“We’ve been doing community service for years,” Justice Ferdinand said. “Where other courts do it as punishment, we do it as a sense of restorative justice, giving back to the community. I tell people, ‘It’s not a punishment that I’m making you do, it’s a privilege.’” This year, the BTC is releasing some of the essays written by those drug offenders who have completed a ‘Giving Back to the Community’ service project. See a sampling of the essays below.
“At first it felt kind of funny with me doing things for other people when I was so used to doing things to other people,” wrote Larry P in his essay. “It gave me an epiphany. The thought was that life is all mathematics. Positive plus positive equals positive. Negative plus negative equals negative and if you mix a positive with negative you get the one that out weighs the other. So I’m going to work on sticking with the positive.”
One essay, by Dwayne L., begins, “I think back on the occasion of doing the community service at the soup kitchen where I had the opportunity to bag and serve food to the homeless. I compare that to all those times when I would have bagged and served poison to the detriment of the community.”
Many of the essays share a common theme. Brooklynites in this program find the pleasure of the good that they’re doing for others come back to them twofold, with new feelings of positivity and self-worth.
“Volunteering at the nursing home made me realize that life is too short to be wasting it,” wrote Lynn K. “After all the stories that I heard that day about how and what they did with their lives I was amazed. But then I realized how I wasted twenty-five years of my life by doing the drugs that I did.”
Brooklyn Treatment Court is often noted as a unique section of Kings County Supreme Court Criminal Term. At least six hours of community service is required for graduation from the program.
“The goal was to have them give back to the community they harmed,” Judge Ferdinand said. “Some people went to do this community service and really soaked up exactly what you would hope.”