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Probation Dept. brings families into new center

City Councilman Ruben Wills (c.) helps city Department of Probation employees and community members cut the ribbon on the Neighborhood Opportunity Network's new Jamaica center in July. Probation is planning on opening satellite offices in Long Island City and Far Rockaway.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A revamped probation program the city introduced in Jamaica over the summer is expected to branch out to Long Island City and Far Rockaway soon.

In July, officials cut the ribbon on the Neighborhood Opportunity Network center — NeON, as it is called — located in the city Department of Probation’s office, at 162-24 Jamaica Ave. The center, the third to be opened in the city, is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative: a public/private partnership developed to enhance opportunities for young black and Hispanic men, a large component of which was an overhaul of the city’s probation programs.

“Adult probation has decided to no longer just work with the probationer,” NeON supervisor Cristle Bonner-Griffin told Jamaica’s Community Board 12 last week. “We are now working with the families because now we’ve come to realize we can change the probationer and if the family is still existing in their own way, our probationer is just going to fall back into the same family thing.”

Working with partners that provide services such as health care and GED training, the program can provide the same services to family members that are available to probationers.

“If my officers go out to a home, they meet a husband and a wife, if the husband is on probation and his wife doesn’t have a high school diploma — she’s in need of services — we have the ability now to pull her in and give her services,” Bonner-Griffin explained, “and that’s something we weren’t able to do.”

She said because of an increase in demand, Probation plans to open two NeON satellite offices in the borough next month, which will also serve as resource hubs for non-probationers who want to take advantage of resources such as computer access and résumé assistance.

One of NeON’s partners, Jamaica’s Community Mediation Services, provides educational support not only to Probation referrals, but to those with any level of court involvement.

The nonprofit, on 163rd Street, has high school, GED and post-secondary tracks available to 16- to 24-year-olds.

The yearlong program consists of six months of case management and workshops, followed by another six months of monthly check-ins.

“Beyond that 12-month period, if they still want assistance, we’re there to help them,” CMS Program Director Julie DeFina said.

The program offers a daily stipend of $25 to those who attend school.

The Rev. Michael Corley told the community board he has already seen “tremendous” results from the six-month mentoring program the Gethsemane Baptist Church in Hollis started back in July.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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