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Agencies participating in the John Jay-Vera Fellows Program
Participating agencies include the Vera Institute of Justice and its spinoff agencies. In all cases, the Fellow works with a mentor on projects determined by the participating agency together with the student. While all projects require significant commitment from the student, the opportunities differ depending on the agency. Agencies alternate year to year so not all agencies are available for placement in a given semester. Here are brief descriptions of each agency and the potential opportunities for the Vera Fellow:
Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES)
CASES seeks to increase the understanding and use of community sanctions that are fair, affordable, and consistent with public safety. Its programs seek to interrupt the cycle of arrest, incarceration, release, and recidivism, and to help court-involved individuals make positive choices about their futures. Opportunities may include: client visits, inclusion in meetings with case managers, judges and staff, tutoring, and joining staff in projects such as drug treatment programs and parole restoration.
Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)
CEO, an organization providing comprehensive employment services to ex-offenders, created the Learning Institute to design, implement and evaluate innovative pilot projects to improve the re-entry outcomes for formerly incarcerated participants. Opportunities may include: literature reviews on promising practices in the field of re-entry; project related meetings; recruiting and participating in interviews with CEO participants; analyzing quantitative and qualitative data; and assisting presentations.
Common Justice offers an alternative to the traditional court process for youth charged with felonies such as assault, robbery, and burglary. Project staff bring together people immediately affected by a crime to acknowledge the harm done, address the needs of the harmed party, and agree on sanctions other than incarceration to hold the responsible party accountable. The project, which is based in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, seeks to repair harm, break cycles of violence, and decrease the system’s heavy reliance on incarceration.
Esperanza is a multi-faceted organization dedicated to youth, families, and communities. In partnership with the NYC Department of Probation, and other agencies involved with the juvenile justice system, Esperanza offers comprehensive services to youth and their families during the four to six months that they are in the program, including an intensive treatment intervention providing therapeutic services in the home, as well as ongoing case and crisis management. Internship opportunities include one-on-one work with juveniles, structural reform efforts for juvenile case-processing, and conducting data analysis for outside government agencies or other community-based organizations.
The Guardianship Project
The Guardianship Project is located in downtown Brooklyn. We provide intensive case management services for people who have been adjudicated “incapacitated” by a court. Our mission is to provide guardianship through the least restrictive means, giving as much independence and self-determination to the individual as possible. The project is staffed with a variety of specialized professionals who are experts at navigating such systems as: Medicaid, health care, housing, and public benefits. We work closely with service providers and advocacy organizations to connect people to appropriate services in their communities. There are several projects for interns, which will involve visiting clients in the community, keeping records of services rendered, obtaining benefits for clients, and assisting with client moves back into the community. Travel throughout Brooklyn will be required.
Housing and Services, Inc. (HSI)
HSI provides permanent, supportive housing and services to 535 formerly homeless individuals and families each day. HSI also works to preserve affordable housing, and their efforts have led to the successful preservation of 1,865 affordable homes in the Bronx. HSI’s programs serve low-income seniors, low-to-middle income minority families, youth aging out of foster care, and those with HIV /AIDS, mental illness, and substance abuse issues.
Job Path helps people with developmental disabilities, including mental retardation, autism, and cerebral palsy, move into the mainstream workforce and lead more independent lives. Opportunities may include: helping individuals and their families apply for government services; researching community resources for psychological, housing, recreational, medical and other services, advocating with government and community agencies on behalf of people supported by Job Path, and preparing written materials for people with disabilities and their family members.
Legal Action Center (LAC)
The LAC leads a coalition that advocates on behalf of criminal justice policy issues regarding re-entry, alternatives to incarceration, treatment and other related legislation. LAC organizes meetings on key public policy issues, drafts position papers, issues action alerts, and works with legislators and policy makers to advocate for the coalition’s recommendations .Opportunities may include: participating in strategy discussions; research and writing; and participation in coalition meetings in New York City and, perhaps, Albany.
Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDSH)
Located in the heart of the community it serves, NDS creates new techniques in the provision of criminal defense legal services. NDS offers a range of services including defense teams that combine the skills of attorneys, social service providers, investigators and paralegals, bilingual legal defense teams, community education workshops, youth leadership programs and more recent initiatives such as the Fatherhood Program. Opportunities may include: assisting the restructuring of community outreach efforts; planning a retreat for staff; and designing next strategic planning process.
New York City Criminal Justice Agency (NYCJA)
NYCJA is a non-profit pretrial agency serving the city’s criminal courts. It interviews virtually all people arrested and held for arraignment, presents reports to assist judges in deciding bail, provides appearance notification, and maintains a database on all arrest cases. NYCJA also does a great deal of research on issues related to its own operations and on operational and policy concerns to the city. Opportunities may include working on a specific project in one of three main departments: Operations (interviews, reports), Research (criminal justice policy issues) and Systems (the database). Ability to speak Spanish is a plus.
Project Renewal’s Parole Support and Treatment Project (PSTP)
PSTP is a collaboration among the New York State Division of Parole, the New York State Office of Mental Health. Project Renewal seeks to help difficult-to-serve mentally ill, chemically abusing men and women released from New York State prisons reconnect to the community through transitional housing and wrap-around services. PSTP is particularly interested in identifying gaps between clients’ perceived needs and the services it offers. Opportunities may include: conducting interviews; participation in weekly orientation group meetings; and compiling and summarizing information shared in interviews. Students considering this project should have a strong interest in re-entry and the specific challenges faced by mental health consumers making the transition from highly structured prison settings into the community.
Safe Horizon provides support for victims of crime and abuse and plays a key victim assistance role in the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts (IDVC). Case managers provide services to survivors of domestic violence, including crisis intervention, safety assessment and risk management, and legal information and advice. Opportunities may include: meeting with senior managers and case managers; meeting with clients who have cases pending in IDVC; observing court processes and identifying and reporting on gaps in services.
Urban Resource Institute-Legal Education and Advocacy Program (LEAP)
The Domestic Violence Legal Education and Advocacy Program (LEAP) is a project of the Urban Resource Institute (URI). Although URI is not a Vera spinoff, it is a sister organization to the Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation (ARTC), which is. Both URI and ARTC are run by the same executive leadership team. URI is one of the largest minority operated non-profits providing a broad range of services to domestic violence victims in shelter. Opportunities at LEAP include working with legal counsel specializing in the needs of immigrant domestic violence victims. Ability to speak Spanish is a plus.
Vera Institute of Justice
The nonprofit Vera Institute of Justice combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety. Its activities range from criminal and juvenile justice to immigration and violence prevention. Many Vera demonstration projects spin off to become independent nonprofit organizations, and Vera “spin-offs” constitute the core agencies participating in the Vera-John Jay Fellowship Program. Vera has plans to increase the number of public events its sponsors and to broaden the dissemination of these events via audio and video recordings. Opportunities may include: researching potential speakers and event topics in criminal and juvenile justice; assisting in the development of a schedule of events; developing a database of media contacts and assisting in post-production of audio and video content.
Wildcat Service Corporation
Wildcat has merged with Fedcap to provide workforce development services to customers with criminal justice involvement; services range from job readiness preparation and skills training to job placement and career coaching. A new service program in the area of post incarceration rights will offer the Fellow the opportunity to become an expert in the rights of ex-offenders and to support customers by facilitating their use of legal and administrative remedies to improve their opportunities for successful lives post incarceration.
Professor Caroline Reitz, Program Advisor
The College thanks the Charina Endowment Fund, Herb and Elizabeth Sturz, Jeffrey Gural, Arthur Mirante and Frederick Schwarz, Jr., for their generous support of the John Jay-Vera Fellows Program.