Former inmates of the penitentiary at Rikers Island are being given debit cards that are funded by the city of New York, and using these cards to buy alcohol, Juul pods, and other substances, according to a report by the New York Post.
The cards are being given to the ex-prisoners as part of a citywide initiative intended to help them transition back into normal life, giving them two $25 gift cards. But employees of city liquor stores and other similar shops have said that this has only led to an influx of purchases of alcohol, juul pods, and tobacco from these former inmates.
Some store owners have explicitly refused to sell alcohol to such cardholders, for fear that the cards may bounce due to having no chips in them. Others have noticed that hardly a single cardholder has used them to purchase something useful such as food.
The initiative, set up by Mayor and failed presidential candidate Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.), is part of the larger bail reform law set up earlier this year. Such prisoners are also being given Metrocards for the city’s public transportation, and may also soon be rewarded with burner phones upon release. The entire handout program costs approximately $500,000, and comes from “city-funded non-profits.”
A spokesman for de Blasio’s office defended the handouts, claiming that it was providing the inmates with “essential resources needed to survive,” and that this would “ensure the safety of themselves and others,” as well as maintain “our status as the safest big city in America.”