Cyrus Vance, the district attorney for Manhattan, has not exactly appeared as a beacon of ethics this year. Revealed to have allegedly taken tens of thousands of dollars from both the Trump and Weinstein camps and refusing to prosecute, respectively, rampant corruption and sexual assault, Vance’s reputation is, to put it mildly, on shaky ground.
Adding some weight to the “good” side of his ethical scales, Vance announced that he will be investing $7.1 million in three social enterprises that offer job training and employment opportunities for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. According to a release from the New York County DA’s Office, the grants will be provided through its Criminal Justice Investing Initiative, which Vance created in 2016 using criminal forfeiture funds generated through settlements with international banks that violated U.S. sanctions.
In the release, Vance made the case that poverty and unemployment are inextricable from issues of incarceration and criminal justice, adding that social enterprises break the vicious cycle of unemployment leading to crime leading to incarceration leading to release back into unemployment.
Two of the three grantees–Drive Change and Sweet Generation–offer at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated people career training through opportunities in the culinary sector (a food truck and bakery, respectively). The HOPE Program, the third grantee, runs a 35-hour-per-week job-readiness program that includes GED education and computer classes.
Vance is certainly correct that social enterprises such as these are crucial for creating opportunities in underserved communities, where lack of employment often goes hand in hand with high crime rates. It remains to be seen if this righteous ethical investment will begin to spill over into the rest of Vance’s dealings at the DA.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the ethical lapses Vance has been accused of. This story from the New Yorker offers an in-depth picture of those.