Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's That Time of Year Again!

This past weekend Newark Community Solutions held its Fifth Annual Holiday Gift Drive "Wrap Party." This year our drive supported the Angel Tree Network, a program that facilitates holiday season gift donations to children with at least one incarcerated parent, as well as families in the Newark YMCA Emergency Residence program. Over 150 gifts were donated by Newark City employees as well as local organizations including the GI Go Fund, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., and Sigma Phi Rho Fraternity Inc. Volunteers and staff mingled, snacked and wrapped all morning and in the afternoon Newark families began arriving to pick up the gifts.  Once again Newark Youth Court members invited all kids in attendance to their arts and crafts station where they decorated sugar cookies and made festive ornaments with beads, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners (no glitter this year ;-)

The YMCA also worked with local favorite Tops Diner who donated delicious desserts for our families and volunteers - best carrot cake EVER!

Thanks again to all our staff and volunteers who participated – it gets better every year!

Happy Holidays from our Newark Community Solutions Family

See you in 2016!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

From the desk of Colleen Smith
NCS Clinical Coordinator

When people ask me about my role at Newark Community Solutions, I tell them I am charged with helping people seek the resources they need to reach their goals- get a job, kick a drug habit, seek treatment for a deepening depression and, of course, stay out of jail.  So when my clients run into walls, I feel like I do too.  Last Friday, I felt like my clients and I faced a new wall at every turn.

Need shelter?  No beds.  Emergency assistance?  No proof of ID.  Mental health treatment?  No insurance.  By the end of the day, I was exhausted and left wondering about our impact on a population with so many challenges.

But later that evening, my phone rang.  It was a Newark police officer telling me he found a man “talking outside his head.”  The officer found Newark Community Solutions paperwork on the man so he gave me a call for more information.   I was able to give the officer a bit of background, an emergency contact number, and an address.  He brought our client to the hospital for further evaluation and was able to notify his family.   

This officer’s actions epitomize community policing.  Furthermore, he was able to use a court-based program to respond effectively and compassionately to a citizen in need.  After a day of hitting walls this officer reminded me that when we work together we can open a lot of doors.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Former Newark boxer doesn't pull punches with youths in court and in the ring

Great article about a member of our NCS family

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

from the desk of the Project Director:

President Obama in Newark

Newark was BUZZING with excitement on Monday, November 2nd as President Obama arrived to highlight the City’s contributions toward national criminal justice reform.  The President first met with staff and participants from New Jersey largest non-profit substance abuse treatment provider, Integrity House, as well as the Federal Reentry Court’s ReNew program where federal parolees are closely monitored but also supported by the court in obtaining housing, employment, education and other social supports.  Next on the agenda was a rousing speech at the Rutgers University Center for Law and Justice. The President introduced new federal grant funding for the reentry population and called on Congress to "ban the box" for federal job applications. He also praised Newark based initiatives that are making a real difference in the lives of ex-offenders stating, "You can't help but feel hopeful about the future."

But for me, perhaps the most exciting part of the President’s address was the fact that two of our Newark United Against Violence participants, Mr. Elijah Battle and Mr. Isa Poole, were invited to attend.  Elijah even got to shake the President’s hand! Selected because of their tremendous work and personal growth since joining NUAV, Isa and Elijah truly exemplify what individuals can achieve when given a second chance.

After the speech, Isa and Elijah joined CCI Director of New Jersey Programs, Jethro Antoine, and Chief Newark Municipal Court Judge, Hon. Victoria Pratt, for an evening roundtable discussion highlighting the efforts of My Brother’s Keeper Newark (MBKN) to reduce violence in the city and promote opportunities for young men of color. The event was led by William Simpson, Director, My Brother’s Keeper Newark and included Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Lata Reddy, President, Prudential Foundation; and Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, MBK Task Force Chair.

It was a momentous day for Newark and so invigorating to see a national spotlight on the great work being done in this city.

More information:

White House Fact Sheet on the President's speech

2014 Star Ledger Op-Ed by US Attorney Paul Fishman about the ReNew program.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer 2015 Highlights!

Good Luck Class of 2015!
The Newark Youth Court kicked off the summer on a bittersweet note by holding the annual graduation ceremony for 5 seniors, who are all currently in their first year of college! The ceremony and cookout was held at Newark Community Solutions’ anti-violence project, Newark United Against Violence (NUAV). The ceremony featured a keynote address by senior Naa Adei Kotey. The other graduating seniors (Zaire Brown, Kianna George, Bria Pitts, & Michael McGibbon) gave remarks and advice to younger members. Seniors received goody bags filled with school supplies donated by Newark Community Solutions and Newark Municipal Court staff members. The event also included a live DJ and dance party for the graduates!

Newark Municipal Court's Summer Enrichment Mock Trial with La Casa de Don Pedro
As part of our annual summer service project, our Youth Court members and interns prepared 2nd graders at La Casa de Don Pedro’s Summer Enrichment program for their own mock trial. Members used the New Jersey State Bar Foundation's mock trial guide to help them lead sessions with the students.
The "The Case of the Missing Puppy" mock trial event was hosted and sponsored by the Newark Municipal Court with Chief Judge Victoria Pratt presiding. For many of the students it was their first time in a real life courthouse! At the end of the event, participants asked Judge Pratt questions about her career and had the opportunity to try on her robe in the judge’s chair!

National Night Out and Mural
In 2014, our Youth Court members worked with Newark Community Solutions’ to create a theme and mural design for its adopt-a-lot garden in the West Ward. Youth Court members presented their anti-violence theme and design at NCS’s National Night Out event last year. The mural was then unveiled at NCS’s 2015 National Night Out. Youth Court members and respondents prepped the wall for local artist Gregg Banks, who brought the Youth Court’s vision to life!

9th Class Training & Induction
The Newark Youth Court also held its 9th training class this summer! A special thank you to our guest trainers: Laura Cohen, Esq. and Dr. Paul Boxer (Center for Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, Rutgers-Newark); Det. Sequoya Martin (Newark Police Department- Youth Aid Section); and France Casseus, Esq. and Herbert Washington, Esq. (Newark Municipal Court-Prosecutor’s Office).

An induction ceremony was held for the new members and included a keynote address from Dean Kenya Tyson of Rutgers-Newark School of Criminal Justice and remarks by Newark Municipal Council President Mildred Crump and Councilman at-Large Carlos Gonzalez. Chief Judge Victoria Pratt administered the oath and provided encouraging words. Welcome Class 9!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Newark Community Solutions in the News (Part 2)

Judge Victoria Pratt is a pioneer in procedural justice. She joins Melissa Harris-Perry to explain her progressive approach to working with defendants.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Newark Community Solutions in the News

Check out these two recent articles about how Newark Community Solutions is helping other communities and justice practitioners think about community justice.

The Guardian - The simple idea that could transform US criminal justice

New Jersey Jewish News - Israeli judge visits Newark courts

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Men of Color Summit

In his letter to Summit attendees, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka cited recent tragedies in Ferguson Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; and North Charleston, South Carolina and stated they have, “tested the resolve of our country and the average citizen’s faith in our law enforcement officers and the judicial system.”  “By collaborating with our community and education partners,” the Mayor continued, “we are taking proactive measures by having productive and educational workshops at this summit.”  Newark Community Solutions was proud to be part of this forward thinking approach to positive change.

Newark United Against Violence Program Coordinator, Cassandra Dock, as well as the Midtown Community Court Deputy Director, Jeff Hobbs, participated on a panel along with the Newark Office of Reentry Manager, Fred Murphy; Guazabara Insights CEO, Dennis Febo; and Hudson Partnership CMO Director, Stephen Campos.  The panel, moderated by the Director of the Office of Community Justice for the State of New Jersey, Wanda Moore, explored the difficulties of community reintegration for the Reentry population.  In front of an audience that included several NUAV participants, Cassandra and Jeff highlighted the unique hardships faced by fathers including co-parenting after incarceration, the challenges of child support, and methods to avoid the “generational curse.”  

CCI’s Director of New Jersey Programs, Jethro Antoine, also participated by moderating a panel titled “Public Safety & Reconnecting Our Youth” which included Newark Police Director, Eugene Venable.

The vibe of the summit was overwhelmingly positive with a message that change is possible through collaboration.  

Check out the links below for additional information about the Men of Color Summit and My Brother's Keeper-Newark as well as the Midtown Community Court.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Newark Youth Court Law Day Celebration 

On Saturday April 25th, in partnership with the Rutgers Newark School of Criminal Justice, Newark Youth Court celebrated Law Day with an truly inspiring event titled, "Our Community, Our Stories: Police & Youth Conversations." Youth Court members and other Newark high school students gathered with representatives of the Newark Police Department for a morning of shared ideas and spirited conversation.

Check out the Newark Youth Court Facebook page for more details and pictures.  Special thanks to CCI’s Associate Director of Youth Justice Programs, Linda Baird, for all of her help and support getting this event off the ground.

Operation Clean Up!

Newark United Against Violence staff, participants and community volunteers all came together to celebrate Earth Day this past Saturday 4/25 by cleaning up their neighborhood as part of Operation Clean Up!  The event, organized locally by Newark Science and Sustainability Inc. in collaboration with residents, local government, businesses and both faith-based and community-driven organizations, spread across Newark, East Orange, Irvington, and Orange to clean up communities that have been plagued by litter.  It was a beautiful day and when volunteers were not out working in the sunshine, they were invited into the NUAV office to take a break, get some water and snacks, and talk with staffers about upcoming NUAV events.  It was great to see people of all ages working together to keep their community clean!

Friday, April 24, 2015

NCS Community Service at The Ujimaa Garden

The spring planting season has begun and Newark’s community gardeners are wasting no time getting their land ready.  Newark Community Solutions has worked with more than a dozen community gardens over the past three years but the Ujimaa Garden, run by Ms. Nicole Singletary in Newark's Central Ward, was one of our first partner locations.  On April 23rd, under the direction of Community Service Site Supervisor Johnathan Mosley, NCS participants finishing off a cement sitting area and worked to uproot a temporary walkway in order to install a new stone path. 

Stay tuned for updates on this and other NCS community garden projects through the spring, summer and fall!

Monday, April 13, 2015

From the desk of Colleen Smith
NCS Clinical Coordinator

On Friday April 10th, I attended the Paving the Way to Healing and Recovery Conference hosted by the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. The event brought together over 200 individuals interested in bringing healing and justice to communities which have been affected by violence.  This included my incredible coworkers, Reentry Case Manager Latania Cobb and Outreach Worker Middy Brown, as well as one of our amazing Newark United Against Violence (NUAV) participants, Khalif Harris. Together they facilitated a break out session entitled Growing Up and Growing Out: Providing Meaningful Assistance to Young Men Who Have Been Affected by Violence. My only job was to get them there safely – which I did despite rush hour traffic and a very quick stop at the wrong location.

There is something electrifying about a good conference. Each panel offers new perspective, ideas, and energy. This event was no exception and our NUAV team did a remarkable job. Throughout the one hour panel the audience in attendance was nodding in agreement, laughing, and even crying. For his part, Khalif explained to those in attendance what made NUAV meaningful for him. He highlighted the accepting, familial atmosphere of the program and described the significance for him of painting the NUAV office as part of his transitional work program, and then returning to that same office for services. Latania and Middy then spoke about how their respective social work and outreach roles help to create the atmosphere Khalif described. The panel finished up with a message of hope, from Khalif who let the audience know that healing is possible.  As we were preparing to leave, I was approached by an audience member who said that I must be very proud of my team.  Proud YES and INSPIRED!

On behalf of that team I would like to extend a huge thank you to the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center for letting us share our story.  Here is a link to more conference info on the Mediation Center site.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An NCS Partner Doing Great Work - Part 2

Check out this awesome story about an truly amazing Newark woman who just happens to run one of Newark Community Solutions's first partner organizations, Bethel Counselling Services.  Bethel is both a community service and social service resource for NCS and I am always astounded by the overwhelmingly positive influence the program has on our participants.  Way to go Felicia!

Pint-sized Newark pastor has mighty presence

An NCS Partner Doing Great Work!

Congratulations to the GI GO Fund on their 7th Annual Newark Veterans Job Fair. The event, which took place on Monday, March 16th, aimed to provide jobs, college opportunities, and benefits to military personnel, veterans, and their families. NCS was proud to participate again this year as a social service provider.  The event had a great turnout and we were able to talk with several veterans about our services including helping to resolve open matters at the Newark Municipal Court through participation in our Veterans Initiative.  It was a terrific day and NCS was thrilled to be a part of such a positive events for our veterans.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Get America Covered - Part 2

On Thursday, February 12th NCS hosted its second healthcare enrollment day with Enroll America.  This time around, the event was held at the office of the NCS anti-violence initiative, Newark United Against Violence, and it was open to general public.  Despite the snow and ice, 21 people stopped by the office for assistance and 18 were signed up for health insurance on the spot. 

NCS Program Coordinator, Wynnie Victor-Hinds, also took some time to talk with Michele Lewis, the Essex County Organizer for Enroll America.  When asked to describe the goals of their organization, Ms. Lewis said what she really wants people to know is that it is an easy process.  She highlighted that individuals can get signed up in three ways:

1.      By visiting the website,  
Which, Ms. Lewis pointed out, has improved dramatically since the shaky initial roll out in October of 2013
2.      By phone, 1-800-218-2596
3.      At an in person enrollment event
Ms. Lewis stated this is often he preferred method as there is a person with you to help break down the options.  For example, Ms. Lewis indicated that individuals often do not realize that they are eligible for Medicaid so getting enrollment assistance from someone who is Medicaid certified can make a huge difference in that individual’s experience and outcome.

NCS thanks Enroll America for all their hard work and we look forward to collaborating with them again during the next open enrollment period.  I would also like to say a big THANK YOU to our zone officers who passed out event flyers to individuals and businesses in the neighborhood.  It was an awesome example of the Newark Police Department going the extra mile to look out for health and well-being of Newark citizens.  Great work all around!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

 Get America Covered 

The health insurance marketplace can be overwhelming to many individuals but getting coverage is critical –particularly for those with substance abuse issues, a mental health diagnosis or a chronic medical condition. On Friday January 30th NCS hosted a health insurance enrollment event at Newark City Hall with the non-profit program Enroll America.  Through their nonpartisan “Get America Covered” campaign, Enroll America aims to engage directly with citizens to raise awareness about new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.  Over the course of the day, 14 current and former NCS clients were seen, plus a friend of client who came down as well. In total 13 individuals were signed up for insurance on the spot and two with cases already pending were given instructions about what supporting documents were still needed, and told where to report to complete the enrollment process.  Despite a snowy start to the day, the event was a success and NCS looks forward to working with Enroll America again soon!  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Interesting article about the challenges individuals face when trying to get a bed at a detox or inpatient treatment facility as well as possible reforms on the horizon in New Jersey to expedite the process for those in need