Using Art Instead of Prosecution for Low-Level Crimes

New York City has announced the expansion of a Project Reset, a diversion program launched as a pilot for 16- and 17-year-olds in Manhattan in 2015. Now Project Reset offers diversion programs (programs that offer an alternative to the traditional justice system) to people of any age at all precincts in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

Individuals arrested for low-level crimes can complete community-based programming instead of being handed jail time. Many of these programs use art and art-making to explore justice, accountability, and community. 

Artists Shaun Leonardo and Derek Fordjour were the first teaching artists to work with Project Reset back in 2017 and the principles they laid out are still at the core of the curricula across the program. “What art can do in this conversation with the justice system is see where a person might be restored,” Leonardo told CityLab. “When someone has an experience, in this case an arrest, that story is running them. Making art is a way of slowing down, seeing what’s at the heart of the story. Because quite often what’s missing in the telling of that story is how that person feels. So it’s a process of humanizing our narratives.”

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Published: October 16, 2019