2011-02-18 / Top Stories

Sanders Presents Probation Center Idea To CB14

Only Low Level Offenders To Be Involved
By Miriam Rosenberg


Councilman James Sanders Jr., seen in a photo from last year, last week presented Community Board 14 with a proposal that Far Rockaway become a host for an “opportunity center” – a new program from the Department of Probation to put satellite probation offices in the roughest neighborhoods in each borough of the city. Councilman James Sanders Jr., seen in a photo from last year, last week presented Community Board 14 with a proposal that Far Rockaway become a host for an “opportunity center” – a new program from the Department of Probation to put satellite probation offices in the roughest neighborhoods in each borough of the city. As a means of providing those fresh out of jail with an opportunity for a second chance, Councilman James Sanders Jr. outlined an idea to bring low level offenders to do community service in Rockaway when he spoke in front of Community Board 14 last week.

“We make mistakes in life all the time and everyone needs a second chance,” said Sanders in a press release when he first announced the idea in December.

On February 8 he told CB 14 a little about the new city program to open “opportunity centers” to serve those on probation.

“It would be low level criminals, people willing to do community service,” Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, said Sanders explained.

Sanders also told CB 14 that the program would be run out of his office with a maximum of five or six people being served. Gaska added that they would do things like graffiti clean-up and likened the soon to be started program to the Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing and Able project That organization employs formerly homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals, including those on parole, to keep various areas in the city clean, including the business districts in Far Rockaway and Beach 116 Street. Sanders’ office is located at 1526 Central Avenue in Far Rockaway. That building is also the home of Miss D’s Playgroup.

Gaska said the board has not made a decision on the issue.

“We need more information to make an informed decision,” said Gaska. “What it entails, who’s going to be involved….”

Sanders, who said that no violent, career criminals or any residential components are involved, promised he would report back to the board when he had more information.

According to a December 2, 2010 Daily News article posted on the Department of Probation’s website, the department would open five “satellite offices in the roughest neighborhoods [with the highest concentration of probationers], so they don’t have to waste a whole day to check in [with their probation officers].”

In return for being able to speed through the system by being closer to home and not having to travel to their borough’s courthouse, those who enter the program would provide their communities with help on cleanup and anti-crime projects.

Vincent Schiraldi, the commissioner for the Department of Probation, told the Daily News that he hopes 8,000 of the 27,000 of those on probation will take part in the voluntarily program once it begins.

“Before, they were just all these scary guys in North Face jackets standing on the street corner,” Schiraldi said. “Now they [will be] paying back a debt to society in an important way.”

Ryan Dodge, a spokesperson for the Department of Probation, told The Wave on Tuesday that they were “still in the planning process” and no locations had yet been decided upon.

“We’re looking at a few [places], but nothing is official yet,” said Dodge. He added that the department should be “rolling out the first [one or two centers] in the next month or two.”

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