Next STEPS Coalition Criticizes NYC Probation Department For Ending Youth Program

September 12, 2023


Today, the Next STEPS Coalition, consisting of non-profit community organizations, organized a rally to advocate for the continuation of the NextSTEPS program.

The event brought together non-profit leaders, community activists, youth, and elected officials to implore the Adams Administration not to halt vital resources crucial for helping young people transition into adulthood.

The NextSTEPS program is a linchpin in the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, offering personalized and group mentoring to young adults. It employs a curriculum rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy to guide these individuals in shifting their mindset and behavior away from criminal activity, leading them back toward education, employment, and community engagement.

The rally was prompted by the New York City Department of Probation’s recent communication to contracted nonprofits, informing them of contract terminations and giving them just five business days to cease all programming supporting young adults. NextSTEPS, short for “Striving Towards Engagement and Peaceful Solutions,” is a transformative mentoring initiative designed for youth aged 16 to 24 who have been exposed to serious violent activities, gangs, or domestic violence. Through mentoring provided by trusted Credible Messengers, supplemented by community-support services and a nine-month evidence-based interactive journaling curriculum, NextSTEPS strives to help young people identify alternatives to their past behaviors and embark on a path toward a more positive and successful future.

Coalition members, advocates, and elected officials shared their statements following the rally:

Peleya Patterson, Vice President of Youth Justice Programs at Good Shepherd Services, expressed deep disappointment in the proposed cuts to the NextSTEPS program. She emphasized the program’s unique ability to meet young adults where they are, providing invaluable community mentorship from individuals who have walked a similar path. Patterson highlighted the profound impact of the relationships forged through the program and their potential to offer hope and transformation.

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Council Member Carlina Rivera, Chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice, lamented the Department of Probation’s decision to terminate the NextSTEPS program, emphasizing the importance of community-based resources, job training, increased employment opportunities, and early intervention in protecting youth and communities. She urged the administration to maintain funding levels for contracts, underscoring the need for a refocused approach to public safety.

Jonathan McLean, President & CEO of CASES, which operated NextSTEPS at Tompkins Houses and Bushwick Houses in Brooklyn, emphasized the program’s transformative impact on young people, offering them intensive mentorship for growth and success. McLean called on Commissioner Holmes to reinstate funding for NextSTEPS immediately and collaborate with nonprofit partners to address the needs of young people citywide.

Jeremy Kohomban, President & CEO of the Children’s Village, highlighted NextSTEPS’ role in building trust among young people from marginalized communities, enabling them to confront the impact of violence on their lives and envision brighter futures. He criticized the abrupt termination of funding without considering the consequences for under-resourced neighborhoods.

Scott Short, CEO of RiseBoro Community Partnership, expressed disappointment at the failure to recognize the value of programs like NextSTEPS and their vital role in supporting participants. He emphasized the need for consistent funding to support a robust network of programs and services that improve the quality of life and safety for all New Yorkers.

Rev. Maurice Winley, Founder & President/CEO of Living Redemption Community Development Corporation, decried the lack of concern and judgment demonstrated by the Department of Probation in canceling the NextSTEPS program with minimal notice. He called for accountability and the reinstatement of NextSTEPS.

Archana Jayaram, President and CEO of Osborne Association, stressed the evidence-based power of mentoring from credible messengers, which has the potential to reduce re-arrests, increase program engagement, and benefit families and communities. She called on the Department of Probation to restore funding for NextSTEPS.

John M. Harrison, CEO of Community Mediation Services, emphasized the positive impact of NextSTEPS on the Queensbridge community, making it safer and improving outcomes for young people. He underscored the need to restore funding for the NextSTEPS initiative.

The NextSTEPS Coalition comprises community organizations and elected officials from across New York, including Good Shepherd Services, the Center for Community Alternatives, Community Connections for Youth, Living Redemption Community Development Corporation, Exodus: Transitional Community, Osborne Association, Rising Ground, Community Meditation Services, The Children’s Village, CASES, Center for Justice Innovation, and RiseBoro.

Good Shepherd Services: Good Shepherd Services is one of the largest nonprofit youth and family services providers in New York City, operating over 90 programs that support more than 30,000 residents across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Guided by principles of social and racial justice, Good Shepherd Services operates in communities facing significant challenges due to long-standing systemic barriers, offering resources that build on community strengths and expand access to opportunities for thriving.

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