Bronx Community Solutions

Search This Blog

Friday, December 28, 2012

Crown Heights Mediation Center Staffer Profiled in the New York Times

Rudy Suggs, who works for the Crown Heights Mediation Center
The New York Times' City Room blog recently profiled Rudy Suggs, who works as a violence interrupter at one of our sister projects at the Center for Court Innovation, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. The Mediation Center aims at reducing gun violence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, using a public health model of reducing shootings via community activism, rarely involving the police. One of their strategies is to employ "credible messengers" as the representatives of the program who go out into tense situations and speak with the people involved, encouraging them to avoid using guns to resolve their conflicts. It works because the credible messengers are community members who have had a history of gang involvement and/or engaging in street violence themselves, but now wish to give back to the community by reducing the use of guns.

Check out the article here:
A Onetime Drug Dealer, Now Working to Combat a Plague of Gun Violence

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

NY Times Piece - Life Without Parole

The New York Times recently published an interesting piece about mandatory life sentences that are imposed on non-violent offenders. They highlight four prison inmates and tell the circumstances of their arrest and sentencing. In each of these cases, the judge imposing the sentence felt that life without parole was not ethically warranted, however due to mandatory sentencing regulations they could not alter the outcome of the case.

Life Without Parole - Four Inmates' Stories

Regardless of one's position on the issue of mandatory judicial sentencing, examining individual cases can serve as a check and balance to the implementation of any policy.

Bronx Community Solutions deals with misdemeanor convictions, not felonies, to provide a combination of punishment and help. So although we do not handle cases such as the four examples in this article, our success with providing sentencing options to judges would not have been possible if there were mandatory sentencing regulations imposed on our cases. We aim to provide judges with these increased sentencing options so that the underlying issues in a person's life which may be contributing to their criminal behavior can be addressed within the criminal justice system.

Another New York Times piece on mandatory sentencing can be found here:

For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars

Monday, December 24, 2012

BCS Staff Holiday Party

The staff of Bronx Community Solutions gathered for our annual holiday party last Friday, December 21. We had a great time - kicking it off with a pot luck lunch followed by the giving of small gifts, and then we all went ice skating in the Bronx!

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and just holiday season.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

BCS Goes to the Circus!

As part of our holiday celebrations, Bronx Community Solutions staff went to the Big Apple Circus last night with tickets generously donated by the Fund for the City of New York. Some brought their family members too, which was great for kids of all ages. Good times were had! Check out some of the pictures below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Operation Sandy

On Monday December 10th, at 7:00 am Bronx Community Solutions Community Service Department collaborated with our sister sites (Midtown Community Court, Red Hook Community Justice Center and Brownsville Community Justice Center), as well as a number of community service clients assigned by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, to conduct a major cleanup project at 100 Center Street aimed at helping rebuild the neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy. Fittingly, we called the project Operation Sandy. 
A total of 32 community service clients and eight supervisors (two representing each project and borough) joined together with one goal: to assist the Coney Island community, one of the neighborhoods most heavily affected by the catastrophic storm.
32 clients and 8 crew supervisors learning the plan for the day
The group was divided into two teams, one team working on Surf Avenue from W25th Street up to W37th Street. The second team covered Mermaid Avenue, beginning at the intersection of Mermaid Avenue and West 37th Street. The mission was to assist the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Transportation and the community by picking up trash, wood, sand and other litter displaced by the storm onto the streets and sidewalks.
 In speaking with community members, we witnessed sadness in some of their faces, but also a determination. Local business owners described the struggle they faced in recovering their businesses. The clients worked very hard. I believe they saw the need in the community and didn't hesitate or hold back in participating with this special clean up. I was personally very proud to see all of our sister programs coming together and doing an awesome job. Thank you all for participating in the project and for inviting us to be part of it.
- Ramon Semorile, BCS Community Service Crew Supervisor
- Moises Reyes, BCS Coordinator of Community Service
Crew Supervisors from the four participating CCI Projects

Friday, December 07, 2012

Meeting of the Bronx Re-Entry Working Group

The Bronx Reentry Working Group had a meeting on Thursday, November 29. We received an update about the newly formed Bronx  Reentry Task Force by Christopher McLaughlin, who is the Task Force's Coordinator. He reported that the Task Force will focus on the needs of those returning citizens who have been determined to be at a high risk of recidivism. The Task Force will provide its clients with targeted case management, programming and service referrals, while working closely with clients' parole officers. The Task Force recently received its first client and everyone is looking forward to getting started. 

Pamela Valera, co-chair of the Bronx Re-Entry Working Group and Task Force, and I spoke at the meeting about a change in the structure of the Working Group. The Task Force will provide a meeting/planning place for service providers, as the Working Group has done, and the Working Group will now act solely as a support group for reentering citizens. The Working Group meetings, which will increase to twice monthly, will provide a safe space to talk about feelings, concerns, share past experiences and build skills to improve social supports. 

We shared two ideas for the Task Force. One idea is to provide a five-week mental health class to returning citizens. The class will be organized by Nakul, a Columbia University student, and will be implemented as a pilot program in January 2013. The second idea is to structure the Working Group as a support group for returning citizens only, and will not be open to service providers. Gary Grand and I discussed our plan for this group, which includes creating steps to serve as goals as clients work on their careers, relationships, and healthy lifestyles. The group suggested utilizing the sponsorship model to help alleviate clients' stress, anxieties and negative emotions. 

The Working Group is going to have a planning meeting at Bronx Community solutions on December 17th, at 12:30pm. In its new structure as a support group, the Bronx Re-Entry Working Group will be officially launched in January 2013.

- Ramon Semorile, Community Service Crew Supervisor for Bronx Community Solutions