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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bronx Community Solutions Has Moved!!!



All of the Bronx Community Solutions Offices are now on the second floor of the Bronx Criminal Court.  Our Intake Office is now located in Room 2-13 and the Social Services Clinic is located in Room 211 classes are still offered in Room 211-C.

The move was organized so that construction can begin on the main floor.  Bronx Community Solutions will occupy this space for abut two years, while new space is built on the second floor.This space will include administrative offices, classroom space and space for the Social Services Clinic and Intake Office. 

We look forward to the construction being completed, but for the interim are at-home and settled in the new space and ready to serve court players, the community, and of course clients. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Community Service Program Helps Maintain the West Bronx Recreation Center



By Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service

Bronx Community Solutions prides itself on having good relationship with community service partners, and we have developed an excellent relationship with the Parks Department .  Recently, Bronx Community Solutions was contacted by Michele R. Griffin, staff analyst from West Bronx Recreation Center, on Jesup Avenue, run by the Parks Department. Michele is very familiar with the work of Bronx Community Solutions, as she has been the contact person for community service compliance sheets. When she heard that the West Bronx Recreation Center needed some work, she immediately contacted Bronx Community Solutions for assistance. Bronx Community Solutions has cleaning the recreation center weekly as they had no staff to clean the facility. This Center is now being utilized for after school athletic programs in the Bronx. 

Bronx Community Solutions is always looking to support any organization that benefits Bronx residents.  If your organization has a need that our community service crew can fulfill such as painting, clearing, or cleaning, please contact Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service at mreyes@courts.state.ny.us

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Jennifer Lopez Fiat Commercial Features Project ACT Mural

The new Jennifer Lopez Fiat commercial features the mural created through Bronx Community Solution's Project ACT. You will see her driving by an I Love the Bronx Mural, that's it!!
Click the link below to watch, and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

West Side Highway Graffiti Removed


West Side Highway Graffiti Removed


This time lapse-video, linked above, produced by the Center for Court Innovation, shows a team of court-mandated offenders cleaning a site along the West Side Highway in Manhattan as part of NYC Community Cleanup. The cleanup shown here took place August 11, 2011.  For more information about this particular cleanup event, read this article in the Manhattan Times.



Monday, November 07, 2011

Daily News Article Highlights the Need for Community Court in Brownsville

Brownsville murder of Zurana Horton highlights need for a renewed fight against gun crime 

The death of a mother of 12 stuns a Brooklyn community

It has been more than two weeks since a rooftop gunman fatally shot Zurana Horton as she shielded several children outside a Brownsville school. In that time, the community has grappled with fear, anger and sadness as police arrested the shooter, and as 12 children buried their heroic mother.

In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote famously, “The chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young from being trained to crime.” Horton’s senseless murder underscores the continuing significance of these words.

In Brownsville, faced with a shortage of opportunity, too many young people have bought into the notion that a life of violence and crime is acceptable — that it’s okay to rob, steal and “bust guns.” But in the wake of Horton’s death, Brownsville cannot wait any longer. We need a new strategy for reducing youth gun violence, with buy-in from all stakeholders, including the Police Department.

Recently, the neighborhood has witnessed a disturbing wave of violence, including more than 24 murders and at least two shootings at schools since the start of the year. A recent survey by the Center for Court Innovation shows that more than 70% of Brownsville residents now identify gun violence as a major problem facing their community. Countless marches and vigils have rallied neighbors to take action, but a key question lingers: What shall that action be? In the wake of tragedy, we must develop and rapidly implement a plan to make Brownsville’s most recent shooting its last. To do this, we must bring parents, educators, law enforcement, local government and others to the same table to discuss solutions to the problem of youth gun violence in our neighborhood.

We need not start from scratch to be successful. Innovative programs like Ceasefire in Chicago and Save Our Streets in Crown Heights offer promising models and prove that real results are possible. These initiatives have trained former offenders as “violence interrupters” to identify and build safe relationships with potential perpetrators, discouraging retaliation and stopping youth gun violence before it occurs.
We ought to convene a distinguished working group on youth violence, with representation from government, local universities and residents of Brownsville to identify and import the best community-based programs in the country. This would mark a measurable first step toward ensuring that our most at-risk youth have a chance to thrive.

It is heartening to know that we are not alone in our efforts. Led by our own mayor, elected officials across the country have taken on the issue of gun violence in notable ways. More than 600 mayors from urban areas and small towns have joined the coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which looks to stop the flow of illegal guns into America’s cities.

Violence on our streets is never the result of disputes or rivalries alone. It stems from a feeling of despair and a lack of optimism about the future. What we need in Brownsville is not simply a crime- fighting strategy to address the symptoms of this despair, but a community-building strategy to bring shared hope and opportunity back to the neighborhood. Our task should be to create alternatives to violence by boosting employment opportunities, improving health and housing resources and investing in schools — working at every level to ensure that Brownsville is not left behind.

In recent weeks, Brownsville has buried its dead; now, it is time to act. We have met together, grieved together, marched and kept vigil together. Now, let us come together to devise a plan to stop youth gun violence. Let’s bring hope back to Brownsville.

Jackson is director of the Brownsville Recreation Center. Thomas is managing director of the Brownsville Partnership.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bronx Community Solutions Creates Community Advisory Board Directory

Bronx Community Solutions completed its Community Advisory Board Directory. The directory was distributed to Advisory Board members at the September 28 Community Advisory Board meeting. The need for a directory was identified by members of the board who requested a way to get in touch with each other between meetings.  This directory will enable group members to continue to collaborate and share information throughout the year. The list of organizations included in the directory is below. If you would like a copy of the directory, please contact the Bronx Community Solutions Community Initiatives Coordinator, TK Singleton at tksingle@courts.state.ny.us.

bRONX COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS. 2
161st Street B.I.D………………………………………………………………………………………..…3
anger resolutions……………………………………………………………………..………………3
Assemblywoman vanessa gibson…………………………………………………………..…....4
bronx borough president ruben diaz, jr……………………………………………..….....4
bronx defenders………………………………………………………………………………………..5
bronx district attorney robert johnson
bronx lebanon
bronx school for law, government and justice
center for employment opportunities
cornerstone
council of the enviornment
fegs
fDNY Community Affairs
Human Resources Administration
Liberty Management
narco freedom
NYPD 48th Precinct
NYPD Bronx Borough Patrol
phoenix house
promesa
vertex llc
V.i.p. services
worldvision

Friday, October 07, 2011

Bronx Community Solutions Assists in Hurricane Irene Aftermath

Written by TK Singleton, Community Initiates Coordinator
We all remember how hurricane Irene closed “the city that never sleeps.” Many areas across the five boroughs were designated evacuation zones, the Bronx not being spared. City Island, a tiny island off the Long Island sound, was hit and   the municipal services came in and began clean-up. But, what happens when the lines blur- who cleans where?  Who is responsible for this part or that? Usually when such lines/roles  are crossed, something gets left behind and that is what happened to a small beach area on City Island, located in between a residential community and an elementary school.
Hurricane Irene blew into City Island like a mighty whirl wind and as she left, she left over a ton of mussels on a small beach area that both parks and sanitation had no jurisdiction to clean. What is a community to do? What can the city do? In this situation, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit (CAU) creates the plan of action.  As the Bronx Director calls for the assistance of Bronx Community Solutions, plus other municipal partners such as sanitation and parks to create a clean-up collaborative effort. “We need you do make the impossible, possible!” stated by the CAU borough director George Torres.
As Moises Reyes, coordinator of community service begins to assess the area, he  realizes that such an endeavor will be a two part process because of the amount of mussels that are left on the beach shore that is adjacent to a school playground. On the first day, He and other community service supervisors with a crew of twelve, began scooping up rotten mussels to create a pathway to the mountains of other mussels. As the crew members hear school bells, they realize that this smelly and challenging community service clean-up is more about the community at-large, especially the playful elementary school age youth.
On the first day the Community Service crew collected over two hundred bags of tiny mussels. The second day(a week later) they collected another two hundred bags and realized surprisingly that they had to create a third day because they still had a two mountains of muscles left  on the beach. As the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit Bronx Borough Director came to view the clean-up he stated “the impossible is never your solution- Thanks Bronx Community Solutions!”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New System Proposed for Juvenile Offendors

New York Judge Seeks New System for Juveniles
Published: September 20, 2011
A judge is proposing that the state take a less punitive approach to dealing with 16- and 17-year-old defendants.
Bronx Community Solutions has offered alternative sentencing options geared towards youth aged 16 -21 since its inception five years ago. Now, the Chief Judge of the State of New York, Johnathon Lippman is proposing that 16 and 17 years olds with less serious crimes be sent to juvenile court (instead of criminal court) where there are more social services available. This follows the Bronx Community Solutions model of using an arrest as an opportunity to use interventions that could create positive changes in an individuals life.  Bronx Community Solutions will be following this new legislation, and adjusting services appropriately. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bronx Recovery Center Organizes Symposium to Address Stigma

On Saturday, September 10, 2011 The Bronx Community Recovery Center, in association with the Bronx Cooperative Alliance, Palladia Inc., Delta Sigma Theta and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, hosted a half day forum, Breaking the Stigma


Mandy Restivo, Deputy Project Director of Bronx Community solutions, and Co-Chair of the Bronx Reentry Working Group had the honor o f addressing the sixty person audience as the key note speaker.  Below, please find an excerpt of her speech. The full speech is available at files.me.com/mrestivo/htt1py



Good morning, I am honored to be here today to talk with each of your about the important issue of reentry and the role of stigma.


To get us going this morning, I want us to get a sense of who is in the room:

n           Raise your hand if you have a family member who was formerly or is currently involved in the criminal justice     system.
n       Raise your hand if you work for a reentry program, other non-profit organization, or a religious institution.
n           Raise your hand if you have been  home from incarceration for one year or more, three years or more, five years or more, and finally, ten years or more.
n 
n         Raise your hand if your involvement in the criminal justice system does not define you. If you are more than someone who is “reentering society”

The title of the conference today is Breaking  Stigma. Stigma occurs when one aspect of a person defines the entire person in a negative way—when your identity is reduced to just one characteristic or event. Every single person in this room is more than their criminal record, more than their job, more than their status as father, mother,  brother, or daughter.Yet we are each called here because we are touched, personally, by the criminal justice system and the issue of reentry. Because we care, and want to see change occur for ourselves, and our communities.

The Borough of the Bronx, and those in the reentry community, face stigma every day. This stigma is reinforced by the statistics that are told over and over again. 

For the Bronx, one phrase, “the Bronx is burning,” has defined this Borough for decades.  The Bronx is seen as a borough of crime, poverty, and despair. The statistics that are repeated constantly reinforce this image. Statistics such as: In the Bronx there are over 29,000 people living with AIDS. The Bronx is ranked as the unhealthiest of New York’s 62 counties.  The Bronx has the highest unemployment rate in the state; and 31% of Bronx residents live below the poverty level[1].  128,313 former inmates live in the community and as many as 12 per 1,000 residents are newly released each year[2].  The story here, while holding truth, also misses the mark in a big matter --- the strengths of the Borough and its people. The people of the Bronx are resilient. This Borough is filled with art, culture, and industry. Not to mention, the Bronx Zoo, the NY Botanical Gardens, and Yankee Stadium, home of the only 27-time world champions anywhere.

 On some level, we have internalized the negative stereotypes, believing we are second class citizens as compared to the rest of the city. Some of you may remember the “earthquake” we had a few weeks ago. My favorite quote of the day was “If this was Manhattan, they would have evacuated us.”  We, as a Borough, should not wait for someone else to come save us. If things are that bad, we might just need to symbolically evacuate ourselves and start the hard work of rebuilding.
...

The challenge is: How do we break stigma while addressing the issues that face our communities? The antidote is two-fold.  The first is to examine and acknowledge the systemic issues that lead to mass incarceration of certain populations, and the second is to create communities that empower individuals to thrive. First, the systemic issues. In 2008, New York City paid $539 million to imprison residents sentenced to prison or jail.  A disproportionate amount of these residents came from 24 of New York City’s neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are home to about 16 percent of the city’s adult population, but account for over 50 percent of the city’s admissions to prison each year[3].

In order to address these systemic issues, we need active, engaged, voting citizens. This brings me back to the individual.  Martin Luther King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Following this logic, our lives begin when we speak up about the things that matter.  This symposium today is an opportunity for you to begin to talk about the things that matter: to understand your rights, to engage in challenging conversations about masculinity and manhood, to create healthier support systems.   It is only through true community engagement and building that we will be able to address the very real issues of stigma, addiction, unemployment, housing shortages, and mass incarceration. Very real conversations need to be had with employers to address their reasons for being reticent to hire those people formerly involved in the criminal justice system, and each side may need to hear some hard truths. Family members who may have been hurt will need to find their way toward forgiveness.  Relationships will need to be repaired. Politicians will need to be engaged; the media will need to be written to.  The work of rebuilding ourselves, our families, and our communities will not be easy, but I believe each of us is up for the challenge.

There is currently a void to be filled in the conversation about reentry and the criminal justice system in the Bronx. That void should be filled by the individuals in this room, because if we do not tell our stories, someone else will, and we might not like the narrative. So I ask you again: Are you more than your criminal justice record? How many of you are willing to do the internal and external work necessary to address the very real issues faced by Bronx residents? How many of you are ready to serve as role models for the people in this room, but also for the youth in our communities? The antidote to stigma is action, may each of you find the resources and support today to begin to do the active work of rebuilding yourselves, your families and communities.

It is an honor to be here today, and to have the chance to build a different story of hope, healing and promise.



[1] Mellow, J., et al., Mapping the innovation in correctional health care service delivery in New York City. Available
from: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/centersinstitutes/pri/publications.asp
[2] Glaze, L., & Bonczar, T.P. (2005).Probation and Parole in the United States, 2005. Bureau of Justice Statistics,
U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, DC.
[3] NAACP Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate, 2011 Available at http://naacp.3cdn.net/ecea56adeef3d84a28_azsm639wz.pdf



Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Journey of A Jobless Man

The New York Times article below, published on September 2, highlights the difficulties with finding a job in our new economy.  The struggle to find stable employment is compounded when one has a criminal background and no college degree. The Bronx Reentry Working Group, a coalition of Bronx-based community partners, academics, corrections officials, reentry organizations policy makers and residents committed to addressing the social and health disparities of individuals with histories of criminal justice involvement has created an economic development subcommittee to seek out ways to address this very issue. If you are interested in getting involved or learning more, please contact Mandy Restivo at mrestivo@mac.com  

Published: September 2, 2011
Frederick Deare lost his job in a Bronx factory on June 25, 2010. How does a 53-year-old with only a G.E.D. find a job in the new economy?

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Bronx Community Recovery Center, in association with the Bronx Cooperative Alliance,
Palladia, Inc, Delta Sigma Theta and Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, will be hosting a half day forum.
“Breaking the Stigma”: The F.I.R.M. Symposium (Formerly Incarcerated Recovering Men & Women)

Saturday, September 10, 2011
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church
1376 Prospect Avenue
Bronx, NY 10459

Topics will include:
From the Prisons to Community – Re-entering Society
Street Law vs. Real Law – Knowing Your Rights as a Citizen
Breaking the Vicious Cycle - Creating Positive Social Networks
Brother 2 Brother - Redefining Manhood
Panel Discussion:
What are the barriers re-entering into society? How can we help?
Employment, Housing, Family Support and more

Refreshments will be served.
Admission is free, but you must RSVP as seats are limited.
For more information or to RSVP, please contact:
Aja Stubbs (718) 292-5788 ext. 8654 or astubbs@phoenixhouse.org

Transportation:
Train: 2 or 5 Train to Freeman Street
Bus: BX15 to Prospect Place – Ritter Avenue

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Artist Renders 161st Street BID



An up and coming artist by the name of Lawrence "Hanibal" Parker was recently commissioned by Cary Goodman, Executive Director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District (BID), to creat an artistic rendition of the BID and its many unique neighborhood characteristics.







The BID rendition is believed to be the first in the Borough and possibly in the City. Mr. Goodman is hoping that all the other Business Improvement Districts assist the artist in creating portraits as well.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Juvenile Service Learning Summer Project Highlighted in Daily News











On Monday, August 8th the Juvenile Service Learning Project, along with staff from BCS Community Service Crew worked on a graffiti removal project and which included a site visit to Tuff City, a Bronx-based multimedia entertainment services. At first the youth were not to happy about going to paint over graffiti in 90 degree weather, but they "warmed up" to the idea after we talked about the impact this has on their community. We tried to get them to understand that what they were doing was helping a community look neat and clean and it was a way to contribute to the Bronx. After we finished the painting we went to Tuff City where they met the owner and artist, MED. Who is very passionate about inspiring youth and young adults to find ways to turn their lives around. Some of the people who worked there spoke of there past dealings with jail, the streets and drugs and how they changed their thinking and behavior. During the visit the kids were able to show their own 'artistic flair' on a designated wall in the back of the buildings space. The day started off with resistance but ended with the kids enjoying the experience and expanding their minds

Written by: Justin Briggs
Youth Engagement/Community Service Specialist



The Daily News Article can be accessed by clicking the title above, or here.



Friday, July 08, 2011

The Components of Uncommon Community Service


At Bronx Community Solutions we call our community service program “Uncommon" Why? Because our community service is not just about cleaning up communities, it is about creating a better Bronx by empowering the community and our clients. 


The components of uncommon community service are:

1)    1. Caring for clients and the community.

Client safety and well-being are our top concerns. Clients are given clear instructions on how to conduct community service safely, and rules are followed for the good of the group.  Community Service Crew Supervisors spend more time with clients than any other staff member. We use this time to try and connect individuals with referrals to job training programs, treatment, and GED programs. The community service crew has learned how to approach clients according to their needs including mental health, homelessness, physical disability, anger issues, family issues, substances abuse, and others.
2)  
We also care for the community by addressing issues and concerns by listening to the community. We attend Community Board Meetings, keep our eye on the news for Bronx events, and talk to community members about their concerns so we can plan impactful community service projects that utilize community partners.

3)  2. Partnering with  community organizations.

By partnering with other organizations such as the Parks Department, Sanitation Department, Department of Transportation, Police Department, World Vision, Catholics Charities, Sustainable South Bronx, local business owners,  Family Court, Probation, and the Bronx Defenders we are able to offer community service to nearly 10,000 clients per year.  We are also able to effectively serve the community and make a greater impact than we could on our own. The willingness to be flexible strengthens our bond with the community.

4. Ensuring accuracy in reporting.

Reporting to the Court with accuracy is essential to an effective community service program. We work closely with our community partners to ensure we receive attendance sheets in a timely fashion, and have recently begun sending and receiving lists electronically.

5.Fostering Teamwork.

The community service crew is a team, and this team is part of the larger Bronx Community Solutions team and the Center for Court Innovation team. We have worked hard to understand how each part affects the whole. The program has set goals individually and together to ensure that we are always reaching new heights. The team has also learned about each other’s weaknesses and strengths and has helped each team member reach their full potential. We have provided opportunities for team members to Learn new skills so they can become a leader at the job, in the community, and in their personal life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

STARS Counselor/Adovcate Testifies before the New York City Council

The STARS (Services to Access Resources and Safety) Advocate/Counselor, Sarah Dolan, testified yesterday at the New York City Council hearings on Sex Trafficking. Below, is the text of her testimony. The STARS initiative, funded by the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, is a project of the Center for Court Innovation at two demonstration projects, Bronx Community Solutions and Midtown Community Court. The entire STARS team is thrilled with the testimony. 

Sarah Dolan
Advocate Counselor
Sanctuary for Families
Testimony before the New York City Council
June 27, 2011

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure and an honor to testify before you today.  My name is Sarah Dolan, and I work for Sanctuary for Families on one of its newest projects: Services to Access Resources and Safety, or STARS.  The STARS project acknowledges the unique needs of adult survivors of sex trafficking and seeks to provide them with trauma-sensitive services as an alternative to incarceration.  As the Advocate Counselor, I am based full-time in the Bronx Criminal Court and work in conjunction with Bronx Community Solutions.  Working with women on an individual and group basis, I conduct counseling sessions, provide safety planning and case management services, and link victims to a range of other legal, health, and social services.  Funded by the federal Office on Violence Against Women, the project’s mandate in the broadest sense is to shift society’s understanding of women arrested for prostitution from one of “offender” to that of “victim”.   

For many, the term “prostitute” conjures up an image of a woman selling her body for sex because she chooses to because “she likes it”.  I am here to tell you that of the nearly one hundred women I’ve seen in the last year, not a single one of them stays in the commercial sex industry because she wants to.  And why would she?  When 94% of women in street prostitution experience sexual assault, 80% have experienced or been threatened with violence, and 75% have been raped by one or more buyers, we must question the assumption that these women are on the street because they choose to be there.  So why do they stay?  They stay not because they like it, but because after a lifetime of trauma and abuse, and stigmatized by a lengthy criminal record, they literally have no other choice.  STARS exists to give them that choice back.

Lakeesha’s first arrest occurred when she was just 15 and under the control of a pimp, her trafficker.  At the time she encountered him, Lakeesha had run away first from a home in which her stepfather was molesting her, and then from a group home that failed to give her the love and support she desperately needed.  Like many domestic sex trafficking victims, Lakeesha believed that her trafficker was her boyfriend.  She carried out his demands that she prostitute because she both feared and loved him.  Just as Lakeesha was simultaneously a domestic violence victim and sex trafficking victim, her pimp was simultaneously her batterer and her trafficker.  Both the UN Trafficking Protocol and the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act recognize that children subjected to exploitation by an adult are inherently powerless and vulnerable, making Lakeesha, at 15 years old, a victim of sex trafficking.  


Now, at 20, Lakeesha is still in prostitution, although not under pimp control.  Some might contend that Lakeesha has become a free agent and is no longer a trafficking victim, but those of us at Sanctuary believe otherwise.  Adult women in prostitution who first experience sexual exploitation as children (which we may assume to be the majority of prostituted women, since the average age of entry into prostitution is 13), should be recognized and protected as trafficking victims.  But, if there is no pimp, then who is the trafficker?  Under the standard of the UN Trafficking Protocol, which understands traffickers to be those who harbor or receive prostituted people by means of “the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability”, it is evident that sex industry buyers or “johns”, who prey on vulnerable women like Lakeesha, should also be considered traffickers.


The tragic reality is that trafficked children often remain in conditions of prostitution as adults because they are so deeply traumatized that they see no alternative.  And while I just said that they see no alternative, it would be more correct to say that no alternative exists for them.  We wonder, “why they don’t just get out there and get a ‘real job’?”  When Lakeesha tried to do just that, by participating in a training program and applying to get ‘a real job’ with a home health care agency, she was denied employment eligibility by the Department of Health due to her eight convictions for prostitution, the first of which took place when she was still a minor and under the control of her pimp.  Trafficking survivors are being arrested in the hope that it’ll ‘teach them a lesson’ and be the impetus they need to stop selling sex for good. However, each arrest only lengthens their criminal record, further stigmatizes them as criminals, and provides yet another obstacle in their way to engaging in legitimate employment. 

So what, then, is the solution?  First, we must begin to recognize that the vast majority of adult women in prostitution are victims of childhood sexual abuse, are victims of intimate partner violence, and are victims of sex trafficking.  As such, they urgently need intense, sustained holistic services including shelter, counseling, legal assistance, and economic support.  The acute level of trauma that these women have suffered means that they are likely to need mental health services that specifically address post-traumatic stress disorder.  Since many have turned to alcohol or drugs to dull their psychic pain, they often need substance abuse programs tailored to the needs of victims of gender violence.  And because many have become dependent on the sex industry for economic survival, educational and job readiness assistance is paramount.  Indeed, at Sanctuary for Families we believe that the holistic approach that helps classic victims of domestic violence leave abusive relationships is precisely what can help victims of sex trafficking to leave their pimps and the sex industry.

Second, we as a society, and especially those within the legal and social services communities, must begin thinking and talking about prostitution differently.  We must acknowledge that the majority of adult women in prostitution are victim by replacing terminology that portrays these women as criminals and free agents—words like “prostitute” and “sex worker”—with language that makes visible the harm they have endured and continue to be subjected to, like “prostituted women” or “victims of sex trafficking”.

Finally, we need to recognize that arrest and prosecution only further stigmatize and punish women whose exploitation in prostitution reflects their lack of choice.  Instead of holding them accountable for the violence that is done to them, it makes far more sense to focus our law enforcement resources on those in the sex industry who make the meaningful choices—the patrons and the pimps.  New York State has strong anti-trafficking laws which, if properly enforced, can do precisely this.  Unfortunately, a recent legislative development does just the opposite.  Just last week, the New York State legislature passed a new law that raises the penalty for prostitution in the vicinity of schools while completely ignoring the primary role—and culpability—of the men who patronize.  This law reflects the old victim-blaming approach that many of us are working to end.  I urge City Council to send a resolution to Governor Cuomo urging him not to sign this bill. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bronx Community Solutions Represented at Bronx Probation Symposium



Wednesday, June 22, 2011
 
On June 15, DoP and the Bronx Borough President hosted “Small Steps, BIG CHANGES,” a symposium on Adult and Juvenile probation services.  Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined DoP Deputy Commissioners Ana Bermudez and Clinton Lacey in welcoming an audience of DoP staff, service providers and probation clients to the event.  Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson and Bronx Administrative Judge Efrain Alvarado also spoke.  A panel of DoP Branch Chiefs , Supervisors, Probation Officers, and Probation Officer Trainees from our Adult and Juvenile offices briefly explained the work they do and the services they offer before taking questions from the audience.  Representatives from service providers such as Bronx Community Solutions, Children’s Aid Society, FEDCAP and Mustard Seed set up tables and provided information to the probation clients.  The event was organized by Assistant Commissioner Sharun Goodwin.  Click here to view photos of the event.  

Reentry Initative Featured on Bronx Net

On June 9, 2001 myself and the co-chair for the Bronx Reentry Working Group, Dr. Pamela Valera from Albert Einstein College of Medicine were interviewed on the show Perspectives on BronxNet.  Click here to view the show.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Newark Community Solutions Opens its Doors

Last night, my Director and I attended the opening ceremony for Newark Community Solutions, the sister project of Bronx Community Solutions. Newark Community Solutions is using the same community justice model to address low-level offending in the Newark Criminal Court.  We were proud to be at the opening of Newark Community Solutions, and were inspired by the moving speech by Mayor Corey Booker. The event rejuvenated us to do our work here at BCS.  Below, find the notice from BJA Justice Today about Newark Community Solutions. 

Newark, NJ Launches Community Justice Initiative
On June 16, 2011, the City of Newark, New Jersey launched an ambitious community justice initiative to combat crime and improve public confidence in justice, the first of its kind in the state.
Mayor Cory A. Booker; Municipal Council President Donald M. Payne, Jr.; Business Administrator Julien X. Neals, Esq.; Municipal Court Chief Judge Richard E.A. Nunes; Bureau of Justice Assistance Senior Policy Advisor Kim Ball; Essex County Superior Court Assignment Judge Patricia K. Costello; Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray; the Center for Court Innovation; Newark Municipal Court Judges; and other dignitaries held an opening ceremony to launch Newark Community Solutions, a court-based community justice initiative that brings the justice system and the community together in order to improve public safety and restore public trust in the justice system.
Newark Community Solutions gives Newark's judges the ability to sentence low-level offenders to a combination of punishment and help—with restorative, visible community service performed in Newark's wards and with social services that focus on offenders' underlying problems, such as substance abuse, mental illness, or unemployment. At the same time, Newark Community Solutions seeks ways of engaging Newarkers in "doing justice"—by giving residents input in program priorities and forming a community advisory board to identify disorder hotspots for offenders to clean as part of their community service sentences.
Newark Community Solutions was planned and is operated by a remarkably broad public-private partnership that includes the City of Newark, the Newark Municipal Council, the New Jersey Administrative Office of Courts, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the non-profit Center for Court Innovation. Other key partners include the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Newark's Center for Collaborative Change, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, the Nicholson Foundation, and the Office of the Newark Public Defender.
Excerpted from the City of Newark's press release.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bronx Community Solutions Reentry Partnership Featured in Daily News


Ex-cons find help re-entering society with new Bronx community program

Tuesday, June 14th 2011, 4:00 AM

Ramon Semorile, an ex-convict, is acclimating back into society with the help of Mandy Restivo, a task force social worker from the Bronx Re-Entry Working group.
Richard Harbus for News
Ramon Semorile, an ex-convict, is acclimating back into society with the help of Mandy Restivo, a task force social worker from the Bronx Re-Entry Working group.
After being hauled off to jail for the 26th time, capping a criminal career spanning 16 years, Ramon Semorile looked back on his life and saw nothing.
"I couldn't continue doing the same thing over and over, because I would end up in jail all my life or I was gonna get killed," said Semorile, 51. "That's when I decided to change my life."
Semorile's recidivism is a pattern seen in thousands of men across New York City, especially in the Bronx, so Bronx Community Solutions and other groups have formed the Bronx Re-entry Working Group.
The immediate goal of the fledgling group is to give the estimated 128,000 former prisoners living in the borough a forum to discuss future plans and find organizations that can help them transition back into society.
The reentry group will meet tonight at Bronx Recovery Center at 509 Willis Ave.
"Manhattan has a very strong task force looking at reentry issues, but there is no coordinated group in the Bronx looking at these issues," said Mandolin Restivo, deputy project director for Bronx Community Solutions. "Aside from just the sheer numbers of people coming home [from prison], the Bronx has high levels of poverty and low levels of health, so all these issues converge to create a lot of problems."
Semorile got caught up in the wrong crowd in his teens and helped fuel the drug trade that gripped the city during the 1970s and '80s.
"It was chaotic. There was a lot of abandoned buildings, gang members, hard drugs. You would get robbed by your own neighbor," said the Dominican Republic native, who lived in Soundview. "Children were growing up by themselves."
Restivo and other members of the reentry group want to help paroled prisoners from reverting to their old ways.
"The major goal is to provide an information-sharing exchange," said Pamela Valera, an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who is researching health behaviors of ex-cons in the Bronx for a major survey next fall.
Valera and Restivo added they also want to develop a reentry court similar to that in Harlem, which provides housing case managers and job-training programs.
Semorile said the road he took may have been different had there been a similar group at the time. He received job training at a transitional facility and he has been a crew supervisor at Bronx Community Solutions for five years, guiding petty criminals coming out of arraignment.
"I tell them, 'It doesn't matter how many times you got arrested, it's what you do after the arrest,'" he said. "I always try to grab that one that really wants to change their life."
Tonight's meeting is from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Pizza will be served. For more information, call (718) 618-2495.


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2011/06/14/2011-06-14_bronx_convict_reentry_program.html#ixzz1PHoehzIe