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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BCS Launches the Youth Intervention Program (YIP)

One of our organization’s most important goals is to develop a youth program that intervenes with and has a positive impact on the youth who come in contact with the criminal court system. Beginning July 1st 2010, Bronx Community Solutions will offer a new youth intervention program for young people aged 16-20 that will consist of (2) sessions of youth specific work shops and (2) days of community service.

This new package is designed to address the special needs of young people who are sentenced to complete a Bronx Community Solutions mandate. Since beginning operations in January 2005, over twenty percent of individuals sentenced to Bronx Community Solutions have been between 16-20 years old at the time of their arrest.

The Youth Intervention Program (YIP) provides a method for the court to blend help and punishment as a way to effectively impact the targeted age group. The program’s goals are to promote personal accountability, deter criminal behavior, offer legal education, and provide educational and professional resources. Each participant sentenced to complete this program will receive the following:

• Two youth specific workshops (one-and-a-half hours in length) designed to provide a life skills learning forum and evaluate their deviant behavior with the goal of addressing the underlying problems. Through a Youth Life Skills class, individuals sentenced to this program will learn about personal responsibility and accountability. In addition, program participants will learn coping and problem solving techniques to make better choices. Through the Youth Impact Panel class, participants will evaluate the behaviors that lead to their arrest and explore the impact it has on themselves, their families and their communities.

• Two days – three days of meaningful community service, such as painting over graffiti, cleaning local parks, or working at non-profit organizations sorting donations. Through this work young people are held accountable for their behavior and make reparations to the community.

The mission of this program is to educate young people and engage them in direct services in an effort to prevent future re-offending. In addition to the workshops and community service, Bronx Community Solutions will offer referrals to key services, such as substance abuse treatment, educational programs, and job training. The program will have open and continuous enrollment allowing defendants to begin their mandate immediately and complete the program within two weeks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Court System: An Uncommon Place for Help and Support

When someone thinks of the courts, their image is usually one of an impersonal bureaucracy where people are reduced to docket numbers and rap sheets. Bronx Community Solutions is working with the court to change that image and bridge the gap between courts and community. Often, that work is done one person at a time.

Today, a woman who was not a BCS client stopped by the Bronx Community Solutions office because “it seemed like you all would be able to help.”

This woman has had a long legal struggle with a landlord that has neglected both repairs and a bedbug infestation in her apartment building. The most recent incident has left her with no mattress and no clothes. This struggle led her to the court house, where she found our office and asked for assistance.

Through a long standing relationship with Catholic Charities, our Community Service Coordinator, Moises Reyes scheduled an appointment for her to receive clothing from their Social Service Office. This small step will enable her to have more than the one outfit she has been washing in her sink each day for two months.

We could not mediate the issues with the landlord for her, but an infusion of clothes and other household supplies will make her struggle easier to handle, and can provide her with the needed support to continue to fight for her rights.

Smart on Crime’ Mantra of Philadelphia Prosecutor

This Sunday, the New York Times reported that the new District Attorney in Philadelphia has vowed to get “smart on crime.” The District Attorney's Office has downgraded penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana from jail time to community service and fines.

This is the exact appoach that Bronx Community Solutions facilitates in the Bronx Criminal Court by providing increased sentencing options for low level criminal offenses.

You can read the fulll article by clicking the title above.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WNYC - News - Albany Moves to Let Sex Trafficking Victims Clear Criminal Records

WNYC - News - Albany Moves to Let Sex Trafficking Victims Clear Criminal Records

On the heels of a report released by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledging that a modern "slave trade" exists in this country, New York legislators voted to approve a bill that would allow sex trafficking victims to vacate prostitution convictions from their record.

This legislation will allow women to remove any prostitution related offenses from their criminal record. Prostitution charges stay on a person's criminal record for life, and these charges present a major barrier to securing employment and applying for legal residency. This system keeps women dependent on their traffickers and abusers.

The legislation is reported to also allow any woman who is coerced into prostitution (even if she is not a victim of trafficking) the opportunity to vacate her convictions. What is yet to be seen is what proof the courts will require to ascertain if a woman was coerced.

This legislation has major implications for the women that Bronx Community Solutions serve through our alternatives to prostitution programs. Many women who are engaged in prostitution are also victims of sexual and domestic violence, and some are coerced into prostitution by intimate partners or other family members.

The bill is authored by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan and was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and the Assembly in May. The governor still has to sign the bill into law.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Choices and Consequences on the Road

By T.K. Singleton, Community Initiatives Coordinator

2010’s Law day event was the kick off to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office’s “Choices and Consequences” an interactive presentation geared towards high school youth on the dangers of reckless driving. Accompanying that presentation is a mobile museum called “One Second… Everything Changes” which showcases some the most horrific DWI cases in the Bronx. Within the museum you will see victims’ personal artifacts, trial stories, and pictures of mothers, fathers, and young people affected by a reckless driver.

This June, the mobile museum has made its premier stop at the School for Law, Government and Justice. It will be on display through the end of the school year. The Director of Community Partners, Kim Fields, immediately wanted to be on-board and was excited to know that they would be the premier venue. Joseph McCormack, Chief of Vehicular Crimes Prosecution, NYS Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, Office of the Bronx District Attorney, and Assistant Curator of the mobile museum is both over joyed and excited to see the impact this will have on youth and their decision making when it comes to driving.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Community Partnerships Highlighted in Daily News

“I think we’ve made a difference,” is the statement quoted from T.K. Singleton, Community Initiatives Coordinator, in a Daily New Article published on June 8, 2010. The article discussed our initiative with Community Board 7 and the 52nd Precinct to address quality of life issues -with prostituion being one of the more pressing concerns.

In partnership with local police, the District Attorney's Office, defense attorneys and Judges, BCS offers women arrested for prostitution related charges the option of participating in relevant social service programs that are designed to address the underlying causes that lead women to be prostitution, including screening all clients for domestic and sexual victimization.

This approach to solving quality of life crimes holistically simultaneously improves communities and the lives of individuals.

BCS Participates in Bronx Harmony Day Softball Tournament

by Darren Mills, Case Manager

The staff of Bronx Community Solutions played in the NYPD's Bronx Harmony Day Softball Tournament. The event was organized by Officer Eliu Feliciano of Community Affairs of Patrol Borough Bronx. The event was to raise support for Bronx Harmony Day on July 27 which is NYPD's signature Bronx community engagement event.

Bronx Community Solutions has partnered with Officer Feliciano and Community Affairs on other initiatives. This event was the perfect example of innovative approach BCS has to community and court engagement; working with the police department to support events that address community needs.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Examining California's Three Strike Law

The below New York Times Magazine article highlights the harshness of California's Three Strikes Law, and how some lawyers and judges are working to reform the law and reopen cases where defendants were sentenced to life for non-violent crimes.

This piece highlights the need for alternatives to incarceration programs. Bronx Community Solutions provides increased sentencing options for judges and attorneys which provide an opportunity for defendants to be sentenced to a combination of social service, such as counseling or classes, and community service so they can work to rebuild the communities they live in and ultimately, their lives. This problem solving approach combines punishment with help for defendants that commit misdemeanor offenses similar to the petty theft described in the article which led Norman Williams to be sentenced to life.

What are your thoughts on California's Three Strike Law, and on alternatives to incarceration programs?

May 17, 2010
Arguing Three Strikes

One day last fall, Norman Williams sat drinking hot chocolate with his lawyer, Michael Romano, at a Peet’s coffee in Palo Alto, Calif. At an outdoor table, Williams began to talk about how he’d gone from serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison to sitting there in the sun. “After being shut down for so many years. I didn’t believe it,” he said of the judge’s decision to release him in April 2009.

Williams, who is 46, was a homeless drug addict in 1997 when he was convicted of petty theft, for stealing a floor jack from a tow truck. It was the last step on his path to serving life. In 1982, Williams burglarized an apartment that was being fumigated: he was hapless enough to be robbed at gunpoint on his way out, and later he helped the police recover the stolen property. In 1992, he stole two hand drills and some other tools from an art studio attached to a house; the owner confronted him, and he dropped everything and fled. Still, for the theft of the floor jack, Williams was sentenced to life in prison under California’s repeat-offender law: three strikes and you’re out.

Full Article