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Thursday, November 17, 2016

U.S. Attorney’s Office launches ‘Smart On Crime Initiative’

BUFFALO, N.Y.-Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. today officially launched the Western District of New York’s Smart on Crime Initiative.  At the direction of the Attorney General in early 2013, the Justice Department launched a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system in order to identify reforms that would ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly and—in an era of reduced budgets—more efficiently. Five goals were identified as a part of this review:

·To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities;
·To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate disparate impacts of the criminal justice system;
·To ensure just punishments for low-level, nonviolent convictions;
·To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism;
·To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations.
Acting U.S. Attorney Kennedy stated, “To the man who only has a hammer in the toolkit, every problem looks like a nail. To those of us who have spent our legal careers working as prosecutors in the criminal justice system, the hammer, i.e., prosecuting the defendant for the most serious readily provable offense so that the longest term of imprisonment possible may be achieved, remains, in many instances, the appropriate tool of choice. Yet, increasingly, many are coming to the realization that some of the recurring problems we see may be better addressed with tools other than—or in addition to—our hammer.”
In the Buffalo and Rochester areas, Smart on Crime funding is being dedicated to two specific job readiness programs designed to enhance employment opportunities for defendants returning to the community following completion of their prison sentences. Noting that “the inability to find meaningful employment constitutes one of the largest obstacles confronting those who are released from prison,” Kennedy directed that a portion of the Smart on Crime funds be used to provide 10 individuals—five in Buffalo and five Rochester—with training and certification in asbestos removal and remediation. In addition, another 30 individuals are receiving forklift training and certification. Once trained and certified, these individuals will be better positioned to enter the workforce.
Kennedy further stated, “These previously convicted felons are literally and figuratively being given the opportunity to clean-up and raise-up their lives and our community.  It’s a win-win in the sense that the individuals are benefitted by gaining skills which will afford them the opportunity to break the cycle of crime and establish themselves as productive members of society, while the community benefits by having a better trained workforce.” 
Smart on Crime funding is also being dedicated to Recycle-A-Bicycle, an educational program for at-risk youth at the Matt Urban Hope Centers in Buffalo. As part of the program, students receive a donated bicycle and strip it down part-by-part to the frame. With the help of instructors, students re-assemble the bike, making modifications as they see fit. Students then then learn rules of the road, road safety, riding etiquette, hand signals, and how to plan to travel from place to place on two wheels via bike paths and bicycle infrastructure. Following completion of the course, students receive a set of lights, a lock, and helmet, and they get to keep the bicycle.
“This after-school program promotes the development of hands-on problem-solving skills and teaches kids the fundamental notion that they have the ability to fix things that are broken,” Kennedy said. “It also affords kids with an understanding of how to use tools, while promoting independence, mobility, and a healthy lifestyle.”
 The programs receiving Smart on Crime funds will be monitored by Jason Flores, the Smart on Crime Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo.