CUNY Mapping Press Release

For immediate release: April 29, 2020

Mapping the City University of New York: The University’s Commitment to Students Impacted by the Criminal Legal System

New York, NY – The Institute for Justice and Opportunity (formerly known as the Prisoner Reentry Institute) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice released a report today, Mapping the City University of New York: The University’s Commitment to Students Impacted by the Criminal Legal System. The report details the scope of CUNY’s policies and programs for students impacted by the criminal legal system and explores opportunities for CUNY to better support those students.

As an engine for upward social mobility, CUNY is well positioned to promote the educational and professional advancement of students who have been historically denied access to higher education, especially students who have been involved in the criminal legal system. Higher education transforms lives, creates opportunities, and mitigates the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. This report should serve as a catalyst and foundation for developing a more comprehensive and integrated approach to welcoming and supporting students with past criminal legal system involvement at the country’s largest urban university system.

The report was derived from interviews with more than 85 colleagues within the CUNY system across 11 campuses and the CUNY Central Office. Through these interviews, the Institute for Justice and Opportunity learned that many faculty and staff are enthusiastic about supporting system-impacted students. But efforts to support these students are often undertaken in isolation, and without an awareness of services available across the CUNY network. System-impacted students face additional challenges such as food and housing insecurity, and parole and probation requirements.

A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research ranked nine CUNY senior colleges and ranked two CUNY community colleges among the most effective public schools in the country for lifting low-income students into the middle class. As low income New Yorkers are disproportionately represented in the criminal legal system, it is especially important that they have this access to opportunity. CUNY is well positioned to provide access to higher education for individuals impacted by the criminal legal system, and in doing so, to significantly increase their chances for success, their ability to support their families, and their contribution to the community.

This report makes recommendations in four areas: (1) creating more pathways to and through CUNY, (2) eliminating barriers to enrollment, (3) increasing CUNY’s participation in correctional education, and (4) improving communication and coordination across CUNY to support system-impacted students.


New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “As chair of the Governor’s Reentry Council since 2014, I salute CUNY’s commitment to welcoming and supporting system-involved students and I am grateful for their leadership. Higher education has been proven pivotal for people seeking to create new paths for themselves post-incarceration.”

“If the key component of our higher education mission is equity, then we must place new emphasis on developing and implementing policies and practices that ensure access and academic success for those who have been incarcerated,” said José Luis Cruz, CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost.

“When students impacted by the criminal legal system have access to higher education opportunities, they gain a sense of dignity, autonomy, and the capacity to control their own destiny. I’ve seen this transformation firsthand watching our system-impacted students thrive as scholars, mentors, and criminal justice reform advocates. The contributions made by these brilliant students are vital to our society because to create true change in the criminal justice world, we need to hear the voices of those impacted by it the most,” said John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Karol V. Mason. “The report released by the Institute for Justice and Opportunity provides an invaluable tool for us to effectively enhance support for these talented students across the CUNY network.”

“Through the individual and collective commitment of students, faculty, staff, and administrators across the University’s twenty-five campus system, CUNY has a rich tapestry of services and resources that bring system-impacted students to its doors. By working together, we can align existing efforts and strengthen communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the criminal legal system. I look forward to working in partnership with our CUNY colleagues to build on the already impressive work that is being done here,” said Ann Jacobs, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Opportunity (formerly known as the Prisoner Reentry Institute) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY).


The report was made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Click here to download the full report.

About the Institute for Justice and Opportunity
The Institute for Justice and Opportunity (the Institute), formerly known as the Prisoner Reentry Institute, is a center of research and action at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY. The Institute is committed to providing opportunities for people to live successfully in the community after involvement with the criminal legal system. Capitalizing on its position within a large public university and recognizing the transformational power of education, the Institute focuses much of its work on increasing access to higher education and career pathways for people with conviction histories. The Institute’s comprehensive and strategic approach includes direct service, research, technical assistance, and policy advocacy. For more information, visit or follow @JusticeAndOpp on Twitter.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow @JohnJayCollege on Twitter.


About the City University of New York (CUNY)
Providing a quality, accessible education, regardless of background or means, has been CUNY’s mission since 1847. The University’s unwavering commitment to that principle is a source of enormous pride. CUNY colleges offer a seemingly infinite array of academic programs taught by award-winning faculty, as well as sports, internships, scholarships and community service opportunities found on campuses throughout New York City’s five boroughs. CUNY’s combination of quality academics, remarkable affordability, financial support and the convenience of 25 modern campuses offers a remarkable educational experience. CUNY has a legislatively mandated mission to be “of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York … [to] remain responsive to the needs of its urban setting … [while ensuring] equal access and opportunity” to students, faculty and staff from all ethnic and racial groups and without regard to gender. For more information or follow @CUNY on Twitter.

For more information, contact Matt Bond
t: 646.633.8605