MDRC in the News

No Success Like Failure: N.Y. Sees Social Impact Bond Pluses

The Bond Buyer


A New York City program aimed at cutting recidivism rates among Rikers Island adolescent prison inmates failed to meet its desired goal.

As a result, the city paid nothing for it.

That made the nation’s first social impact bond a success, according to city officials and others involved with the program. Under the pay-for-performance vehicle - bond is a misnomer in the traditional muni bond sense, though supporters find the buzzword catchy - the city is not on the hook……

…..Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit, was the independent evaluator of the program, called Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience, or ABLE. The benchmark was whether the program reduced recidivism among 16-to-18 year-olds who entered Rikers in 2013 by 10% or more. Intervention focused on social skills, personal responsibility and decision-making……

…..Goldman Sachs provided a $7.2 million loan to nonprofit MDRC, which oversaw the project. Bloomberg Philanthropies, the personal charity of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, provided a $6 million loan guarantee. Goldman thus loses $1.2 million. Had the program gone the full four years, Goldman’s investment would have been $9.6 million, with Bloomberg Philanthropies’ backstop at $7.2 million.

Though modeled after a prison program in Peterborough, U.K., New York’s is the first anywhere involving a major financial institution…..

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