As we enter the project's 5th year, it's safe to say that Bronx Community Solutions has made an undeniable impact within and beyond the walls of the Bronx Criminal Courthouse. Some of the many achievements that have been made since the project's inception include how Bronx Community Solutions has changed sentencing practices by:
- Reducing the use of jail at arraignments by a third.
- Increasing the sentencing options that are offered to judges.
- Improving alternative sanction compliance to 70%.
- Improving community engagement by annually providing approximately 70,000 hours of community service.
Specifically, 2009 saw Bronx Community Solutions utilize an array of new resources, partners, and ideas that helped to solidify and expand the project's influence. Some highlights include...Click here to read more...
- Increasing Sentencing Options and Resources through Specialized Initiatives:
Bronx Community Solutions has developed areas of expertise for 3 specialized populations: Mental Health, Prostitution, and Driving while Intoxicated/Driving under the Influence (DWI/DUI).
- The Mental Health Initiative is the newest and most aggressive focus. In February of 2009, a mental health screening instrument was added to the regular intake assessment. This brief screening process is the only court-wide tool focused on flagging a large volume of post sentenced misdemeanant offenders for intervention services. Interventions consist of a mental health group (added to the social service package in June of 2009) and/or an individual counseling session with a Mental Health Case Manager. Since its inception, 965 offenders have been flagged and 95 offenders received a mental health referral. Bronx Community Solutions was awarded a grant from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance in order to expand our existing mental health initiative in 2010.
- The Prostitution Initiative, which continues to build on a collaborative foundation with both court and community partners. 2009 saw a refocus of energy and resources in reestablishing community precinct partnerships, expanding alternative services, increasing street outreach, and utilizing research as a means to develop better sentencing practices. Bronx Community Solutions was responsible for coordinating more than 40 longer term diversion mandates. Numbers for shorter term mandates (in-house social service groups and individual counseling sessions) also increased. Research showed that 52% of Bronx Community Solutions' disposed prostitution cases received a social service disposition. Using the above numbers as a springboard, Bronx Community Solutions launched its first in-house gender specific social service group in November of 2009: Women's Education and Awareness.
- The Driving while Intoxicated/Driving under the Influence (DWI/DUI) Initiative began in 2008 and has flourished in 2009 due in large part to new project protocols, streamlined procedures and tracking measures. Bronx Community Solutions works with the courts to coordinate all substance abuse screenings and/or assessments of DWI/DUI offenders. In 2009, Bronx Community Solutions coordinated 1100 screenings/assessments by OASAS-licensed outside providers. Of the 1100 offenders who were screened/assessed, 120 were mandated to complete alcohol treatment for a period ranging from 12 to 26 weeks.
Expansion of Court Services:
Bronx Community Solutions has sustained its strong reputation of providing judges with increased sentencing options. In direct response to continued court requests for agency representatives, Bronx Community Solutions devised three expansion goals:
- Expand court-wide presence and availability.
- Increase short-term community based dispositions, and
- Increase longer term mandates.
After two months of planning and observation, Bronx Community Solutions’ court coverage increased to include four additional court parts. Currently, the department is focused on developing specialized court part packages, on-call guidelines, court operations guidelines, and a new package mandate geared towards youth.
Expansion of Social Service Partners and Resources:
In 2009, Bronx Community Solutions expanded its social service network through various outreach methods and new initiatives. With the inception of the Mental Health Initiative, mental health referral providers now include: out-patient MICA programs, including Albert Einstein/Melrose Center, Mid-Bronx Family Preservation Center, psychiatric services at Bronx Lebanon's Wellness Clinic, and a link to Medicaid offices at Bronx Lebanon's Wellness Clinic.
Substance abuse treatment partners (both outpatient and detox/rehabilitation), expanded to include Cornerstone Continuous Care, The P.A.C. Program, The Williams Center and Vertex.
Currently, 5 of the 14 social service classes taught weekly are co-facilitated by representatives of agencies such as Narco Freedom, Bronx Community Center, Anger Management, Arms Acres, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Care for the Homeless. Representatives of these agencies are able to make immediate voluntary referrals to their programs for services such as drug treatment, job training, and assistance with public-benefit related information - often starting the intake process immediately.
Increased Community Presence:
In 2009, Bronx Community Solutions continued to create strategic community engagement events in an ongoing effort to improve court and community relations. Some highlights include:
- Spring 2009 – The Youth Empowerment Forum (YEP): This program was created in order to address the negative interactions between young people and police officers, that often stem from low-level offenses in the Bronx. As part of this program, Bronx Community Solutions hosted a group of interns from local high schools who learned research and interviewing skills and conducted several roundtable focus groups with criminal justice personnel and local youth. In June of 2009, Bronx Community Solutions hosted a Youth Empowerment Forum event for Bronx Week. During the event, Youth Empowerment Forum participants shared their research findings and presented their recommendations to a panel of criminal justice experts.
- May 2009 – Law Day: Bronx Community Solutions hosted an event on the consequences of drunk driving and the importance of healthy decision making. Co-sponsored by Joe McCormack (Bureau Chief of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Unit), 150 students participated in an interactive “think before you drive” exercise. As a result of this collaboration, Bronx Community Solutions’ staff was special guest of Joe McCormack at the press conference for the official implementation of Leandra’s Law (which makes it a felony to drive drunk with a minor in the vehicle). During the press conference, Joe McCormack publicly thanked Bronx Community Solutions for our partnership and work with DWI/DUI cases.
- August 2009 – National Night Out Against Crime: Bronx Community Solutions hosted 43rd, 44th, and 48th police precincts from the Bronx, and provided street and graffiti cleanup.
- Fall 2009 to Present – Prostitution Outreach: In collaboration with various police precincts, voluntary street outreach was conducted by Bronx Community Solutions staff and partner agencies.
- Quarterly - Community Advisory Board Meetings: Composed of 25 community leaders and attended by Bronx Community Solutions staff, these meetings are designed to address the gap between the courts and the community.
Cleaning up the Bronx – Community Service:
In 2009, Bronx Community Solutions' community service department expanded its collaborations to target specific areas in order to help promote long-term change. Bronx Community Solutions continues to be a viable asset to the Bronx, receiving 2 public recognitions this year, from Southeast Bronx Neighborhoods Centers (SEBNC) and the 44th police precinct's Community Council. Some of the project’s highlights include: