Mayor shines light on program helping those in trouble with law

Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray speak with Osborne program participant Sean Gonzalez during their visit to center which helps individuals who have been “in conflict” with the law.
Photo by Edwin Soto

A Bronx program that helps people on probabtion get back on track has wound up in the mayoral spotlight.

New Mayor Bill de Blasio chose the Osborne Association on Westchester Avenue to announce that his wife, Chirlane McCray, will chair the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

Certain programs at the Osborne Association, which offers a wide range of support and services to people who have been in conflict with the law, are offered because of the Mayor’s Fund.

The reentry services offered include job readiness training, counseling, substance abuse treatment, and mentoring for those on probabtion.

“This is the kind of partnership, the kind of holistic work that changes peoples lives,” de Blasio said of the Osborne Association’s efforts.

The Mayor’s Fund’s Young Men’s Initiative, in partnership with the Department of Probation, offers two programs at Osborne locations in the Bronx for 18 to 24-year-olds involved in the criminal justice system.

The first program, called Justice Community, offers job readiness training alongside community service programs. Osborne Association Director Elizabeth Gaynes calls the program “restorative justice,” where the members give back to the communities they harm, and start to feel a stronger connection to it.

The second program, Arches, is a group mentoring program. Gaynes said the mentors are men who have come through the justice system and succeeded, because they are “credible messengers” who can get through to the young men in the program.

“It’s a very strong message of ‘I did this, and you can do this,’” Gaynes said.

Both Arches and Justice Community are offered at other locations throughout the city.

McCray praised the mission of the Osborne Association’s reentry programs.

“I refuse to give up on those who have fallen down and need help getting back on their feet. How many of us would want to be forever defined by our worst mistake?” she asked.

After the announcement, de Blasio said the fund intends to continue supporting the Young Men’s Initiative.

“I think that’s a fantastic project and we look forward to building upon it, so that’s something we absolutely intend to not only retain but build out further,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio also said he intends to make the outer boroughs a focus of his administration and the fund.

Gaynes said that while she didn’t feel ignored by the last mayor, she thinks the outer boroughs have unique challenges and that the Bronx could use a light shined on it.

Gaynes pointed out that the Bronx is the poorest borough, with the highest crime and highest incarceration rates.

“But,” she added, “we also have the most potential.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. Email her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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