Ex-New York City jail inmates are being given $50 worth of gift cards under a new handout program, and they’re reportedly using the newfound wealth to buy alcohol and nicotine.
The free money is part of an effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio to supply those released under a larger bail reform law with goodies so that they’ll show up for their court dates.
As the program grows in scope, some released inmates will receive name-brand shoes and Mets tickets, according to the New York Post.
Although the mayor’s office defends these items as “essential resources needed to survive,” the way these former prisoners are allegedly spending the money proves there’s not much of a survival component to them.
Some ex-inmates have been taking their gift cards to area liquor stores and bodegas, trying to use the funds on alcohol and nicotine when the shop owners allow it.
Although some cashiers have apparently let the purchases go through, others are more skeptical and have denied the transactions.
An employee at Paretti’s Liquor Store, which is along a bus route leading to the Rikers Island jail, noticed a clear uptick in the number of people trying to use cash cards for intoxicating substances.
“We’ve had more people coming in with the Visa things,” the employee told the Post.
“No, we don’t take that, no gift cards, none of that. People come in here always trying to find a way to pay without really paying.”
Workers at other stores across the city confirmed that this is not an isolated event.
In addition to booze, the handouts are also reportedly being used to buy nicotine products, including vaping gear.
A worker at the Plaza Deli Grocery who has dealt with the cash cards told the Post he has “yet to see one person use it to buy food.”
The cards are provided by city-funded non-profit organizations, including the Fortune Society.
The monetary reward is billed as part of the group’s “Individualized Corrections Achievement Network” service to help ex-inmates re-enter society.
What better way to enter society than to celebrate with an ice-cold brew?
Ironically, the Fortune Society is helping former prisoners get drunk while taking financial assistance from New York state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and other taxpayer-funded groups.
The OASAS contributed over $3 million total to the Fortune Society in 2017 and 2018.
The society’s audited financials show it was awarded a whopping $55 million total in the same time period in grants and fees from various government organizations.
Included in the list of funding sources are multiple city, state and national health groups.
A statement to The Western Journal from the OASAS said its contributions to the Fortune Society are for addiction services, and denied any involvement with the gift card program.
A New York State Department of Health statement echoed this denial, instead saying the department provides funding to the Society for “supportive housing services and hunger prevention and nutritional assistance.”
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