CASES Launches newSTART to Divert Short-Stayers from Rikers Island

In fall 2017, CASES launched newSTART, a short-term intervention for adults facing misdemeanor charges in New York County Criminal Court. newSTART provides an alternative for judges when sentencing individuals who would otherwise face short jail sentences (typically 5-15 days) at the Rikers Island jail. These short jail stays disrupt people’s engagement in positive activities in the community while contributing to significant public expense.

“When a person faces jail time for a low-level crime, it’s not just about the lost time,” said CASES’ Arraignment Supervisor Nicole Zayas. “This is time away from their jobs, away from their families. When a person returns home, they usually find themselves in a more difficult position than when they left, often resulting in a return to the same behaviors that led to their arrest in the first place.”

As an alternative to short jail stays, newSTART provides a menu of one-, three-, and five-day mandates with specialized service tracks designed to address participant needs and reduce recidivism. These tracks include

  • risk and need screening and assessment to guide referrals to support and/or treatment services in the community
  • individual and group services including cognitive-behavioral interventions and engagement with peer staff
  • vocational and employment services including transitional employment placements
  • community service

“With newSTART, participants have the opportunity to remain in their communities, develop their own strengths, and connect with additional resources to get the help they may need,” Zayas says.

CASES partnered with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the District Attorney of New York to design newSTART, which builds on and expands Manhattan START, CASES’ previous alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) program in New York County Criminal Court. Like its predecessor, newSTART services are guided by evidence-based approaches including motivational interviewing and trauma-informed care. The program includes screening and in-court advocacy by a doctoral-level psychologist to help judges and court stakeholders understand the risks and appropriateness of diverting individuals to the newSTART alternative.

For more about newSTART, please visit the program page.