Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is making good on his promise to launch a new program, offering those charged with misdemeanor drug offenses the option of treatment and counseling in lieu of a prison sentence. The initiative was announced at a press conference on Tuesday in conjunction with the NYPD and the City Council. Project CLEAR (Collaborative Legal Engagement Assistance Response) will assess individuals with drug abuse and refer them for appropriate services. If the individual chooses to comply with the rehabilitation recommendations made for them, the District Attorney’s office will decline to prosecute, waive the requirement to appear in court, and seal all associated arrest records from their file. As reported by VIN News, the idea was first hatched 20 months ago by Gonzalez when he was still the acting DA.
“Sick people don’t need to be punished and to learn a lesson in a cold prison, but rather they need to be nurtured back to health in a warm, loving and caring environment,” said Abe Klein, who has been a strong advocate for the program, after losing his own daughter to substance abuse. Klein acknowledges that unfortunately addiction had become a problem even in the Orthodox Jewish community. Gonzalez said that he hopes to make rehabilitation facilities that will be culturally sensitive and which will be respectful of religious needs.
Gonzalez estimates that the program can serve roughly 700 people this year (based on last year’s arrest numbers), and then many more when it is made available borough-wide. Project Clear was already launched last month in the six Brooklyn South precincts with the highest rates of overdoses. Those precincts include: Coney Island (60th Precinct), Sheepshead Bay (the 61st Precinct), Bensonhurst, Gravesend (62nd Precinct), Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge (68th Precinct ), Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights (71st Precinct ), and Sunset Park (72nd Precinct).
“Project CLEAR will give those arrested on misdemeanor drug charges a choice that will prevent them from having a criminal record and give them an opportunity to put the brakes on their risky behavior by providing them with a path to redemption and proper care,” said City Councilman Chaim Deutsch.
By: Ilana Siyance