Bronx Community Solutions

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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