Brooklyn, NY – Suspects facing low-level criminal charges in Brooklyn can avoid having to go to court altogether by simply taking an art class.
“It definitely helped me avoid the anxiety of having to attend an actual court date for a mistake I made,” said alleged shoplifter Jessy Singh, according to WCBS.
"It helped to make me feel human in a system that often criminalizes people for, like, the smallest of things, bad choices, wrong place wrong time," he added.
“Project Reset,” a diversion program created through a partnership between the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, is available to suspects who have been charged with certain misdemeanors, including petit larceny, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and shoplifting, as well as about a dozen others, WCBS reported.
Once offenders have completed the two-hour course, the district attorney’s office declines to prosecute the charges against them.
The program was was created by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
“Art has the ability to transform people’s lives and provide new perspectives and beliefs,” Gonzalez said, according to WCBS. “It’s about holding people accountable, but doing it in ways that promote human dignity.”
The classes are led by artists whose own work focuses on prison reform and various social justice themes, WABC reported.
Suspects analyze and discuss a piece of the museum’s art as a group, then head off to create an art project related to their discussion.
“It requires individuals to view and discuss a piece of art with people they don’t know” Gonzalez said, according to WCBS. “They’re asked to create their own art, to think and find meaning in that art.”
Project Reset was initially launched in Brooklyn North precincts on May 20, and has since expanded to the entire borough, WABC reported.
Between 200 and 500 people have completed the program during that time, according to various news outlets.