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Friday, April 17, 2015

Success Stories from the AP-8 Initiative at BCS


Over the past several months, I have been working to implement the Women’s Independence, Safety and Empowerment curriculum, (originally developed at the Midtown Community Court) here in the Bronx. The groups cover themes of stereotypes and stigma attached to having a prostitution arrest, safety and harm reduction, psycho-education on trauma and trauma reactions, as well as feeling identification and coping skills. 

Because the AP-8 population is comprised of women and trans women who may be lacking stability (for example, clients may not have consistent housing from week to week, and are often experiencing ongoing trauma and violence), adhering to a strict schedule can be understandably challenging. In order to help address this challenge, the AP-8 group schedule was changed to be more accommodating to the needs of our clients.

This proved to be highly successful and we were able to have five group members complete all four groups!

We (Kayla Johnson, social work intern and I) got exceptionally positive feedback from group members, who took pictures on their phones of the notes we recorded on the board in order to refer back to them later. A few inspiring quotes: “I feel lifted up after I come here; this is so good for me.” “I learned so much today – I didn’t know that word [dissociation] before, but it explains what I’m feeling.” “I never thought I would say this, but this room in 161 is a safe place for me.”

- Charlotte Weber, LMSW, AP-8 Case Manager

Friday, April 10, 2015

BCS Presents at Community Association Meeting

"The more the court hears from us, the more they will listen." 

This was one of the opening remarks of Mary Jane Musano, the chairperson of the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association – a group with a long history of community activism focused on increasing punitive court outcomes for low level criminal activity like graffiti and car vandalism cases.   

As part of Bronx community Solutions’ community outreach work, we were invited to present at the association's evening meeting in late March. The association represents an enclave of the Bronx that has some of the lowest criminal activity throughout the borough, within the boundaries of Community Board 10. Comprised of largely veteran community residents, this group spearheads a Court Watchers program, through the support of Senator Jeff Klein’s office. Collaborating with the local 45th Precinct and the District Attorney’s Office, members identify district crime hot spots and advocate for harsher sentencing outcomes through community letters and meetings with the District Attorney’s Office. As activists, members are alerted of district arrests and coordinate shifts to sit in arraignments as a unified front wearing T-shirts with generalized messages to the offenders. 

Bronx Community Solutions shared our overall successes and lessons learned in the value of alternatives that fit the crime and the transformative justice in empowering individuals with targeted interventions. Although it would appear that we did not make an immediate impact in influencing their views towards a less punitive position, we were able to identify the needs for graffiti clean up and look forward to further collaboration on this issue. BCS can agree on the overall goal of reducing crime in the Bronx, even if differences arise in the strategies employed to get there.

- Elizabeth Swan-Taylor, Coordinator of Court and Intake Operations