Incarceration takes both an emotional and physical toll on all New Yorkers. In addition to costing New York City taxpayers around $1.4 billion annually, incarceration disrupts families, employment, access to medication, and community ties. These disruptions disproportionately impacts individuals who are Black and Latine, who make up about 90% of those currently incarcerated in New York jails, even as incarceration continues to do little to improve community safety: nationwide, almost 70% of individuals released from incarceration are rearrested within three years, 40% within the first year of reentry. Individuals who have mental illness are also disproportionately impacted by chronic cycles of arrest and incarceration. These individuals, who account for nearly half of those currently detained at Rikers Island, are jailed more frequently and for longer periods than those facing similar charges, indicative of New York City’s continuing reliance on incarceration as a response to unmet mental health needs.
In the summer of 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with smaller, borough-based jails. This groundbreaking policy relies on community-based strategies focused on recovery, healing, and wellness—a new approach to justice that includes rapid access to individually-tailored, evidence-informed clinical services attentive to trauma and focused on strengths-based principles that build motivation and resilience.
CASES has offices in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan courts that facilitate a range of cost-effective alternative-to-detention (ATD) and alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) programs, including for youth and for people living with serious mental illness. Our team of assessment and intake specialists work with court-involved persons, collaborate with public defenders, and advocate to prosecutors and judges to secure the diversion of appropriate individuals to a CASES ATI tailored to clients’ needs and goals, including avoiding recidivism.
The ATI advocacy process is led by CASES ATI Intake Unit, a team featuring psychologists and licensed clinicians who provide rapid, person-centered screening and assessment for court-involved persons potentially appropriate for a community-based jail or prison alternative. Our ATI Intake Unit screens for ATI eligibility while also more comprehensively assessing an individuals strengths, needs, challenges, and goals. This assessment process—for most of the below programs utilizing the evidence-based Short-Term Assessment of Risk & Treatability (START) or START-Adolescent Version (START-AV)—guides robust treatment and success planning for program clients as they transition from court to community. CASES ATI programs include:
- newSTART: Provides a 1-, 3-, or 5-day ATI for individuals facing short-term jail sentences—usually 30 days or less—many of whom have a history of low-level criminal legal system involvement. Beginning directly in the courthouse, the newSTART ATI features a rapid intake and assessment process that identifies a client’s needs and connects them with community-based mental health, substance use, employment, housing, and/or other services that facilitate self-sufficiency and can help them avoid further involvement with the legal system. See the newSTART page for more information.
- Nathaniel Community Success (NCS): NCS is an innovative ATD and ATI program for people 16 and over who have mental health needs. The program emphasizes intensive initial services that gradually taper to encourage client skill building, independence, and linkages to ongoing services in the community, as As appropriate, NCS services are closely coordinated with treatment at CASES State-licensed Nathaniel Clinic in Central Harlem, which includes onsite mental health, substance use, primary care, case management, peer, and family services along with crisis intervention as needed. NCS features mobile, in-community outreach to clients to ensure their ongoing engagement in services and progress toward personal and program goals. See the NCS page for more information.
- Nathaniel ACT (NACT): NACT is an award-winning ATI providing intensive, mobile treatment for individuals living with serious mental illness (SMI) facing incarceration for felony charges. The program implements the evidence-based, State-licensed Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model encompassing psychiatric, nursing, clinical, housing, family, employment, and peer support. See the NACT page for more information.
- Manhattan Mental Health Court (MMHC): MMHC is a specialized ATI operating in the Manhattan Mental Health Court that engages individuals age 16 and older with SMI in ATI services. CASES MMHC staff conduct comprehensive assessments, make treatment recommendations, coordinate appropriate treatment, provide ongoing case management and support in the community, and provide continuous updates to the Court. See the MMHC page for more information.
- Reframing Opportunity, Alternatives & Resilience (ROAR): Building on decades of experience providing alternative sentencing options for youth and young adults in New York City courts, Reframing Opportunity, Alternatives & Resilience (ROAR) provides individualized and developmentally-appropriate support to young people (age 16-27) who would otherwise face jail or prison sentences as the result of a felony or misdemeanor charge. ROAR operates in courtrooms and at CASES’ offices in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, with program staff working as a team to deliver coordinated services addressing each young person’s unique needs and goals, including related to mental health, substance use, education, employment, and family. See the ROAR page for more information.