Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Corps Members help over 400 people resolve outstanding warrants in Project Safe Surrender

Last weekend, Juvenile Justice Corps members joined hundreds of volunteers from Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant and East New York area churches to bring a courthouse to the community in an initiative called "Project Safe Surrender". For two days, ADA's from the Kings County District Attorney's Office, Court Officers, Clerks, Legal Aid attorneys and Community Affairs Officers from the 73rd Precinct set up shop in the Mt. Sion Baptist Church on Ralph Avenue in Brooklyn. Safe Surrender was an opportunity for men and women with outstanding warrants to clear their warrants and resolve low-level cases with favorable consideration. Tens of thousands of people are currently warranted in Brooklyn, many for missing their court hearing for very minor violations such as walking their dog off-leash, littering or having an open container of alcohol in public view. However, these minor cases can become more serious when an individual is stopped by the police, arrested and taken into custody.

On both days, a line began to form outside the church starting at 7:00 AM. Men and women waited patiently in the pews of the Church while the Judge heard over 400 cases, dismissing most with ACD's which are wiped clean from the defendant's record if they  stay out of trouble for 6 months. Juvenile Justice Corps members performed street outreach before and during the event, spreading the word and reassuring skeptics that it was not a "got ya!" move for law enforcement. This was the third time a Safe Surrender has been held in Brooklyn and in all three, no arrests were made. Corps members also organized and tabled at a resource fair located next door to the Church which included local community based organizations with information on health care, housing, education, anti-gang violence, and jobs. And finally, Corps members conducted surveys with every defendant exiting the court. The interview included basic demographic information as well as how the individual found out about Safe Surrender. It asked the nature of the charge, how long the individual had been warranted and what had prevented them from clearing their warrant prior to Safe Surrender. The results will be shared with the DA's office and other Safe Surrender organizers to plan future Safe Surrenders.

Juvenile Justice Corps members Dianne Graham and Lee Serrano were featured in the New York Times coverage of Safe Surrender:

 Corps Member Annelly Chalas conducts a survey with a man who just had his warrant cleared.
Corps member Mattie Liskow conducts a survey.

Corps members man a table at the community resource fair and hand out applications for paid programming for youth such as the Brownsville Youth Court and Youth Justice Board.

Corps members do some last-minute outreach, handing out flyers throughout the neighborhood

Corps member Danny Conyers surveys a man leaving the court 
Men and women wait patiently to meet with a Legal Aid attorney before going before the Judge

A makeshift courtroom was set up in the back room of the Church

 Corps members direct men and women leaving the courtroom down the stairs to the Resource Fair