Manhattan Link

The Intervention: Supporting the successful reentry of adults with serious mental illness

Who is Served: Adults with serious mental illness returning from Rikers Island to the community

The Challenge

Men and women with serious mental illness who are newly-released from jail face significant challenges if they are to avoid homelessness, hospitalization, and recidivism. For many years, New York City officials have struggled to address the needs of men and women with mental illness newly released from Rikers Island. In 1999, a legal coalition filed litigation challenging the City’s practice of releasing people with psychiatric disabilities from jail in the middle of the night with $1.50, two subway tokens, and no psychiatric medication or treatment referrals. A settlement reached in 2003 mandated that all New York City inmates with mental illness receive comprehensive treatment plans for services while in jail and discharge plans for treatment in the community following release.

Citing the City’s failure to fully implement requirements of the settlement (Brad H. v. City of New York), the resulting court order has been extended multiple times, most recently in 2014. The need for effective treatment services in jail and after release is increasingly critical. In FY 2015, 41% of inmates at Rikers Island had a mental health diagnosis,1 and in any given year, thousands of people with mental illness are in the community under probation supervision.

The Manhattan Link Approach

For men and women with serious mental illness returning from Rikers Island to Manhattan, CASES provides Manhattan Link. Services begin prior to an individual’s release from jail, with Link staff working at Rikers to prepare for the return to the community, including establishing initial rapport with the participant and liaising with correctional staff to support discharge planning. The latter includes identifying linkages to community-based service providers that can help the individual to address immediate subsistence needs including housing along with ongoing treatment needs. Linkages are also identified for participants seeking opportunities for education and/or employment. The Manhattan Link process includes steps to ensure no disruption in a participant’s current treatment regimen including medication. Following release, Link staff provide up to six months of case management services with the goal of helping participants access the support and opportunities they need to manage their mental illness, achieve stability in the community, and avoid recidivism.

The Impact

Since assuming operation of Manhattan Link in 2015, CASES has helped more than 250 men and women to make the transition from Rikers Island back to the community.


1 The City of New York (2016). Preliminary fiscal 2016 Mayor's management report. NYC: City of New York. Retrieved from ^