As a prosecutor, part of my job is to keep us safe from dangerous criminals by seeking sentences of incarceration to hold them accountable for the harm they caused. But I also believe in second chances and the power of rehabilitation by providing individuals with the tools they need to contribute to family and commumity life once the incarceration is completed. For a number of Brooklyn residents those tools include our ComALERT (Community and Law Enforcement Resources Together) prosecutor run reentry partnership which helps them make a successful transition from prison to home by providing drug treatment, mental health treatment, counseling, educational housing and employment assistance and other wrap around services.
A key part of the ComALERT program is employment assistance. We provide transitional jobs and the skills to obtain and maintain permanent employment. Job readiness workshops are an integral part of the process. ComALERT staff members teach the formerly incarcerated individual participants the skills they need to get a job. They learn how to write a resume, how to conduct themselves in an interview and how to be successful in their jobs so they are able to maintain better paying and permanent employment.
For the second year, my office teamed Brooklyn Law School students with ComALERT participants in conducting mock interviews. On April 25, organized and run by First Assistant District Attorney Anne Swern and John Chaney, Director of ComALERT, nine students from Ms. Swern’s Brooklyn Law School Problem-Solving Justice class served as the virtual employers and interviewed four ComALERT participants for jobs including retail positions, clerks, janitorial and telemarketing. The mock job interviews are designed to strengthen their interview skills and to provide feedback for improvement.
The ComALERT interviewees are allowed to participate in this program once they are compliant with substance abuse treatment for at least 45 days.
The mock interviews and comment process are part of the 14 week Problem Solving Justice class curriculum that includes segments on reentry and other innovations in criminal justice.
The ComALERT participants are taught how to answer tough interview questions, how to speak properly and avoid street slang, and how to efficiently market their skills. When the interviews were over, the law students provided written feedback on the performance. The students rated the interviewees on a scale from one to five on a variety of categories including preparedness for the interview, general appearance, effectiveness in describing marketable skills, appropriateness of responses to being formerly incarcerated, appropriateness of responses to questions, willingness to volunteer, self-confidence/comfort level, voice level, and eye contact with interviewer.
After the mock interviews, the ComALERT participants spoke with the students about the interview process. Thereafter they will meet with the Com ALERT job developers and case workers and review the evaluations so they can improve their skills.
The goal of this project is to help the participants become more prepared and to make them more confident in obtaining and maintaining employment. It will make it easier for them to reintegrate into the lives of their families and communities. ComALERT’s Harvard-based research has demonstrated that the programs focus of drug treatment and employment has significantly reduced recidivism. These job training workshops including the mock interviews are an instrumental part of that program. Matching the participants with law students infuses their academic life with real world situations enable them to truly become to the “lawyer as problem solvers” of the future.
Despite the efforts of the child protection system, child abuse still remains a serious problem. Child abuse and neglect is defined as:
Children who have been abused need caring adults to help them recognize that they are not responsible for the abuse and to help them find ways to grow past their present trauma into healthy adults.
I have taken great efforts to prevent and investigate child abuse. For instance, I created a Crimes Against Children Bureau in his office in 1997 in recognition that child victims of violent crimes have unique needs that require great care.
To realize how significant the problem of child abuse and neglect is, I teamed up with a non-profit organization, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which is dedicated to getting kids off to the right start in life and keep them from becoming criminals, as well as Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown in announcing a new report on the extent of child abuse across the state. At least 77,000 children in New York State suffered abuse and neglect in 2010 – more than 200 every day. 114 of those children died as a result of the abuse. These numbers should shock the conscience of every one of us. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher due primarily to underreporting. The violence doesn’t end with these cases. Victims of maltreatment are more likely to commit crimes and become abusers themselves.
We are committed to putting dangerous criminals in jail, but to win the fight against crime, we must match this commitment to preventing kids from becoming criminals in the first place. One way to accomplish this goal is by implementing programs such as voluntary home visiting programs run by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which can reduce child abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent. Another benefit of these programs is that it saves taxpayers a lot of money.
On April 17, I released this new report, “Breaking the Cycle: How Home Visiting Can Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect and Prevent Crime in New York” on behalf of law enforcement leaders across the state. It highlights the crime prevention benefit of investing in home visiting for parents of infants and young children, and calls for the increased investment in these programs proven to prevent crime.
Home visitation programs team parents with trained professionals who provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout the child’s first years of life. Home visitation increases public safety by reducing crime among both mothers and children who are in the program. Fewer children are injured and fewer children grow up to injure others.
Abuse and neglect often contributes to future crime, and in some cases, actually constitutes a crime. Research shows that while most survivors of child abuse never become violent criminals, they are 30 percent more likely to become violent criminals than those without a history of abuse. Survivors are more likely to abuse their own children, creating a cycle of violence that can span generations. This amounts to about 3,000 additional violent criminals in New York State who would not have become criminals if not for the abuse and neglect they endured.
In addition, children of abuse are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to attempt suicide, more likely to experience lifelong physical and mental health consequences, and more likely to maltreat their own children.
Law enforcement leaders are calling upon the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo to maintain funding for these voluntary, high-quality home visiting programs and to aggressively pursue federal funding available to expand these services. We released an open letter to policy makers, signed by more than 1,560 law enforcement leaders nationwide (more than 200 from New York); one for every confirmed child who died from abuse or neglect in 2010.
In the 2011 fiscal year, New York spent less than $50 million from combined local, state and federal sources for two voluntary home-visiting programs that have strong evidence they reduce child abuse and neglect. The Nurse Family Partnership Program and Healthy Families combined currently serve less than 10 percent of families of newborns who would otherwise qualify and benefit from these services.
To report child abuse, call the Child Abuse Hotline number at the New York State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment at (800) 342-3720. The website is www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/prevention. Call 911 if it appears that immediate action needs to be taken to protect the welfare of the child.
There are approximately 250,000 outstanding warrants in Brooklyn for charges including Loitering, Littering, Consumption of Alcohol in Public, Failure to have a Dog License and Unlawfully Being in a Park After Hours. Even though these may be considered minor crimes, they need to be resolved otherwise people with these summonses will have difficulty applying for jobs or getting a driver’s license. If police stop you for any reason, even something like an unpaid parking ticket, they have to arrest you and you will have to spend a night in jail. Many people don’t realize that this can easily be avoided.
For the fourth time, on April 6 and April 7, we ran Operation Safe Surrender at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant with their Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood. Safe Surrender allows Brooklyn residents to come to church and have their outstanding warrants and summons lifted and their cases adjudicated. The program is a partnership between my office, the Brooklyn clergy, NYS Office of Court Administration, the Legal Aid Society and the NYPD.
This month’s Project Safe Surrender was a tremendous success. We resolved a total of 765 summonses. Since the program was launched in 2010, approximately 1,500 people have taken advantage of it. To the extent that 1,500 Brooklyn residents now qualify for better paying jobs which require fingerprinting, public safety is enhanced, because it reduces the chances that someone who cannot enter the job market at a higher level as a result of an open arrest warrant might turn to a criminal activity. And this, I believe, has a very strong, positive effect for recidivism reduction. Obviously, better paying jobs increase taxable revenue, and so the economy is benefited by this program.
A court is set up in church, which makes people with open warrants and summons more comfortable. A judge is there with court officers and clerks. Clergy, pastors, Lay Members and Defense Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services are on hand to help.
Our goal, eventually, is to get folks to understand you can go down to court and get the same kind of quick resolution of these summonses as you can by going to the church.
The warrants and summons could be resolved for cases in which individuals were charged with any of the following crimes: Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, Consumption of Alcohol in Public, Littering, Riding a Bicycle on the Sidewalk, Trespassing, Loitering, Disorderly Conduct, Unlawful Possession of Alcohol under the Age of 21, Unlawful Possession of Handcuffs, Making Unreasonable Noise, Animal Nuisance, Failure to have a Dog License, Unleashed Dog, Spitting, Unlawfully in a Park After Hours, and Failure to Comply with Posted Signs in Park.
Many people’s lives have been changed by crime – the offenders, the victims, family members and friends. It impacts everyone. It takes a lot of fortitude to forge forward, through the pain. But it’s also important for people to know that there are organizations and services available to help them.
On April 17, my office hosted our third annual VOICE-Out (Victims on the Impact of Crime Event) celebration at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The goal of this event is to recognize the strength and celebrate the voices of those members of the Brooklyn community whose lives have been changed by crime and to celebrate their spirit that enables them to keep on going and make themselves whole again after suffering acts of violence. We also use the occasion to provide information about the valuable services that are available to those people who have been impacted by crime.
This year’s VOICE-Out included all of the elements that made the previous events a success, including musical performances by students from the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, and powerful testimonials from several survivors of violent crime. In addition, a choir made up of members of my staff, performed an original song, “Encourage Yourself,” for the many guests in attendance.
The focus this year was on the beneficial, ongoing relationships between members of my office and those we proudly serve. In fact, the event launched with the premiere of a new film documenting such relationships.
To view the new film that was shown at VOICE-Out, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWJoExuGugE
You can see the choir’s performance at Voice-Out by
The news articles below may be of interest to you or members of your community.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Alaska lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill stiffening
penalties for sex trafficking,
removing the label of “prostitute” from victims and changing court procedures as an
effort to expedite justice and make the process easier on victims.
Gov. Sean Parnell introduced HB359 in February. The bill passed the House during the regular legislative session, but time ran out before the session ended. The governor included the bill as part of the call for the special session, which started Wednesday.
The Senate on Thursday made short work passing the bill and sending it on to Parnell.
If he signs the measure into law, a person will be guilty of sex trafficking for three actions: forcing anyone to engage in prostitution, inducing a person under 20 years old into prostitution or inducing someone under their legal custody into prostitution. The crime will be classified as a “serious felony offense.”
The Baltimore Sun
Ruling blocks key part of O’Malley’s legislative agenda
Maryland’s highest court on Tuesday blocked police in most cases from collecting samples when they arrest suspects in violent crimes and burglaries, dealing a blow to one of Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s signature initiatives.
The Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 that the state violated Alonzo Jay King Jr.’s constitutional rights by using DNA evidence taken from him after a 2009 assault arrest. That sample led to his conviction in a six-year-old rape case, but the court said it also ran afoul of protections against unreasonable searches without a warrant. The judges ordered that King’s rape case be sent back to Wicomico County Circuit Court for a new trial.
O’Malley and law enforcement officials said the decision would set back the state’s crime-fighting efforts, but civil liberties advocates and defense attorneys called it a victory for individual freedoms. The state can still collect DNA after convictions, and experts said the court’s ruling is unlikely to reverse other convictions.