Monday, August 27, 2012

Newark Community Solutions – Saving one life at a time

So far, I’ve tried to explain how Newark Community Solutions works in broad terms.  But how does that translate on the ground.  Do we actually help fix real people’s lives?

Here’s one story of how NCS can use a sentence to help change a person’s life: 

Sara Davis (I’m not using her real name) is a 48-year-old U.S. Army veteran, who served six years of active duty.  Like so many other vets, Sara found the transition to civilian life difficult.  Sara came to the attention of Newark Community Solutions when she was arrested and brought to court on a warrant – for $800 of unpaid fines that she had been sentenced to pay for an earlier drug conviction.   This time, with NCS in place, things were different.  Rather than one more fine that would inevitably lead, first, to nonpayment and, finally, more jail, the judge sentenced Sara to seven days with Newark Community Solutions.  Sara’s sentence included social service counseling, including a referral to the G.I. Go Fund for veteran specific services, as well as two days of community service with the Newark Downtown District – Newark's downtown business improvement district.   The judge also instructed Sara to write a letter to her teenage self.   
After her first day of community service, staff at the Downtown District called NCS to praise Sara’s work ethic.  After the second day, they encouraged Sara to apply for a job with them.  When Sara returned to court to read her letter to herself out loud, the judge, police, defendants and the audience listened with rapt attention as she also told the court about her job interview.  Ultimately, Sara was offered the position and has started her new job – and her new life.

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