Austin H. MacCormick Island Academy is an alternative New York City high school located on Rikers Island, which is the country's largest maximum-security prison. Island Academy is the first high school of its kind to be located within the prison facility since 1985.
Milton Levy is a successful New York City businessman, who felt that he was doing well in his life and wanted to do something for others. He decided to offer his services to the Department of Corrections for Rikers Island in the form of a six-week workshop on job readiness skills.
The Island Academy assembled a group of young incarcerated men and Mr. Levy traveled to Rikers Island from December 3rd, 1997 through January 14, 1998 every Wednesday to meet with this dedicated group of inmates. In the Island Academy school library, Mr. Levy shared materials and personal information designed to assist inmates with the process of positively re-entering society upon their release. He gave his students his business phone number and address, which they were told to use whenever they needed.
Mr. Levy's involvement with his students did not end upon the conclusion of the workshop. He makes a point to write back to those who write him and takes calls from any of his old students, including those still incarcerated. He has employed two of the gentlemen and referred one for employment in Pennsylvania. Mr. Levy has also opened an 800-number where ex-offenders from his class can leave messages for him. In addition, he has recently started an Employee Support Panel (which includes himself and several other businessmen) who are available to talk to ex-offenders about problems in the workplace, home, neighborhood, etc. He also serves on the Private Sector Advisory Committee where he advises those that work with inmates about the job market and how they can improve pre- and post-release programs for ex-offenders so that they work.
Prior to starting the workshop program at Rikers Island, Mr. Levy worked with the Board of Education for more than 8 years on a similar job training/career workshop program that he implemented in the New York City Public School System. Due to budget cuts, the program was eventually eliminated. Wanting to continue his volunteer work, he turned to the Island Academy of Rikers Island, and has been working with inmates and ex-offenders ever since.