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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Blog: Crown Heights Community Mediation Center

The staff at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center have been blogging for a few months. Their site is chock full of news, goings-on, and resources. If you have an interest in the diverse communities of Central Brooklyn, community mediation, or a day in the life of a neighborhood storefront resource center, be sure to check it out. Click here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Community Service Stories

For a while now, Bronx Community Solutions has been bringing a few of our clients to the Bryant Community Garden in Hunts Point each week to work with the gardener there, Ms. Lucy Hernandez, as their community service sentence. Recently, Ms. Hernandez shared a little bit of her story with our Coordinator of Community Service, Moises Reyes, and gave us permission to share it here:

Before moving into the Hunts Point area of the Bronx, I had lived on Theriot Ave, in the Tremont section, for 23 years. Then I became a gypsy for approximately a year, staying from house to house and I also lived in a shelter for a short time.

Then I had a breakthrough and I found a basement garden apartment approximately six years ago. The back yard was such a mess so I started cleaning and taking out weeds. I felt the feeling of achievement that I could create such a beautiful flower and vegetable garden that it brought me so much joy and happiness. I found that I could have so much tranquility just sitting and looking at the garden. The beauty just amazed me.

But after just four years, the owner decided to sell the house and I had just six weeks to find a new apartment and just by grace of God, and mind you I am not religious, I found a apartment in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. I became a member of Bryant Hill Community Garden in March of 2007 and its been a roller-coaster ride ever since.

Recently I started looking into exactly which tribe lived in the area of Hunts Point, but I had some difficulties finding the information. I thought that they were the Lenapi natives. At last just this week, I was able to get in contact with a well known writer/historian Mr. Evan Pritchard, he told me that the native tribe that lived in the Hunts Point Area were the Siwanoy. "The Siwanoy are closer to the Wappingers and were probably more Mohican than Lenapi, but all are "Delawarian Culture".

What is most interesting was that I had heard that Taino's , which I am a descendant of, once came to this land and traded with the natives of this land. Mr. Pritchard just confirmed this and he states "The Wappingers in general show strong Taino traits in their "Classon Point" physical culture after 1300".

I am elated with this information, because as a Taino native from Boriken I have been following my culture by representing myself at Native American Pow Wow and learning the Taino culture (of course a lot of our culture was taken from us). I have been getting into the arts by painting, making Tainos feather headdress, Taino clothing and just about any thing Taino.

I've been connecting myself not just physically but also spiritually with this beautiful Garden. I have had a lot of help from Bronx Community Solutions and the great people you have sent me to help to repair and maintain the structures and the garden's integrity and I thank you very much for all your help.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Those Orange Vests

Participants with Bronx Community Solutions own service program, "Crew 1" usually wear orange safety vests. We find that they're useful for safety, supervision, and most importantly for making community justice visible - so people can see that offenders are "paying back" in their own neighborhood.

Apparently jurisdictions in Great Britain are introducing the practice (starting today) and it has both vocal supporters and detractors. UPI has now picked the story up:

"Brits get bibs for community service"

LONDON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Justice said criminals sentenced to perform community service will be required to wear identifying orange bibs starting Monday.

Officials said the high visibility bibs, which will be required for convicts performing physical labor, will bear the words "community payback" on the front and back to make clear to the public that they are performing court-ordered service hours, The Times of London reported Friday.

"We will be launching the jackets on Monday. We agree with the public, who strongly believe that justice must be done, but also seen to be done," the Ministry of Justice said in a statement.

The new community payback uniforms were recommended by Louise Casey, the former head of the British government's Respect Task Force, as part of a plan to boost public confidence in the British justice system.

However, the move was sharply criticized by the National Association of Probation Officers, which said the identifying bibs would leave the convicts open to vigilante attacks.

"NAPO believes that making the individuals more prominent will increase the risk of violent attacks and provocation," the association said in a statement. "In addition, negative reaction by individuals forced to wear the labeled clothing may lead to either aggressive responses to the requirement or refusal to work."

Here's coverage on the BBC.

Here's an editorial in the Gaurdian.

And an article in the Herald & Post.

I asked a few folks with experience supervising offenders performing community service what they thought. Have a look at their opinions in the comments section of this post.