The Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES) was formed in 1989 through the merger of two long-established programs operated by the Vera Institute of Justice: 1) the Court Employment Project, initiated in 1967 to provide meaningful alternatives for judges when sentencing youth and young people facing felony convictions in New York City, and 2) the Community Service Sentencing Project, initiated in 1979 as one of the first programs in the nation to use community service as a sanction for low-level crime. Since the establishment of CASES more than 25 years ago, the organization has evolved from a focus on providing alternatives to incarceration at the point of sentencing to offering interventions across the spectrum of potential involvement in the criminal justice system.
As indicated in this continuum, CASES now includes services to prevent:
- arrest among young people who are gang affiliated, residents of communities with high youth arrest rates, or otherwise at high-risk for involvement with the police/criminal justice system;
- attainment of a criminal record among youth who have been arrested and are at the adjustment phase in Family Court, when a decision has not yet been made to file charges;
- detention for youth and adults awaiting trial for misdemeanor or felony charges, including among people with indications of mental illness and/or who cannot afford bail;
- incarceration for youth and adults facing felony convictions but who can be safely supervised in the community through engagement in support and/or treatment services;
- recidivism among youth and adults returning from jail or prison to the community.
Over the past 15 years, as the reach of our programs has expanded, CASES has developed specific expertise in serving justice-involved people who have behavioral health needs including serious mental illness. CASES now operates six mental health treatment programs licensed by the NYS Office of Mental Health, including
- Nathaniel Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), an award-winning alternative-to-incarceration program for adults with serious mental illness and facing felony convictions
- Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT), serving adults with serious mental illness and current or recent involvement in the criminal justice system—CASES operates three of these programs, two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn
- The Nathaniel Clinic, an Article 31 outpatient mental health clinic in Central Harlem providing evidence-based mental health treatment integrated with onsite services for substance abuse and primary health conditions and support for addressing legal barriers resulting from criminal justice involvement (e.g., for obtaining public benefits, maintaining housing, securing employment, etc.).
This year, CASES will provide more than 20 programs serving nearly 6,000 youth and adults across New York City. Our programs operate from main offices in Central Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn and include services at satellite locations in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Coney Island, Jamaica, and the South Bronx. We also have staff based at courthouses in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens who identify and advocate for individuals who can be better served through a community-based alternative to incarceration as opposed to a jail or prison sentence.