Brooklyn DA expands pretrial drug treatment program to entire borough
A pilot program designed to keep people out of the prison system by treating their drug addiction is being expanded to the entire borough, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Tuesday.
Project CLEAR, or Collaborative Legal Engagement Assistance Response, is a program meant to keep people struggling with drug addiction out of the criminal justice system. It allows them, prior to arraignment, to participate in a drug treatment program. If successfully completed, the DA’s Office would decline to prosecute their case.
CLEAR started approximately eight months ago in areas with high overdose rates including Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Prospects-Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights and Sunset Park. It has been so successful that it was expanded to all of South Brooklyn and now, Gonzalez said, it has been expanded to the entire borough.
“As my Office implements a new approach to assisting those who are drug dependent, I am gratified that this opportunity is now available in all of Brooklyn,” Gonzalez said. “Project CLEAR has already helped scores of individuals who were arrested with small amounts of narcotics used to feed their habits; facilitated distribution of dozens of naloxone kits to prevent overdoses; and spared many from getting a criminal record.”
People eligible for the CLEAR program have been arrested on seventh degree misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance. The NYPD refers eligible cases to the DA’s Office who turns the case over to an independent assessor who is trained to assist those challenged by drug misuse. A naloxone kit and instructions for proper use are also provided.
If a person agrees to participate, their case is postponed by 30 days, and if they comply with recommendations within those 30 days the DA’s Office is notified and they formally decline to prosecute the arrest and their record is sealed.
“For the justice system to be truly fit-for-purpose, it must be able to help people who are experiencing different kinds of crises, including those related to drug dependencies,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Since the program launched in February, 100 people have opted into it. Out of those 100 people, 71 have had their cases dismissed. The remaining 29 are still enrolled. Of the people offered the program, 38 percent were arrested with opioids and 40 percent with crack/cocaine.
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