In August 2020, CASES hired Shauna Weinstein, PhD, as the inaugural Senior Director of its new Clinical & Community Alternatives (CCA) department. With data-driven alternatives to incarceration and detention (ATI/D) becoming a key part of efforts to make the legal system more just, Shauna’s experience providing assessment-focused services in jails brings an important perspective to CASES clients.
Prior to joining CASES, Shauna worked for three years in NYC Health + Hospital’s Correctional Health Services (CHS) at Rikers Island. As the Associate Director for Mental Health for Adolescent/Young Adult Assessment Services, she assessed and provided treatment to young people aged 16-21 to ensure they were connected with the appropriate mental health resources and effectively engaged in services. This included providing therapy and psychological testing services as well as leading a screening team that met with every young person at Rikers who was not initially flagged for mental health needs. This screening was especially important due to that jail’s notorious conditions
“Everyone on the Island has experienced trauma,” Shauna said. “I don’t think you can overstate how important alternatives are. Jail is a very, very difficult environment for everyone there. Traumatizing is too light a word. Avoiding that jail experience could be life changing.”
As the new Senior Director of a department encompassing three ATIs—Manhattan Mental Health Court, newSTART, and Nathaniel Community Success—and the ATI Intake Assessment Unit, Shauna said she plans to ensure that individuals whose legal involvement stems from unmet behavioral and mental health needs have access to the evidence-based approaches proven to foster recovery and long-term success.
“What would be most important to me is that we engage people as early as we can in their legal involvement and do everything in our power to retain them. I want to develop our programs so we are giving people the wraparound services they need,” she said. “Part of the reason I’m particularly happy to be at CASES is because we have so many different programs and our teams are comprised of employees with so many different types of skills and credentials. I am very excited to be part of an agency that can be so comprehensive in helping clients.”
The diversity in CASES staff includes skill sets, race, and life experience. Shauna said she is committed to using her role to facilitate policies and ideas that promote cultural competency.
“My whiteness comes with a lot of privilege and I’m hoping to be held accountable by all the people in my division and the people in the agency,” she said. “I’m hoping to use that privileged position to be the best ally I can be.”
Elizabeth Ford, the Chief Medical Officer at CASES, worked with Shauna at CHS at Rikers Island. There, Elizabeth said, Shauna showed that she understands what people involved in the system need to succeed.
“Shauna designed and implemented an assessment service for all youth and young adults admitted to the jails that dramatically increased their access to a wide array of services both inside and upon their reentry to the community,” Elizabeth said. “She brings to CASES passion, clinical excellence, and extensive experience working with people impacted by criminal legal involvement.”