Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
"Leandra's Law," which makes it a felony to drive drunk in the State of New York with a child in the car, will go into effect tomorrow. This past Tuesday at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, Lenny Rosado (the father of the little girl the law was named after) and other lawmakers and officials from New York held a press conference to mark the occasion. As the Coordinator of DWI Operations here at Bronx Community Solutions, I attended the press conference and was moved by both the courage of Mr. Rosado and the forcefulness that was displayed by the state officials.
The new law was sought after by Mr. Rosado, after his 11 year old daughter Leandra was killed in a horrific drunken driving accident this October. Leandra was in a station wagon with six other girls on her way to a slumber party, while the driver Carmen Huertas (whose own daughter was also in the car) sped along the highway and taunted the children about the possibility of crashing. They eventually did crash. Several of the children were seriously injured, but only Leandra lost her life.
In what Mr. Rosado described as a tribute to his little girl, the new law will go into effect tomorrow. The most publicized aspect of the law is the fact that it will be a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car. In addition, all convicted DWI offenders will now be mandated to install ignition interlocks in their cars. These interlocks will require the driver to pass a breathalyzer test in order for the car to start. The hope is that the people of the City will simply make the right decisions - and not get behind the wheel if they're under the influence. In the event that they do get behind the wheel, they're likely to pay for it with their freedom.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Coord. Willie Bernardez, The 4th Season of the Bronx Community Solutions Basketball League kicked off this week with the team from the 41st Precinct taking on officers from Patrol Borough Bronx (PBBX) in the first game. In the second game, Brooklyn Treatment Court battled against Promesa, Inc.
In the first game, Officer Feliciano's 15 points helped the 41st precicnt defeat the officers from Patrol Borough Bronx 43-35. In the second game, the Brooklyn Treatment Court Renaissance defeated the team from Promesa Youth 36-19. The Renaissance were riding a wave of support as they were cheered on by Judge Jo Ann Ferdinand (pictured above with Case Manager Leroy West-Spicer and the Renaissance), who came up to the Bronx to enjoy the game and see the league in action.
Many thanks to everyone who continues to support the league...
Stay tuned for more updates...
Monday, December 14, 2009
On December 4th, a historic victory was won in the battle against human sex trafficking. After a 2 week trial, New York State, under the 2007 sex trafficking statute, convicted 32 year old David Brown of Queens on charges of second-degree kidnapping, sex trafficking, third-degree promotion of prostitution, first degree unlawful imprisonment, and third-degree assault. The verdict was brought down by Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise, and Mr. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced on January 25th. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
Bronx Community Solutions was very pleased to hear about these precedent setting implications. Bronx Community Solutions is very sensitive to the signs of sex trafficking, but we have not yet identified any cases through our comprehensive screening process. The population that we often deal with tends to yield individuals who were raised in and are currently living in the Bronx. Although we have yet to identify any of our own cases as such, we're well aware that sex trafficking is a common thing in and around the Bronx.
Overall, Bronx Community Solutions has continued to strengthen our efforts as far as working with prostitution arrests are concerned. Since 2007, Bronx Community Solutions’ Prostitution Initiative has helped to make a significant impact by enhancing the court's resources and by offering Judges meaningful prostitution sentencing alternatives in place of short term jail sentences. Prior to the involvement of Bronx Community Solutions, 44 percent of prostitution offenders were sentenced to short term jail with no form of meaningful engagement of services. With our involvement, it's a number we hope will decrease. We continue to actively engage offenders arrested for prostitution through a four pronged collaborative approach: Street Outreach with the 41st, 47th, 48th and 52nd precincts, Expanded Social Service Programs, Court Screening and Judicial Monitoring.
Additionally, Bronx Community Solutions is focused on data analysis to help identify areas of need in order to expand our outreach and services in 2010. Between 2007 and 2008, we looked at the total number of prostitution arrests in the Bronx and disposition comparisons. One major thing we identified was the need for an in-house Bronx Community Solutions prostitution program. The research showed that 52% of Bronx Community Solutions' prostitution sentences were social service mandates. This percentage reinforces the need for Bronx Community Solutions to house a specific social service track designed for prostitution offenders. As a first step toward that eventual goal, Bronx Community Solutions recently launched its first gender specific social service class: Women’s Education and Awareness. This group is designed to challenge women of all ages to explore their assumptions regarding their role in society, through critical thinking activities and group discussion.
Bronx Community Solutions continues to work in collaboration with our partners to do our part in addressing the issue of prostitution. We are looking forward to new challenges in 2010, and continue to appreciate the tireless efforts of our program partners such as the Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS ) and the Midtown Community Court.
Friday, December 11, 2009
- The Holiday party for children, which will take place on December 20th at Gehrig Plaza. The Plaza, which runs from Morris to River avenues, will be adorned with Holiday Snowflakes.
- More than 5,000 trees have been added to the neighborhood by the Parks Department. In addition, a Skate Plaza and the River Avenue playground are currently under construction. Both the Skate Plaza and River Avenue playground are scheduled to open next Spring.
- Local artists and designers are holding an art sale today, December 11th, in the lobby of 811 Walton Avenue.
- Concourse Plaza has just completed a major upgrade of their security system. In addition, The Caridad Restaurant in the food court at Concourse Plaza has re-opened under new management.
- The demolition of Yankee Stadium is continuing on pace. With the outer walls currently being removed in sections, temporary sidewalk closings are expected along River Avenue.
- Two more solar powered trash compactors have been provided to the district by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
Monday, December 07, 2009
From Case Manager Daren Mills
"I haven't been doin' anything with myself and I'm tired of it." That statement was made by Keith, one of the men who will make up the Bronx Community Solutions Bombers this season. On Tuesday, November 24th, Keith, along with nine other offenders who completed mandates through Bronx Community Solutions, met one another for the first time for introductions and to hear what each individual was hoping to get out of the program.
All of this season's team members were excited for the competition, and were looking forward to the chance to improve themselves. Keith, 20, first spoke to me after a social service group that he was mandated to. The idea of playing on a basketball team against teams of law enforcement officers caught his attention. After I explained that the league was about more than just basketball, his interest increased. Keith did not finish high school, nor has he made any progress toward getting his GED. He is fully aware that one reason for his arrest was his free time. He viewed his Bronx Community Solutions sentence and meeting with me as a chance to get back on track and make something of himself.
Although basketball is front and center, there is more at stake for Keith and the other Bronx Community Solutions Bombers. This is their chance to further their educational and career prospects, to stay out of the criminal justice system, and to become positive and productive role models for the people in their lives.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
The past few weeks here at Bronx Community Solutions have been very exciting, as we launched our first gender-specific social service class: Women’s Education and Awareness. After discussions with our researcher at the Center for Court Innovation, it became clear that we had a large number of women being sentenced to alternatives, and that a class directed towards women’s issues was needed. After much planning and preparation, the class began last week with a rousing discussion about what it means be a female in this society, in the Bronx, and within the criminal justice system. The group was co-led by 3 facilitators.
As we began, the women seemed to expect an hour or so of passive listening and minimal participation requirements. However, as we started to throw out questions such as “what is a stereotype” and “what are gender roles," the passive listening turned into active listening, and the participation increased with each passing moment. As facilitators, we guided the discussion by introducing different topics, and the women reacted strongly and each added something to the discussion.
We focused on the word “perception” and defined it as how we view the world based upon our own experiences. We then asked the women to identify what it meant to them to be a female and a male within our society. This provided us with a fascinating view not only into how the women perceived themselves, but what they understood their role as women to be. In addition, it exposed their understanding of the role of men in their own lives as well as the population in general. As the facilitator in charge of writing down their answers on the board up front, I can attest to the enthusiasm with which the women responded: I could barely keep up.
The responses from the women ran the gamut, and quickly filled the board. We then asked them to identify within the list they created, which roles were seen as positive/strong and which were negative/weak. This created much debate, since they found that many of their answers were multi-dimensional, and depended on the context.
We also asked the women to write down their own experiences with power within four situations:
- When they had power over someone else
- When someone else had power over them
- When they were a good friend
- When someone was a good friend to them
We asked the women who felt comfortable to share their answers. As they did, a remarkable thing happened: they realized they were able to relate to each other more than they ever thought they could. With the first exercise, we as facilitators had to keep reminding people to listen to each other because they were so excited to state their own responses/opinions that they started talking over each other. In this exercise, there were nods of agreement, laughter as a similar experience was described, and empathy when a frustration or embarrassment was generally understood.
The physical look of the group changed as well. When the class began, the women were spread out between 3-4 benches with at least 1-2 feet between them. After the group exercises, they occupied only 2 benches and they were sitting right next to each other—close enough to touch, which they did with pats on the back as they laughed or empathized with each other.
As the class came to a close, we wanted each woman to walk out with something tangible or something in her mind that would continue to impact her. This could be an idea that was discussed that she wanted to explore further, a connection to a service, or a connection to our office. These services were made available immediately following the group, since we have social workers and case managers on staff. As we asked for their feedback both in person and in a survey, it became clear that many of the women who participated in the class had services they were interested in. Our hope is that as we move forward with this group, we will be able to identify some of the key needs of this population in order to address them directly and quickly.