Bronx Community Solutions

Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Law Day 2013 -- Realizing the Dream: Equality For All

Bronx Community Solutions will be facilitating a program to coincide with Law Day this Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

This year’s event will provide a forum for reflecting on the work that remains to be done in rectifying injustice and eliminating all forms of discrimination, with an emphasis on issues pertaining to youth. We will be looking at age rights in the criminal justice system, raising such questions as: are youth being unjustly targeted? Are their experiences with the criminal justice ultimately beneficial or harmful? We have been working with 72 high school seniors from the High School of Law, Government and Justice to create conversations points on the issues of youth in criminal justice system which they will address to a panel of Bronx criminal justice partners at our event.

In recent years, there have been multiple conversations about raising the “Age” across numerous areas of legislation, the latest of which being the proposal by the City Council to raise the smoking age in New York State to 21. In 2012, the New York court system decided to treat youths involved in the adult criminal justice system differently by changing the laws to prevent adolescent offenders from being unilaterally treated as adults. Bronx Community Solutions and our sister court projects have been working to create meaningful sentencing options for the youth population through the Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP). Dedicated ADP court parts were created across the boroughs to best address the needs of this population, and numerous CCI projects have been developing customized service programs and alternative sentencing packages to offer to courts.

We are looking forward to hearing from the students next week, and facilitating what we hope will be a dynamic discussion between them and representatives of the Bronx Criminal Justice System.

- T.K. Singleton, Community Initiatives Coordinator

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reaching Beyond the Bars

"America is a nation obsessed with incarceration." This was the ongoing mantra of the electrifying event I attended last Friday entitled ‘Beyond the Bars’. The event was held at Columbia University and is part of a yearly series of events aimed at raising awareness of issues relating to incarceration and reentry from prison. The entire night was a thought-provoking call to action that touched upon everything from reentry efforts in America, to the problems that arise when particular towns and cities have economic livelihoods that are dependent upon the prison system or on the imprisonment of others.

The ‘kick-off event’ featured very powerful speeches by known performers, such as the notable Angela Davis and the show stealer Marc Lamont Hill. The most powerful point was the parallel drawn between present-day laws which target young men of color, such as ‘stop and frisk’ and curfews, and post-slavery vagrancy laws that were put into place in the 19th century. These vagrancy laws made it illegal for slaves who had just been freed to be ‘out and about’ with no real purpose or objective. This was the disposition that hundreds faced once freed, who were in no position to decipher what their next steps would be. The sole purpose was to exert power over freed black slaves.  Are we repeating history? Is the mass imprisonment of young men of color indeed the new Jim Crow?

It was mentioned that most of those who were in attendance were already very knowledgeable about most of the issues “unveiled.” For those who are well-informed, the event could be described as ‘preaching to the choir.’ But it is not enough to just be well-informed. What are we doing with the knowledge that we possess?  If all we’re doing is talking about the issues with other well-informed individuals, we need to task ourselves with a new and more ground-breaking purpose.  How do we get the word out to those who don’t know? How do we begin and sustain the conversation with people who can effectively bring about change, such as law makers? How do we make a real impact and begin to ‘unpack’ issues so entrenched in our society? 

Bronx Community Solutions definitely makes an impact with our youth groups, as they provide many of these young men of color with a forum to discuss the issues that they face. They are able to voice their concerns, in the physical and clerical context of the criminal court system, and are able to connect to other individuals who are willing to listen. This can be a start to the dialogue, providing a small step towards change.

As for me, I begin with this blog.

- Lovis Nelson-Williams, BCS Compliance Coordinator