“Many of the people I work with come to CASES and think we’re the police, or they think we’re part of the court,” Tataria Burns, a Case Coordinator in CASES’ Manhattan Supervised Release Program, explains. “So when they walk in, I make sure right away they know this is different.”
For Tataria, the difference is in making participants feel welcome and respected at CASES. This philosophy starts in the waiting area—if a participant comes in early or she’s running behind, Tataria meets them by reception, offers water or a snack, and lets them know when she’ll be ready to meet. Tataria has found that making sure clients are treated with dignity is a critical part of engagement and rehabilitation. “If you’re judging someone right away, you’re not really hearing their stories,” she says. “We have to believe in second chances and treat everyone as an individual.”
Tataria’s belief in second chances in part reflects her own experiences. When she was a child, her mother spent time in prison. While Tataria’s weekly visits with her mother were happy moments, she still remembers the feeling she had as a girl when those visits came to an end.
“When I’d hear those doors shut,” Tataria says before pausing. “I just wanted to get her out. Other kids thought I’d be ashamed of her. They’d say, ‘Your mom is in prison!’ But I always said, ‘I’m proud of my mom.’”
Tataria’s mother went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree and to a job at the New York City Human Resources Administration. Today, Tataria continues to draw inspiration from her family and is dedicated to supporting CASES participants as they pursue their own second chances.