Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Trip to Red Hook

I spent this afternoon at Red Hook. First I spent some time with the participants in Youth ECHO, our new youth program that is putting teen leaders to work crafting an anti-crime campaign for their peers -- under Elise's able direction, and with the pro bono assistance of some professional marketers. I was particularly impressed by their ideas for using new media, including ringtones and YouTube, to get their message across.

Next, I attended the first-ever graduation of the Red Hook attendance court. It was one of those feel-good events where you see first-hand our ability to bring together community residents, the justice system and assorted partners behind a common cause -- in this case, helping truant students learn to attend school. I'm not sure what the highlight was for me. It could have been when the keynote speaker, former judge Michael Corriero, explained to the participants in the program that a diploma would be their secret weapon/source of power like Peter Parker's spider bite. Or it could have been when the principal of PS 27 talked about how she'll say yes to any idea that the Red Hook Community Justice Center brings to her. Or it could have been the palpable connection between Brett and Leroy, who serve as the judicial hearing officers, and the kids in the program. I could go on, but you get the picture. But I suppose my lasting memory, sucker that I am for collective enterprise, will be the sense of teamwork and mutual appreciation between the folks in Red Hook and the Center for Courts and the Community crew. Thanks to James, Jackie, Dory, Susanna, Gene, Phil, Melissa, Kate and everyone else who helped make this evening a success.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Attendance Court on ABC

Here's a quick link to a nice story on our new attendance courts, featuring footage from both Harlem and Red Hook. The attendance courts are a good example of what the Center for Courts and the Community is all about. In this case, Susanna and Jackie and Dory took an idea that had been tested in Buffalo and successfully adapted it to NYC. If you want to get more of a sense of what attendance court is all about, Red Hook is hosting its first graduation on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Comings and Goings

One of the very few things that I don't love about my job is having to watch talented, likable people leave the Center. Today it is time to say goodbye to Crista from the development team and Katherine from QUEST. While both have been with us for a relatively short time, they each have impressed me with their smarts and their commitment to change. I'll miss them both. I hope you'll join me in wishing them well.

On the flip side, one of the real pleasures of having worked at the Center for as long as I have is that I get to watch staffers, particularly young staffers, grow and develop. I was thinking about that tonight as I attended the graduation ceremonies of this year's Youth Justice Board class at the Harlem Community Justice Center. It was a lovely event that included mini-speeches from each of the Youth Justice Board members, who spoke eloquently about their experience on the Board. But what really made an impression on me were the remarks by Dory, Linda and Matt each of whom was poised, charming, articulate, funny...I could go on and on, but you get the picture. It really is marvelous to work with such great people on such meaningful work.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Responding to Mental Illness

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference to announce the release of a set of recommendations from a combined City/State review panel that was created in the wake of recent police shootings of people with mental illness. The recommendations cover a broad range of topics. Of most immediate interest from our own narrow parochial perspective is the recommendation to expand mental health courts across the state. It is unclear how much political momentum (read: dollars) is behind this recommendation, but it is still a powerful endorsement of the problem-solving approach to cases involving mentally-ill defendants. The panel's report can be found here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Community Justice in San Francisco (And Other Links)

San Francisco Chronicle article endorsing the idea of a community justice center.

USA Today piece on the rise of community courts.

JK Rowling Harvard commencement address on failure.

The latest on the fight to create a community court in San Francisco.

Obama vs. McCain on crime.

Community justice in Scotland.

Grants, Grants, Grants

The bulk of my time this week has been spent on grant proposals. The Bureau of Justice Assistance has released a far-ranging request-for-proposals and we are busy formulating new ideas in response. These include investigating the collateral consquences of drug courts, exploring the possibility of creating a consolidated resource center that would share clinical resources among different types problem-solving courts, dreaming up new ways to expand the capacity of drug courts, convening a roundtable on reentry court in concert with John Jay College, holding a major community court conference among other ideas. While I am excited about what we've come up with, my enthusiasm is muted just a bit by the knowledge that this will be an intensely competitive process. BJA has very little money to spend and there will be hundreds of proposals for them to sift through. We'll have to keep our fingers crossed. In the meantime, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the hard work of the development team. Jill, Maggie, Amy and Christa have managed to keep up their usual good cheer even in the face of demanding, non-negotiable deadlines. Kudos to them and to everyone else involved in cranking out our proposals.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Drug Court Conference

Last week, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals held their annual conference, an event that attracts thousands of participants. This year, the Center sent a contingent of about a dozen folks, headed by Val, who also serves on NADCP's board of directors. Center staffers spoke on numerous panels on topics such as domestic violence, community justice, and failed criminal justice reforms. To coincide with the conference, the Urban Institute released a study suggesting that if all addicted defendants were offered drug court, the savings could be as large as $46 billion. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the estimated 1.5 million addicted arrestees end up in a drug court each year. Click here for press coverage of the conference and report.