PRESS RELEASE: A Pledge and Strategy to Close Rikers Island

NYC Re-Entry Organization “GETTING OUT AND STAYING OUT” Praises Mayor de Blasio’s Pledge to Close Rikers and the Lippman Commission Report’s Guidance on Strategy for Closure

Leader of leading reentry organization for criminal justice-involved young men commends progress in moving toward a more humane and results-oriented justice system

NEW YORK CITY—“I want to commend Mayor de Blasio’s and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s declarative call for the closure of Rikers as well as the rigorous work of Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Commission. The major reforms they are advancing will ensure that more justice-involved individuals are able to access the kind of intensive, community based programs that lead to lifelong stability,” said Mark Goldsmith, Co-Founder and President, Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO).

This supportive work—intensive counseling, job readiness training, and robust educational programming—has been at the heart of GETTING OUT AND STAYING OUT’s mission for 14 years. One of the keys to GOSO’s successful model is that their services begin on Rikers Island; they are, therefore, extremely pleased to hear this clarion call for more programming inside the jails and for providing a path to career opportunity beyond incarceration.

“The reentry process should start the minute a young person becomes involved with the justice system,” said Goldsmith. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and Speaker to provide interventions and treatment that give individuals skills, resources, and a support network to help level the playing field and prevent future involvement in the criminal justice system. In the meantime, GOSO staff will continue to work in the jails on Rikers Island, and with those incarcerated in upstate prisons, with the goal of reducing recidivism and helping young men achieve personal and professional success.”

Additionally, GOSO strongly supports the Lippman Commission Report’s recommendation that that New York State must stop the cruel and costly process of treating adolescents as adults in the criminal justice system.

According to Sarah Blanco, LCSW, GOSO’s Director of Programming, “Charging, detaining, and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds is inhumane and rips adolescents from their families and schools, exposing them to an environment where they live in a constant state of fear and hypervigilance from emotional and physical violence. Diverting adolescents into programs like ours can help these young people achieve personal and educational success, and reduce recidivism rates for this age group at a much lower cost to taxpayers and without the severely damaging consequences to young lives. We call on Governor Cuomo and our State Legislature to raise the age of criminal responsibility and keep children out of adult jail.”

About Getting Out and Staying Out:
Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO) is a leading East Harlem-based anti-recidivism organization that empowers young men throughout New York City, helping them reshaping their futures through educational achievement, meaningful employment, and financial independence. Founded by retired executive Mark L. Goldsmith in 2003, GOSO started with a simple idea: bringing licensed social workers and successful professional mentors to Rikers Island to coach young men, giving them practical tools to build productive futures, and continuing to coach and support them after release. GOSO has established itself as one of the most effective reentry programs in the New York City area for justice-involved 16 to 24-year-old men.

Just over 10% of GOSO’s participants return to incarceration, compared to a national rate of 50% for men in this age group. The DOC has consistently extended GOSO’s access to Rikers Island and GOSO social workers and mentors to continue to provide support to participants who have been sentenced to upstate facilities. The nonprofit’s GOSOWorks program partners with more than 50 employment partners to achieve its mission of providing young men with opportunities to launch careers, while promoting personal, professional and intellectual growth through personalized, goal-oriented programming. For more information about the organization and the programs available, visit GOSO at