Friday, March 1, 2013

Rehabilitation and Prevention in the Bronx


This afternoon, Bronx Community Solutions hosted a lunch to celebrate moving into new space in the Bronx Criminal Court.  After 7 years of operating out of various windowless nooks and crannies, the project now has an attractive office to call its own.  At today's lunch event, Bronx District Attorney Rob Johnson spoke about his connection to the Bronx Community Solutions space, which formerly served as a courtroom; when he was a judge, Johnson actually presided over arraignments there.

Johnson's history with Bronx Community Solutions goes even deeper than that.  As our deputy director, Al Siegel, made clear in his remarks, Johnson helped plant the seed for Bronx Community Solutions.  Almost a decade ago, he argued that we should try to apply community court-style sanctions (i.e. community restitution and social services) to misdemeanor offenders throughout the Bronx, as opposed to a single neighborhood.  In his speech, Johnson picked up on this theme, emphasizing the importance of an approach to justice that foregrounds "rehabilitation and prevention" rather than simply defaulting to incarceration over and over again.

There was a lot to like about today's event, which featured delicious cupcakes, representation from almost all of our criminal justice partners in the Bronx, and plenty of good cheer.  But my favorite part was simply being in the space, which is bright and airy and adorned with quotations from a range of people whose lives have intersected with Bronx Community Solutions -- cops, defendants, attorneys, judges and others.  Even without the inspiring wall text, the non-verbal message that the space sends to participants is clear: Bronx Community Solutions is a program that is designed to treat individual defendants -- and the legal process -- with dignity and respect.