Successful “Project Reset” Youth Diversion Program Being Expanded Boroughwide
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced several new initiatives aimed at preventing crime, improving access to services for victims, and increasing options to divert youth from the criminal justice system. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is funding these initiatives through the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which was created using criminal forfeiture funds – separate from the Office’s annual budget or taxpayer dollars – obtained through settlements with international banks for violating U.S. sanctions, to provide grants for programs that improve public safety, prevent crime, and increase fairness in the criminal justice system. A strategic plan outlining the fund’s vision, goals, and specific funding priorities for innovative and effective community projects can be found here.
These initiatives follow other recently announced investments by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in transformative programming relating to criminal justice projects and public safety. Earlier this year, the Office committed $7.5 million to pay for college programming at New York State prisons. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has also invested $90 million to enhance NYPD mobility, including providing tablets and handheld devices for every police officer and patrol car; $101 million for critical NYCHA security upgrades, including cameras, lighting and keyless access; $38 million to address the national backlog of untested rape evidence kits; $40 million towards the City’s comprehensive mental health initiatives, including $14 million for supervised release for eligible defendants pre-trial; $25 million to form the cross-border, cross-sector, not-for-profit Global Cyber Alliance; and $7.5 million to expand Saturday Night Lights, a high-quality sports and academic training and youth violence prevention initiative, at 14 locations around the borough.
The next set of five investments being announced today include an expansion of the successful “Project Reset” pilot program, which provides diversion options for qualifying teenagers arrested for low-level crimes; programs that increase access to existing services for victims of crime; programs that support youth and families; youth opportunity hubs to provide adolescents and young adults with coordinated services that address multiple risk factors and needs; and the development of community navigators to connect individuals to the resources and services they need to prevent future crime and re-victimization.
These areas were selected following a comprehensive, year-long review process conducted by the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance (“ISLG”), which serves as the technical assistance provider to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for CJII. ISLG analyzed dozens of factors that have an impact on crime to identify patterns and specific areas in need of investment. The CJII funding initiatives will be concentrated in four Manhattan neighborhoods where crime is disproportionately high, compared to other parts of the borough: East Harlem, Central and West Harlem, Washington Heights, and the Lower East Side.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said: “The goal of this once-in-a-generation funding opportunity is to make transformative, lasting investments in bettering the criminal justice system. That means preventing young people from coming into contact with it, making sure that those who do are treated as fairly and justly as possible, and working to ensure that those who leave prison do not return. Importantly, we’re not using tax dollars to fund these projects – we’re using money that my Office received for its work on cases involving international sanctions violations. We are proud of the in-house expertise that led to the development of those cases and proud of the hundreds of millions in transformative investments we’ve made to date, which have funded smartphones for every NYPD officer, security upgrades at priority NYCHA developments, and the testing of tens of thousands of backlogged rape kits nationwide, among other programs. This is in addition to the unprecedented $1.96 billion and $1.02 billion returned to State and City coffers, respectively, for our work on sanctions cases to date.”
CUNY ISLG Executive Director Michael P. Jacobson said: “By establishing CJII, District Attorney Vance has created an incredible opportunity to make a lasting impact on the justice system in New York City. Through CJII, his office is investing in a set of thoughtful initiatives—informed by the needs of New York City communities—that take a long-term view of what is needed to support our communities and improve public safety. This set of initiatives balances efforts to support communities and prevent crime from the outset while also increasing access to services for victims and strengthening supports for people reentering from incarceration. These efforts will improve public safety in a significant way.”
NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton said: “I want to thank District Attorney Vance for his continued funding and expansion of these programs that provide valuable services to crime victims and intervention opportunities for eligible teenagers and their families. Since March of 2015, 84 teenagers who did not have serious criminal records when they were arrested in Manhattan for low-level offenses have completed a two-day program and graduated Project Reset. The goal is to give 1,200 eligible teens in other City neighborhoods the same potentially life-changing opportunity.”
NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer said: “District Attorney Vance's announcement today is a significant step forward in recognizing that crime prevention and reduction can only be achieved by engaging partners and approaches from inside and outside the criminal justice system.”
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said: “Key to the DCJS mission is the administration of funding, resources and training that help criminal justice partners across the state improve services and programs with the goal of enhancing safety of all New Yorkers. I commend District Attorney Vance for his vision in creating the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, which supports a range of smart criminal justice programs that complement our efforts and will contribute to making New York State a safer place to live, work, do business and visit.”
Open Society Foundations Senior Advisor Herb Sturz said: “CJII is a rare opportunity to make a big impact on New York City’s justice system from beginning to end. District Attorney Vance recognizes that, in addition to making investments in the justice system itself to make it fairer and more effective, an important way to transform the system is to invest in communities—to support strong, healthy families in order to prevent involvement in the justice system all together.”
CJII Research and Consultation Process
The CJII plan and investments are the result of an extensive process incorporating research, data analysis, and outreach to community leaders and stakeholders conducted by ISLG. As the technical assistance provider, ISLG analyzed research in areas affecting public safety in New York City, including systemic factors at the neighborhood level that have an impact on crime, and data from a number of agencies involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, ISLG conducted extensive interviews with more than 250 experts in the criminal justice community and related fields, including clinical practitioners; leaders from philanthropic, non-profit, and grassroots organizations; representatives of local, state, and federal government agencies; academics; and elected officials. Following this process, ISLG worked with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to develop a comprehensive set of investments that, together, will have a significant, lasting impact on public safety in New York City.
The initiatives announced today include:
Expansion of Project Reset
Since this innovative court diversion program began in March 2015, 84 teenage defendants have graduated Project Reset in Manhattan. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with our partners at the Center for Court Innovation (“CCI”) and NYPD, is now expanding this program to divert as many as 1,200 young adults in other neighborhoods in Manhattan. Under the program, 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for low-level offenses – including Petit Larceny, Criminal Trespass, Theft of Services – who do not have a serious criminal record, can complete a two-session program run by CCI, without ever stepping foot inside a courtroom. Those who successfully complete the program have their cases dismissed. The goal of the program is to provide a proportional response to low-level crime and a meaningful intervention to put young people on a path to success. During the first six months of operation, CCI reports that 98 percent of young adults who participated in Project Reset completed the program.
While the program is still in its early stages, the recidivism rate for Project Reset graduates is currently 8 percent. The recidivism rate for comparable, first-time 16- and 17-year-old defendants who received an adjournment in contemplation – but who did not go through Project Reset – was 25 percent for the same time period. Project Reset is committed to tracking recidivism rates among participants in the short- and long-term to measure progress.
Center for Court Innovation Director of Operations Adam Mansky said: “Project Reset is a groundbreaking adolescent diversion program that keeps young people out of court and helps them avoid the burden of a criminal record. The Center for Court Innovation is pleased to be working with the Manhattan DA’s Office, the NYPD, and the indigent defense agencies to give young people a chance to see that the justice system can work with them and not against them.”
Organizations are invited to submit proposals to expand access to supportive services for victims of crime, particularly those that focus on one or more of the following groups that face significant barriers: immigrants; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) individuals; individuals who are D/deaf or hard of hearing; individuals with disabilities; and men of color.
Crime victimization can have harmful effects on victims, including increasing the likelihood of mental health issues, negatively affecting occupational functioning, and adversely affecting social relationships. Although supportive services have the potential to decrease the risk of negative outcomes, victims access and use these services at low rates. This is especially true among the groups listed above, for reasons such as stigma; a lack of culturally-appropriate services, or a lack of awareness about them; or fear of retaliation, harassment, or deportation. Therefore, services that address these barriers and that are tailored to specific groups may improve outcomes among victims.
Enhanced Youth and Family Programming
New York City is home to numerous agencies, non-profit organizations, and programs designed to foster family development and, consequently, improve public safety and other outcomes. Yet, there is still greater demand than supply for these programs, especially those focused on foster children, children with severe learning disabilities, and families affected by incarceration. Organizations are invited to submit proposals for approaches that will improve youth and family development and prevent risk factors that affect youth development—such as academic problems, dropping out of school, and antisocial behavior. The effectiveness and efficiency of such programs in preventing undesirable life outcomes is well-established. Investments in family and youth development programs and approaches will expand capacity among existing providers, as well as support new approaches for underserved populations.
Organizations are also invited to submit proposals to create Youth Opportunity Hubs, which will provide coordinated, comprehensive services to adolescents and young adults that address multiple risk factors and needs, and prevent youth from becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Because youth are more likely to make use of supportive services when they are viewed as more easily and readily accessible, this type of approach coordinates family, community, school and agency resources based on a young person’s individualized needs, and may include education, mentorship, employment opportunities, recreation and arts opportunities, trauma and substance abuse services, mental health counseling, life skills, housing, legal assistance, community service, civic engagement, leadership opportunities, and more. Comprehensive, “wrap-around” approaches help prevent undesired behaviors and outcomes by focusing on a young person’s strengths, rather than predominantly on risk and delinquency.
Many experts and practitioners reported to ISLG during its community outreach that a coordinated effort to connect people with available services and resources was urgently needed. To support the above efforts, CJII is launching a pilot to develop a network of trained peers and social workers, or community navigators, to work with individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system – including at-risk youth and crime victims – to locate, connect, engage, and stay involved with the services they need. Navigators will be mobile and serve as the bridge to accompany and connect individuals across different systems, city agencies, and organizations to ensure they receive the services and resources they need.
Community navigators will focus on working with adolescents and young adults who are involved in the criminal justice system or at risk of becoming involved, victims of crime, and people returning to neighborhoods from incarceration. Individuals with similar backgrounds to clients and from the same the neighborhoods will be recruited for these navigator positions. To support their career development in the field, navigators will be offered an educational fellowship through The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, which will be responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, and managing individuals to work as community navigators. The school will also collaborate with city agencies and community-based service providers to explore needs and to facilitate cooperation and coordination.
Hunter College Senior Advisor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, former NYC Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, said: “The Community Navigator initiative has the potential to transform how casework is done. As navigators become more mobile they can be more focused on relationship-building, help break down service silos, and do more to interact with agencies and community-based organizations. By connecting more clients to services at a wider array of organizations, navigators will bring much-needed services to more new clients, too.”
How to Apply
Organizations interested in applying for one or more of these initiatives are invited to submit proposals to ISLG. Please visit CJII.org to view the Requests for Proposals. Additional funding opportunities that support efforts to prevent crime, improve approaches to working with victims of crime, and increase and enhance diversion and reentry options for people involved in the criminal justice system will be made on a rolling basis in the coming months.