change, role models and engaged citizens working for a safer New York City.


The College Initiative was founded in 2002 by Benay Rubenstein, a prison educator with a 20-year history of developing and coordinating in-prison college programs.

After the loss of federal Pell and New York State TAP grants for prisoners (the primary funding sources for higher education programs in prisons until that time), Benay re-directed her attention to meeting the needs of released prisoners who wanted to attend college, but lacked the practical knowledge and support to do so.

During its first four years, CI was housed by Episcopal Social Services under the leadership of Executive Director, Stephen Chinlund, former chairman of the New York State Commission of Corrections. In May 2006, CI opened an office within the City University of New York. This move gave CI direct access to the vast resources of the largest public university system in the nation.

In July 2007, CI became an Incubator Project of the Fund for the City of New York. That year, CI also became a member of the CUNY-wide Black Male Initiative, directed by Elliott Dawes.

In 2008, CI opened programming offices at The Fortune Society's headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. CI's student services are now based at the Fortune facility while CI also maintains an office at LaGuardia Community College.

In 2009, Michael Carey took over as Director. Michael had worked as a volunteer with CI at its founding and taken a position as Assistant Director in 2008. He facilitated the design of CI's innovative peer mentoring program.

In 2010, CI co-convened the CUNY Reentry Task Force and was a founding member of the New York City Reentry Education Network



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