At a press conference touting the city's low incarceration rates, Mayor Michael Bloomberg took some time to dole out advice to a young man who has been benefiting from one of the city's alternatives to incarceration programs.
The press conference was intended to announce that New York City has been bucking a national trend:Over the course of his 12 years in office, Bloomberg said, incarceration rates dropped by 36 percent, while the national rate increased by three percent.
Bloomberg noted this drop in incarceration rates has largely affected young arrestees and has occurred alongside a decrease in crime, indicating that "there is a connection between locking up fewer young people and cutting crime."
The programs Bloomberg spoke of focus not only on alternatives to incarceration, but also successful re-entry after being released from prison, and even programs to assist inmates while they are incarcerated.
He also spoke of a program geared at inmates with mental illness that is set to begin after his term is up, when Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has replaced him at City Hall.
He was joined by a young man who is currently enrolled in program for people out on probation, the Probation Department's Neighborhood Opportunity Network: Michael Smith, 24, said a year ago, when he was arrested, he "wasn't an honest kid."
Since he's been in this program, he said, he's changed. He hasn't yet finished his GED but he has a steady job working in demolition.
"I just want to do better, take care of my family," he said.
Smith said "it's not that hard" to benefit from these programs.
"It's a little frustrating when you don't got a lot, but if you keep trying you'll get what you're looking for," he said.
Bloomberg praised Smith for his determination, saying, "People can give you a hand, they can help you up, but in the end, it's up to you."
"I hope it's a good year for you," he said. "There'll be times that it's tough and you think that everything's going against you and that's the time you just have to grit your teeth."
At recent public appearances, the mayor has made reference to his responsibility to protect his team when they've been under attack and to stand by initiatives and ideas in the face of criticism and naysaying. He has also suggested people perhaps have a tendency to forget, or overlook, or not realize that people in government do really do the best they can to do what they really believe is the right thing to do —revealing, to perhaps a more poignant degree than he previously has, what it has been like to spend everyday being told in exacting percentages, in raised voices on the steps of your office, and in every newspaper in town just how many and how much people dislike you.
"There are days when we think nobody likes us, nothing's going right," the mayor said. "My advice is: the days when it's bad, just get it out of your mind. Don't focus on it, that's what I do."
After the press conference had concluded, and the mayor, Smith and the officials present were posing for photos, the mayor whispered to Smith at length. Smith nodded as the mayor seemed to repeat his encouragement, and smiled when the mayor advised when things get tough to just remember "tomorrow is going to be a better day."
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