BY QUEENS DISTRICT ATTORNEY RICHARD A. BROWN
When young offenders enter the criminal justice system for the first time charged with nonviolent crimes, we have a golden opportunity to impact their lives in a positive way by offering the treatment, services, guidance and support that they need to get back on track. The Queens District Attorney’s Office seizes this opportunity with a variety of life-changing programs. Here are just a few:
In partnership with the Queens Borough Public Library, our Youth Enrichment Program offers 16 to 19 year olds who have committed a first time non-violent misdemeanor offense a chance to participate in a 12-week program of training in computer and job skills, complemented by motivational guest speakers.
Young non-violent felony offenders whose criminal conduct is related to alcohol or substance abuse or untreated mental health issues may be eligible for the Queens Treatment Court where they can receive outpatient or residential treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Successful participants receive a favorable disposition of their cases, which may include dismissal or reduction of charges.
The Queens Court Academy is an innovative collaborative effort between the District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Dept. of Education to help 17 to 21 year old offenders who are not attending or having difficulty in school get their HSE. Since September 2011, a Dept. of Education Restart alternative school has been operating in Borough Hall offering educational instruction, as well as a host of support services, including tutoring, counseling, Metro Cards, breakfast and lunch. Since its inception, close to 70 students have enrolled and several of our graduates now attend college or trade school.
Of course, the ideal situation is never to have young people enter the criminal justice system at all. So our office is deeply involved in ongoing prevention programs, including a Boy Scouts Legal Explorers Post, coaching high school mock trial and moot court programs, hosting a monthly Student AdvisoryCouncil, operating a Summer Youth Employment Program and funding Operation Summer Fun in the 101st and 113th Precincts in coordination with the Police Athletic League and maintaining our Far Rockaway Star Track school anti-violence program.