Growing confidence. A new brotherhood. Different paths within sight. These are just a few of the gains that a group of young men made as part of Osborne’s first Alternative to Incarceration program for young adults.
The Bronx Osborne Gun Accountability and Prevention (BOGAP) program, a partnership developed over several years with Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, gives young people facing a first-time gun possession charge the chance to commit to an intensive, yearlong program. It combines behavioral and trauma therapy, mentoring and nonviolent conflict resolution training from credible messengers, career training, paid internship opportunities, and job placement. In exchange, participants’ felony charges are reduced to misdemeanors and the possibility of years being lost to the prison system is avoided.
Amid a raging gun crisis, this novel approach goes beyond traditional alternatives to incarceration by addressing the conditions that can lead a young person to carry a gun and promoting individual behavior change and public safety simultaneously.
Earlier this month, our first graduates stood in court before Judge Judith Lieb, who had counseled them all year and celebrated their achievements one by one. She hailed the change from “the old way” – state prison – to a new one that encourages productive living and achieves community well-being. [Watch an inspiring video here.]
“All of us had been through the same things,” participant Maximo Federo (pictured below left) said recently, and the program and its staff “helped us realize what we want to do in our communities.” He and the eight other graduates are flourishing, several as new parents and many in new careers. Rahleek Partlow (below right) works at a teen tech center teaching music production and design. For his part, Maximo is an administrative assistant who is applying what he has learned in his daily life and envisions working as a credible messenger himself. He entered the program with low expectations, but emerged on the other side with what he sees as a new family.
A second group of participants is scheduled to graduate next month. When they do, this promising model for the Bronx and beyond will continue to build momentum and shrink the carceral system – one young life at a time.