CI History

College Initiative (CI) was founded in 2002 by Benay Rubenstein, an early leader in prison education, in order to create pathways to higher education for people with past criminal legal system involvement. In the years since, CI has created life-changing educational opportunities and given thousands of students access to a supportive community. This page details some major happenings in CI’s history.

  • From 2002 to 2006, CI was housed by Episcopal Social Services under the leadership of Executive Director Stephen Chinlund, the former chair of the New York State Commission of Corrections.
  • In 2006, CI moved to an office within CUNY, expanding its access to the resources of the nation’s largest public university system.
  • In 2007, CI became an Incubator Project of the Fund for the City of New York and a member of the CUNY-wide Black Male Initiative, a program that supports students from underrepresented groups.
  • In 2008, CI opened programming offices at The Fortune Society’s headquarters in Long Island City, Queens.
  • In 2009, Michael Carey, a founding volunteer and former Assistant Director of CI, became Executive Director, facilitating the design of CI’s innovative peer mentoring program.
  • In 2010, CI co-convened the CUNY Reentry Task Force, which built a wider constituency throughout the University and beyond for CUNY-affiliated reentry and youth development programs. That same year, CI became a founding member of the New York City Reentry Education Network, a growing coalition of community-based organizations, government agencies, and higher education institutions who have committed to changing the landscape of education in criminal justice and reentry.
  • In 2015, CI became a program of the Institute for Justice and Opportunity at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, expanding the Institute’s continuum of educational services for students with past criminal legal system involvement.