WHAT IS ATLAS?
Atlas works to reduce cycles of violence and justice system involvement in New York City through community-based therapeutic and healing services.
Launched in the middle of 2020, Atlas is the newest community-based violence prevention initiative of the Office of Neighborhood Safety. The program fills an early intervention gap by directing evidence-based therapeutic services to the small population of people most at-risk for engaging in or experiencing violence. We know access to high-quality therapeutic services can be challenging at the best of times, and that often programming is only made available as part of a court mandate. Atlas makes free, transformative public health models available for people facing the crisis of a recent arrest or court case on a completely voluntary basis and offered through trusted community-based partners.
Atlas aims to reduce community and interpersonal violence by engaging people in a positive, transformative process that nurtures hope and strengthens relationships. The program meets people at times of crisis—such as an interpersonal or family conflict, a recent arrest, or a recent court case—and connects them to free community-based therapeutic programming. These approaches are evidence-informed, meaning they have strong evidence of effectiveness in promoting personal change and preventing future involvement in violence or incarceration. The approaches are culturally competent, trauma-informed, and deeply respectful of the strength, wisdom, and personal agency that resides in people.
Most people come to Atlas after a recent arrest as a support mechanism to help them remain safely in the community while managing the challenges of an open court case. Referrals can come from anywhere, including defense attorneys, the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA), NYPD Youth Coordination Officers, and other community-based non-profits. Atlas services are always free to participants and are accessible through community-based organizations that prioritize the cultural and holistic well-being of people who have had negative experiences with interpersonal violence and punitive systems. As a community-based response to public safety and well-being, Atlas services are not connected to the court process and people remain eligible even after their case has been resolved.
Atlas seeks to enhance peace and prevent violence in New York City through investments in families, community-based organizations, and in systems meant to maintain accountability and public safety. We recognize the impact “systems” have on the lives of marginalized persons; keeping them in a cycle that impacts their freedom, self-efficacy, and dignity. Atlas is an investment in the agency and self-reliance of people involved in the justice system and in the community partners that serve them.
Atlas offers approaches that create space for mentorship and holding discussions that facilitate personal transformation. What this looks like in practice is a therapeutic approach that validates people’s experiences and concerns, spurs reflection on their own behaviors and narrative, and cultivates an understanding of the social and historical context of their lives. Family-based models within Atlas have a special focus on building on the strengths and care that resides within our closest relationships, which can serve as a stable foundation for people’s long-term success.
Growing Capacity of Community Partners. Since we know that strong and well-resourced community-based partners are part of the fabric of safe and thriving communities, Atlas invests in the capacity and sustainability of community and grassroot organizations. Managed by United Way of New York City (UWNYC), Atlas offers tailored support for participating CBO partners in areas such as: Organizational Structure & Development, Fundraising, Hiring/Onboarding, Financial Structures (Budgeting, Fiscal Management), and more as needed. The Atlas Innovation Fund is a vehicle to invest in promising and localized strategies for community empowerment and violence prevention.
Transforming Government. Atlas is part of a transformation in how the government historically has approached violence prevention, from a model based on enforcement and coercion to one of investment and agency. Atlas partners commit to avoiding harm and ensuring that we approach people with transparency about racial trauma, economic disparities, the impact of poverty on experiences and behaviors, and social justice as factors that contribute to their true and perceived success