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A Project Reset instructor discussing an artwork at the Brooklyn Museum Jonathan Dorado/Brooklyn Museum

A new programme called Project Reset is allowing perpetrators of minor nonviolent offenses to avoid having to appear in court by taking a two-hour art class at the Brooklyn Museum instead. Offenses that are eligible include fare evasion, shoplifting, graffiti, possession of drug paraphernalia and other misdemeanors listed here. The project was conceived by the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, and is coordinated with Brooklyn Justice Initiatives, a programme of the nonprofit Center for Court Innovation.

“Its about holding people accountable, but doing it in ways that promote human dignity,” Gonzalez said at a press briefing. “It requires individuals to view and discuss a piece of art with people they dont know. Theyre asked to create their own art, to think and find meaning in that art, to think what abstract concepts of justice, accountability and harm look like.”

Gonzalez says that current methods of handling low-level offenders “are not very meaningful interventions. They dont provide folks with any tools to actually reflect on the conduct that got them arrested in the first place, and they dont give them any tools to prevent them from avoiding those mistakes. Project Reset is different. The goal is to transform low-level arrests into meaningful opportunities for justice-involved individuals to improve their lives and avoid future arrests and entanglement with our justice system.”

Two courses created specifically for Project Reset are being offered at the Brooklyn Museum—one for participants up to age 25 and another for those 26 and up. Each course is two hours long and will involve viewing, analysing and discussing a work of art from the museums collection in a group setting. Each discussion will be led by a teaching artist who deals with themes of social justice in his or her own practice. Participants will then work independently to create their own works of art in response to the discussion.

“It is my hope that this project helps us to reimagine what criminal justice reform can look like, by emphasising the potential that art holds for igniting critical self-reflection, inspiration and creative expression, as opposed to a purely punitive approach,” says the museum's director of education, Adjoa Jones de Almeida. “Some of the responses from participants so far have been truly amazing to witness.”

“In one recent session I observed,” she adds, “participants who had previoRead More – Source