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Thursday, March 02, 2017

Supervised Release: The First Client

As a tribute (and throwback) to the start of Supervised Release in the Bronx, below is a reflection written last year by our court Resource Coordinator, Mabel Jerez, about her first days on the job.  

Supervised Release Staff (the early days)
In February, 2016, I was given an opportunity to be part of Bronx Community Solutions' Supervised Release program.  This new program is designed to provide supervision and assistance to individuals arrested for non-violent misdemeanor and felony charges but cannot afford the bail requested at their arraignment. Typically these individuals are sent to Rikers Island, the City jail, to await the next court hearing on their case. Unfortunately, languishing in jail for weeks or months at a time can have devastating effects on an individual and their family including job loss, the inability to parent one’s children and the possibility of being evicted and loosing housing.

When I found out the City decided to expand Supervised Release throughout the 5 boroughs, I applied for a position in my home borough: the Bronx.  As a long-time Bronx resident, I am familiar with many of the difficulties the borough has, including the high number of residents in the criminal justice system and  the highest poverty levels in the state.  On March 1, 2016, Bronx Community Solutions’ Supervised Release program took flight.  I am a member of a team of a 5-person team of “Resource Coordinators” who meet with individuals to screen cases armed with risk tools to see who is eligible for the program.  On our first day, I interviewed my first client.  In my initial meeting with "Mr. N", he was hungry and exhausted from the little sleep he was able to get the previous night in the court's holding cell.  I went into the holding pens and, through a wire screen, introduced myself and explained that I had been given permission from his attorney to come and speak with him.  I interviewed Mr. N, explained the terms of the program, made a call to his wife, and verified his other community connections.  I believed Mr. N was just right for the program.  Minutes later, the court officer called the case and Mr. N stood before Judge Grasso, the presenting judge that day.

I too stood before the court with Mr. N, the Bronx Assistant District Attorney and Mr. N’s defense counsel.  The judge decided to give Mr. N the opportunity and released him to the Supervised Release program.  Weeks later I bumped into him in the halls of the courthouse, and this time he was smiling and grateful to see me.  He looked much better, healthier and alert.  His social worker reports that he is doing very well and calls a couple of times each week.  Mr. N’s case is indicative of the initial success the Supervised Program is having – in less than one month, over 40 men and women are already in the program.  There will be many more Mr. N stories as we continue to provide this service to the Bronx community.

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