Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gerry Schoenfeld

Just a quick post with my best wishes for a happy thanksgiving.  I also wanted to take a second to acknowledge the passing of Gerry Schoenfeld, one of the early supporters of the Midtown Community Court.   His vision and energy was crucial not only to establishing Midtown, but to the revitalization of Times Square.  Here's a link to his obit in the Times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Report from Africa

The email of the week comes from Kristine, who reports from her recent trip to Africa:

Judge Tandra Dawson from Manhattan IDV Court and I went to Accra, Ghana to participate in the discussion on Gender Justice and the Role of the Judiciary in Promoting Gender Justice in Africa.  Over 25 African countries participated, with the highest level judges in attendance.  CCI's role there was an important one, to assist in the conversation of how the judiciary can work to improve women's access to justice.  They were fantastic discussions and exchanges of information! 

It was very meaningful for us to be there to serve as a facilitator in the conversations - particularly because many of the countries in attendance are looking at court reforms and violence against women.  Some countries are setting up specialized Sexual Violence Courts, while others are looking at identifying system gaps and seeking to harness the power of their community stakeholders in addressing domestic violence in light of new national laws.  CCI's participation, as an NGO (non-governmental organization) also served as an example of how the judiciary can and should draw upon system and non-system partners to improve court responses to domestic and sexual violence, and we had many tools and strategies to add to the dialogue.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mild Disappointment

Two of my favorite things are Spider-man and classic Nike sneakers.  So when I found out that Nike was releasing a special Dunk in honor of Spidey, I thought my brain might explode.  The result is kinda disappointing, I must admit.  

Hartford Community Court

Today's Hartford Courant has a front page article on the 10th anniversary of the Hartford Community Court that is worth reading. Click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I spent the last half of last week in Cooperstown, for the second-ever symposium of New York State problem-solving courts (not including drug courts).   The event, which was organized by Judge Kluger and her team, had a nice vibe to it.  It may be cheap pop psychology, but my sense is that the current economic climate has taken a little of the edge of the discontent that judges feel over their decade long wait for a salary increase.   The big plenary session was dedicated to the pharmacology of addiction, with break-out sessions on mental illness, sex offenses, domestic violence, probation and the ethics of problem-solving judging.  I guess the highlight for me was the session on mental illness, which was led by a former police sergeant who is also a mental health consumer.  He spoke passionately about the need for greater empathy among justice professionals who work directly with mentally-ill individuals.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

State of the Judiciary

Today marked Judith Kaye's final state of the judiciary address as chief judge of New York. In a change of pace, she chose to make her remarks in downtown Manhattan, at NYU, rather than the Court of Appeals in Albany. It definitely felt like the end of an era. As Kaye recounted her sense of the state of the judiciary, it was hard not to be impressed by the depth and the breadth of the reform that she has brought to the courts. We're going to miss her.
A number of Center for Court Innovation-related projects appeared in the address, including the teen space project that the Youth Justice Board is working on, community court, domestic violence court, mental health court, Staten Island youth court, drug court and the Center for Courts and the Community. She also mentioned the Center specifically, saying:
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention, and heartily applaud, the Center for Court Innovation, our public-private research and development arm...The Center enjoys the best of both worlds: inside knowledge, combined with outside perspective.
Here's a link to the entire speech.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New York Times Breakfast

This morning, I helped to convene a breakfast briefing on community justice at the New York Times. The featured speakers were Judith Kaye and Louise Casey, a senior advisor to the British Prime Minister on crime and justice. While I was mildly disappointed with the turnout (a number of people who said they were coming failed to show up), I was wildly ecstatic about the content. Judge Kaye spoke in a very personal way about the trips she had made to see community court in action and the participants she had met who had life-transforming experiences in court.

Louise, for her part, gave a spirited talk about how British policymakers had not only created their own network of community courts, but were also working to spread some of the key elements -- visible community payback schemes, investments in crime prevention, community engagement strategies -- across England and Wales.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of the event for me was seeing so many of the people from the early days of the Midtown Community Court -- Mary McCormick, John Feinblatt, Herb Sturz, Eric Lee, Michele Sviridoff, Bob Keating, Judy Kluger, etc -- all of whom remain committed to our work even after 15 years.
Special thanks to Veronica, Phil, Alan, Matt, Rob, Sharon and Julius for helping make today's briefing a success.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I spent last night in Philadelphia lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania's graduate program in criminology. I've done this for the past three years at the request of Laurie Robinson, the head of the program. I met Laurie in the 1990s when she served as the head of the Office of Justice Programs in the Clinton Justice Department. She has also served as an adviser to the Obama campaign on criminal justice issues. I think she (and Larry Sherman) have put together an interesting program at UPenn -- anyone interested in pursuing graduate work in the area should check them out.

Aiding Juveniles in Nassau County

Last week I sent around an email describing some recent work we've been doing in the world of Family Court. One project I neglected to mention is an initiative that Val and Dennis have been working on in Nassau County, with support from the US Department of Justice. Here's a short overview, courtesy of Dennis:

In October of 2007, the New York State Unified Court System received a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to implement a new kind of juvenile drug treatment court for substance-abusing juvenile offenders in Nassau County. The court will integrate the Reclaiming Futures model, developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, into the juvenile drug treatment court program to help hundreds of troubled juveniles break the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and crime.

The goal of the project is to support the identification of juveniles requiring substance abuse treatment, expand the screening and assessment of respondents in juvenile delinquency petitions; and engage youth more effectively in treatment by increasing the number and range of effective treatment options. The Center for Court Innovation is providing coordination and technical assistance to the Nassau County Juvenile treatment Court, which opened its doors in May of 2008.

Monday, November 3, 2008


In October, the Center's award-winning website had 56,482 visitors and 25,781 downloads. The average number of page views per visitor was 4.81, which suggests that the site is "sticky" as they say in the trade. The five most-visited pages for October were as follows:

Thanks as always to Alina for her stewardship of the website.

Obama on Inner-City Crime

This is an exchange from an MTV interview with Barack Obama, courtesy of Julius:

Question: Mr. Obama, my name is Joseph Stort, and I come from Red Hook, Brooklyn. I know at least 40 people who were murdered because they grew up in a climate of hopelessness. How can we begin to inject hope into the inner cities, to those society has deemed unreachable?

Obama: It's a big problem and we are not going to be able to turn it around overnight. I don't want people thinking, "I'm president, and suddenly you don't have any gangs on the streets, and you don't have any drugs being peddled on the corners." But I think that over the course of eight, 10 years, we can start moving in another direction, and it involves starting when they are young, investing in early childhood education, making sure that our kids are getting a healthy start, having a comprehensive health care program, so that every young person is getting the checkups they need, if they need eyeglasses, if they have a hearing impairment, if they're getting their vaccinations, whatever it is, making sure they are healthy and happy when they start school. That is point number one. Point number two is improving K-12 education, improving our teachers, giving them higher salaries. Also giving them more support, having after-school programs and summer-school programs so that the kids have some place to go and having a criminal-justice system that is focused more on prevention and not just apprehending criminals. You look at, for example, the way we deal with nonviolent, low-level drug offenders, first-time drug offenders, it turns out drug courts that force them to go to rehabilitation, where they are carefully monitored, is actually much more successful in preventing them in going back into a life of crime than just throwing them in a jail somewhere, and if we have a smart approach and not just a tough approach, but also a smart and tough approach to how we deal with the criminal-justice program, that can have an impact as well.