In the Bronx, BCS's Adolescent Diversion Program provides the courts, especially the dedicated court part, youth-specific sentencing alternatives to jail for low level crimes. The Bronx does not, however, have this kind of diversion that provides services without jail and arraignment first.
Teenagers to See Counselor, Not Judge, for Minor Crimes
Teenagers arrested for minor crimes will soon be diverted to counseling before they ever come before a judge under a new pilot program in Brooklyn and Manhattan, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
The program will apply to 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for the first time for low-level offenses, like jumping a subway turnstile, shoplifting or trespassing, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said.
Those defendants will be offered a deal: Enter a counseling program run by the Center for Court Innovation and the charges will be dropped before arraignment, Mr. Vance said, speaking at a Crain’s New York Business breakfast forum.
Mr. Vance said a young person who had done nothing more serious than fail to pay a subway fare should not receive “a trip downtown and a docket number, but a real intervention in his life, to put him on a positive path forward.”
The Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, said the pilot project would build on the success of a diversion program for teenagers started in 2013 in the Brooklyn arraignment courts by Judge George A. Grasso. That program in its first year diverted more than 160 teenagers charged with minor crimes into counseling.
Mr. Thompson said the hope was to intervene even earlier, offering first-time offenders a chance to go to counseling before they even appear in court.
Youths deemed eligible will go to two afternoon sessions of counseling at community justice centers, said Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation, a nonprofit that provides alternatives to incarceration. Some of the defendants will go through mock trials with other teenagers; others will be given individual counseling and community service.
The pilot program will start in February in two police precincts: the 25th on the Upper West Side and the 73rd in Brownsville, Brooklyn. It will be evaluated after three to six months, Ms. Herman said.
The project, tentatively called Project Reset, comes as public opinion has begun to waver on New York City’s prolonged crackdown on minor crimes. It also comes amid a series of several steps taken recently to reduce the number of low-level offenders clogging the courts.
Mr. Thompson announced last year that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases. Police Commissioner William J. Bratton has sharply curtailed the practice of stopping pedestrians and frisking them for weapons and drugs in high-crime neighborhoods, which critics maintain discriminates against minorities.
The city has several diversion programs for nonviolent defendants. In most of them, however, social workers comb through people awaiting arraignment in court to find candidates.
It was Judge Grasso, a former deputy police commissioner, who first proposed the idea of diverting some teenagers before arraignment, Deputy Police Commissioner Susan Herman said.
Under past practice, many first-time low-level offenders were held in jail for a day. At arraignment, prosecutors would usually agree to drop charges if the person avoids arrest for six months, a resolution known as “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.”
The new program will let police officers and prosecutors steer teenagers into counseling, leaving them with no criminal record if they complete it, Mr. Vance said.