New York City is in the middle of a dramatic transition of its criminal justice system. In the past six years, we have significantly reduced arrest and incarceration rates while shifting toward support-oriented safety strategies. The number of people entering jail is down by more than half since the beginning of the administration. Judges release the majority of people arrested without any conditions (released on their own recognizance) to await the outcome of their cases at home.
Atlas is overseen by MOCJ’s Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) and is another component of a systematic shift over the past six years to reduce crime effectively by using less jail and more programming that can change behavior for the long-term. In addition, strengthening ties to community networks through local partners will help increase the program’s effectiveness. Atlas recognizes that some individuals released on their own recognizance could benefit from the additional voluntary, neighborhood based supports this program provides. These potential benefits have become even more urgent and evident during recent upheavals caused by a global pandemic and unrest over historic over-enforcement, particularly in communities of color.
A Strength-Based Approach: Atlas
Atlas invests in individuals and communities to increase safety and enhance networks central to community well-being. Atlas is not mandated by any court: it is a voluntary program that will help ensure individuals who are released on their own recognizance return to court. Atlas promotes well-being and overall public safety by investing in trusted grassroots, community-based organizations and place-based strategies in neighborhoods that have historically borne the brunt of violence and over-enforcement in our city.
Named for both the collection of maps and the mythic strongman who held the world on his shoulders, Atlas acknowledges the crucial role that neighborhood connections play in lifting up its members. Atlas seeks to address the risks and needs of individuals released on their own recognizance citywide who are at heightened risk of future victimization or justice system involvement. The program offers participants therapeutic services to address past trauma; mentorship, education and employment opportunities; and entry into supportive community networks.
The Atlas program has the following components:
1. Referrals: Referral partners identify both young people and adults with elevated risk factors for involvement in violence who could benefit from additional support.
2. Outreach & Interventions: Credible specialists provide outreach and tailored, voluntary, evidence-based supports and programming—such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Functional Family Therapy (FFT), intensive employment and job training (at scale in future years), and education supports—to the right people.
3. Community Capacity: The program provides dedicated support, technical assistance, peer-to-peer learning, and capacity building for community-based and grassroots organizations to ensure they can support Atlas effectively.
United Way of New York City (UWNYC) will act as a hub and serve as Atlas’s administrator, providing technical assistance and capacity-building to local CBOs charged with providing direct services. The United Way will also raise private funds to support innovative community-driven approaches to public safety. In this capacity, United Way will contribute its substantial expertise and strong ties to scores of NYC’s CBOs toward the administration of proven supports for individuals released from court, as well as technical assistance and capacity-building for the neighborhood-based organizations who will serve as the program’s direct service providers. UWNYC is one of New York City’s most venerable and trusted nonprofit organizations, with a unique position at the intersection of the private, public, and nonprofit worlds. UWNYC has the experience, network, and capacity to fulfill this significant mandate and we are thrilled to launch this partnership.
Functional Family Therapy LLC (FFT) is a therapeutic strengths-based family strategy built on a foundation of respect to uplift individuals, families and cultures. FFT utilizes a five phase model for recognizing and amplifying the intrinsic motivation within individuals and families to become more adaptive and prepared to live into their own definitions of success. FFT helps to strengthen family resilience while at the same time preventing crime and victimization in communities. The FFT model has received international recognition as a model evidence-based program for its outcomes in helping vulnerable youth and their families.
Additional partners will join and be posted over the upcoming months
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