Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Publication

The latest product from our study of failure is a white paper that looks at the controversy over D.A.R.E., one of the most well-known crime prevention programs in the country. To its critics, D.A.R.E. is a cautionary tale of how criminal justice programs can live on despite evidence of failure. To its defenders, D.A.R.E. is a case study of resilience in the face of adversity. This paper seeks to unpack the complicated relationship between research and practice, by examining a case where practitioners and researchers clashed and how it was resolved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Season

I haven't written much in this blog about two of my enduring passions: basketball and hip-hop. But long-time readers will know that I love a good mash-up and that I have an enduring fondness for Nike. Somehow, I have found a bit of seasonal cheer that combines all of the above: a new Nike advert that combines Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and the voice of KRS-One (who offers a taste of how Santa Claus might have interpreted the classic "The Bridge Is Over"). Happy holidays to all.

A Lesson From Farming

Julian asked me the other day to give him some suggestions of things to read for work. I was caught off guard and suggested some of the usual suspects (Herman Goldstein on problem-oriented policing, George Kelling on broken windows, John Dewey on pragmatism, etc). A more recent idea comes courtesy of Aubrey, who recommended that I read this piece by Atul Gawande from the New Yorker. Gawande attempts to make a case in support of the Democrats' health-care bill by drawing an analogy with the government-initiated revolution in farming that took place in this country over the past 100 years or so. Along the way, Gawande affirms the value of demonstration projects and technical assistance, two core Center for Court Innovation activities. I wonder what Jonathan Safran Foer and other critics of the way food is brought to market in the U.S. would make of Gawande's uncritical support for modern food production techniques, but I found his argument for government-sponsored local innovation convincing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lippman Op-Ed

Today's New York Times features an op-ed by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman about reforming New York's broken juvenile justice system. Among other things, Lippman argues that New York's experience with drug courts offers a model for reducing both incarceration and crime. He goes on to suggest that the judicial branch take responsibility for oversight of probation (a function that currently resides in the executive branch). Well worth a read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Drucker Award Redux

As promised, this is an 11 minute video about the Center for Court Innovation created in honor of the 2009 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation. It contains some great new footage of our reentry work in Harlem.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Drucker Award News

I'm just back in NYC after being gone for the better part of three weeks. The last leg of my journey was spent in Los Angeles, where I accepted the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation on behalf of the Center. It was a special event in many ways. One of the highlights was getting to meet Doris Drucker, Peter Drucker's widow, and an accomplished writer and thinker in her own right. (See this, for example.) She is in her late 90s but still sharp and engaged and funny. I found her inspiring. Another highlight was the first airing of a 10 minute video about the Center that was made to celebrate the award. I'll figure out a way to post the video either here or on our website later this week.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cleanup in Queens

A short piece from the Queens Ledger announcing the launch of NYC Community Cleanup, complete with a photo of Manny for good measure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Latest on Liverpool

A long piece on the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre from the British periodical Red Pepper, including a reference to the report on problem-solving courts that we wrote for Policy Exchange.

Friday, November 20, 2009


We've just launched a new website to accompany our latest project: NYC Community Cleanup, an effort to use community service to address hot spots and eye sores across New York City. The plan is for the website to be a rich photographic record of the project's work, full of before and after shots of NYC streets and parks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My former colleague Tushar spotted a nice mention of our work in this essay on (a wonderful website for connecting to jobs and learning more about the non-profits sector, by the way).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sloan Teaching Awards

I spent the bulk of today with a group of scientists and mathematicians assembled by the Fund for the City of New York to present awards to outstanding public school math and science teachers. The program, which is the brainchild of Mary McCormick, with support from her partners at the Alfred Sloan Foundation, is elegant in its simplicity: honor the truly unsung with cash prizes and public acclaim. Today I spent time with three of the seven winners (I think they wanted a token liberal arts major along for the ride). It would take a hard-hearted person indeed not to be moved by the winning teachers and their palpable commitment to their students. I left feeling enormously lucky to live in New York City and optimistic about the future of our schools.

The Justice Blog

Just came across The Justice Blog which is produced by the U.S. Department of Justice. Nice to see the federal government embracing new means of communication...especially because this posting is dedicated to community courts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Obama on Drug Court

While researching a presentation that I am giving later tonight, I stumbled across this paragraph, taken from Obama's official campaign literature:

Drug courts have proven successful in dealing with non-violent offenders. These courts offer a mix of treatment and sanctions, in lieu of traditional incarceration…The success of these programs has been dramatic: One New York study found that drug court graduates had a rearrest rate that was on average 29 percent lower than comparable offenders who had not participated in the drug court program. These programs are also far cheaper than incarceration.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe this is a reference to our multi-site New York drug court evaluation. Pretty cool.

New Book on Problem-Solving Courts

The literature on problem-solving justice continues to grow. Here's a link to a new book called Problem Solving Courts: New Approaches to Criminal Justice that cites the Center for Court Innovation extensively.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pre-Trial Services

I spent the last three days in Washington D.C. -- meeting with officials at the Department of Justice, discussing plans for the publication of our book on failure with the Urban Institute Press, attending a workshop on sentencing reform that we co-sponsored with the ABA and other agencies, and participating in a roundtable on technical assistance to pre-trial service agencies convened by my pal Timothy Murray of the Pre-Trial Justice Institute. Among other things, Tim is trying to amp up the visibility of pre-trial detention as a public policy issue. According to figures that he shared at the meeting, fully two-thirds of the inmates in American jails are pre-trial detainees and 85 percent of them are there simply because they couldn't make bail. In the days ahead, it will be interesting to see how much traction the Pre-Trial Justice Institute can generate for reform efforts. While pre-trial services rarely grabs headlines, I would never bet against Tim Murray.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Manhattan DA

After 35 years (!), there is officially a new Manhattan District Attorney: Cy Vance Jr. One of the central themes of the Vance campaign was community-based justice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blog Round-Up

A few recent blogs and blog posts that caught my eye:

A Kenneth Cole blog about a mural project in Crown Heights organized with the help of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. A photo from this mural project featuring Amy E. is also prominently featured in the Brooklyn Community Foundation's brochure.

A Twin Cities blog about the difference between strategic philanthropy and charity that includes a flattering reference to the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

A blog called Tonic that bills itself as "the place where good lives - good news, good style, and good deeds," featuring news of our recent Drucker Award.

"Moving Justice Forward," a blog that contains updates about problem-solving justice initiatives in San Francisco.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Drucker Award, Pt. 2

Last week's announcement that the Center has won the 2009 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation has been reverberating around the Internet. For example, here's a link to a small piece from Miller-McCune's website.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NYC Community Cleanup

Our new, stimulus-funded community service project, NYC Community Cleanup, has been up and running for a week now. I'm sure I'll write more about it in the months to come. In the meantime, the City is featuring a Cleanup staffer on their official stimulus tracking website. Congrats to Luis for the recognition.

Non-Adversarial Justice

Today Arie Frieberg, the dean of the law school at Monash University in Australia visited the Center to discuss his new book Non-Adversarial Justice. In his book, Arie tries to knit together a variety of intellectual and legal reform movements including therapeutic jurisprudence, alternative dispute resolution, restorative justice and problem-solving courts. Arie's book -- and the current interest in justice system reform in Australia -- is another sign that the ideas we have tested here in the U.S. continue to reverberate around the world.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Miss USA in Harlem

In a truly random event, yesterday, as part of her commitment to fighting ovarian and breast cancer, Ms. USA, Kirsten Dalton, visited the Harlem Community Justice Center along with Project Renewal's mammogram screening van.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quiet Revolution in Australia

Here's a link to a great piece on Rob Hulls, the Attorney General of Victoria and one of the most dynamic and intellectually curious public officials that I have met on my travels. The article talks about Rob's efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Australia, including a number of ideas adapted from New York's community courts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

John Dewey

Tonight I went to a lecture at the New School on the topic of "What Would Dewey Do?" The event, which was part of the 90th anniversary celebration of the New School, attempted to translate the principles of pragmatism and progressive education espoused by John Dewey, one of the founders of the New School, into the present day. One of the principal points that the lecturer, Peter Rutkoff of Kenyon College, made was that universities should move away from an ivory tower model and attempt to operate more like a bazaar. The general idea is that there is a need to break down the walls that often exist between theory and action and to encourage universities to think of themselves as open places where both students and non-students can come to test the merchandise (in this case, knowledge). From my place in the audience, it struck me that in many ways community courts, which open the doors of the criminal justice system and encourage local residents to participate in producing justice at some level, are an embodiment of some of these ideas.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tony Thompson

Today's Center for Court Innovation staff meeting featured a book talk by Tony Thompson, a professor at NYU Law School and author of Releasing Prisoners, Redeeming Communities. While Tony has been a vocal critic of some of our projects, I think that over the years our engagement with him has helped make our work stronger. I like to think that one of the strengths of the Center is our willingess to engage with skeptics and respond to on-point criticism.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Community Justice in Liverpool

Here's a link to a short video about the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre produced by The Guardian in England.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Vera Institute of Justice

Last night was the annual benefit for the Vera Institute of Justice, one of my favorite organizations. The focus of the evening was Vera's work to transform the criminal justice system in New Orleans, an effort in which we played a small, supporting role during the early stages. While there is clearly a lot of work still to be done in New Orleans, it seems that Vera has already helped the city dramatically reduce the length of time arrestees spend in custody prior to appearing in court. The best part of the evening for me was the chance to catch up with old pals and acquaintances, including Dean Esserman, who is working to keep the streets safe in one of my former hometowns, Providence, Rhode Island.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Drucker Award

Yesterday, I received word that the Center for Court Innovation has been named one of three winners of the 2009 Peter F. Drucker Awards for Non-Profit Innovation. This is a huge honor -- I'm told that more than 600 organizations across the U.S. applied for the distinction. For more information on Drucker, click here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rockefeller Reforms in Effect

Today, New York governor David Paterson held an event at the Brooklyn Treatment Court to commemorate the implementation of the Rockefeller drug law reforms he signed into law a few months ago. In the press release, Paterson talks about how the reforms will help expand the use of drug courts.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Community Court in Scotland

Both Labor and the Conservative Party seem to want a community court in Glasgow. The latest sign is this article, which includes this quote from the head of the Tories: "To protect the public and to ensure swift and effective justice I can announce today that the Scottish Conservatives would establish a fast track community court in Glasgow. Based on the New York model, criminals would be brought to court quickly, dealt with swiftly and if appropriate made to carry out their sentences immediately."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brooklyn Community Foundation

I spent this morning at a breakfast unveiling the Brookyln Community Foundation, a new organization that seeks to serve as the connective tissue between Brooklyn philanthropists and innovative Brooklyn non-profit organizations. It was an inspiring event in many ways; it certainly tapped into the civic pride I feel for the borough that is home to so many Center for Court Innovation projects (Red Hook Community Justice Center, Brooklyn Mental Health Court, Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, Brooklyn Treatment Court, Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court, etc.). The new foundation chose to share the day's spotlight a handful of Brooklyn-based organizations. One of these was Added Value, a wonderful group founded by two Center for Court Innovation alums, Ian Marvy and Michael Hurwitz.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Talk

I was invited to participate in a newfangled, highbrow, online discussion of social innovation yesterday. Sponsored by Common Good, the "New Talk" forum included a number of folks I admire, including Geoff Mulgan of the Young Foundation and Frank Hartmann of the Kennedy School. This discussion can be found here. You have to scroll down a bit to find my contributions, which focus on our study of failure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama's Pick for OJP

A short profile of Laurie Robinson, President Obama's choice to lead the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) at the US Department of Justice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Feelies vs. Arctic Monkeys

Over the past couple of weeks, I've seen two of my favorite bands in concert: the Feelies and Arctic Monkeys. Both confounded my expectations. I had hoped to be blown away by Arctic Monkeys, but they were a slight disappointment. Their newer material, which was featured prominently at the show, is a significant departure from what they do best. By contrast, the Feelies know what they do well and choose not to depart from that formula. I had worried that they would feel like a limp nostalgia act, but nothing could be further from the truth: somehow they seemed to me more vital than in their 1980s heyday. Of course, the Feelies have never been as ambitious (or successful) as Arctic Monkeys. For me, Arctic Monkeys represent attempting grand new things (and perhaps failing) while the Feelies represent staying in your lane (and thus limiting your chances of grand success).

I've been thinking about this stuff a fair amount of late. Last week, I celebrated my 15th anniversary at the Center for Court Innovation. As I look back on these years of change and growth, it occurs to me that a big part of running an agency is having good judgment about when to push the envelope and when to stick to what you know best. Hopefully, we've gotten those decisions right more often than not at the Center.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Star in Harlem

Last night I had the good fortune of attending the latest reentry court graduation in Harlem. It was, as always, a moving event. Finding a job, getting sober, repairing damaged family relationships -- these are difficult tasks even in the best of circumstances. When you throw a criminal record (and the pressures of parole supervision) into the mix, the degree of difficulty becomes almost unimaginable.

Amazingly, the graduates of the Harlem Reentry Court have managed to navigate all of these obstacles and more. Last night's graduating class included managers at Applebee's, small businessmen, and students at local colleges. To my ears, the most remarkable part of the event was the passion and pride of the parole officers, each of whom spoke with real affection about the parolees and their accomplishments.

Speaking of passion, the keynote address was delivered by none other than Harry Belafonte, who talked about his career not as a performer but as an advocate of social change. As anyone in the audience can attest, age seems to have diminished none of Belafonte's eloquence or charisma.

A small footnote for avid readers of this blog (and who isn't an avid reader of this blog?): you might recall that my very first posting was about Chris meeting Harry Belafonte back in March 2008. It took more than a year, but Chris succeeded in bringing Belafonte to the Justice Center. The result was an evening that will not be soon forgotten by anyone who was there. Congrats to Chris, John, Nigel and the rest of the team in Harlem.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Problem-Solving Justice in England and Wales

Policy Exchange, a London think tank, has released the report on the state of problem-solving justice in England and Wales that Aubrey and I wrote. Kudos to Ben Ullman and the rest of the team at Policy Exchange -- it was a pleasure working with them. The report can be found here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Center Alum in Vermont

I had breakfast today with Derek Miodownik, a Center alum who is now living in Vermont. Derek was the original staffer responsible for implementing the Red Hook Youth Court. The fact that the program is still a success more than ten years later speaks to the fact that Derek put a good foundation in place. Anyway, Derek now works for the Vermont Department of Corrections, attempting to create a space for restorative justice and other reform ideas within the department. See this article from the Boston Globe for more details about Derek's reentry work.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I realize the field of blogging is still young, but I have found precious few criminal justice blogs that I am tempted to return to again and again. Here's a handful of blogs that I like, some of which are written by people I know:

Tom Carr, the Seattle City Attorney, has his own blog.

Mike Dorf, a professor of law at Cornell, offers his thoughts about the world.

Grits for Breakfast is an amusing and informative look at criminal justice from a uniquely Texan perspective.

And probably my favorite blog, The Crime Report by Ted Gest, is a daily compendium of criminal justice news stories from across the country.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How New York Became Safe

George Kelling, a professor at Rutgers and one of the authors of the influential "broken windows" theory, has a short piece in The City Journal that attempts to explain why crime has gone down in New York City. To Kelling, one of the secret ingredients was that "a diverse set of organizations in the city—pursuing their own interests and using various tactics and programs—all began trying to restore order to their domains." Among the organizations he names is the Center for Court Innovation, citing our work in Midtown and Red Hook.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


These are the dog days of summer, so I hope you'll forgive me another non-work-related posting. Years of advocacy by my children (and to a lesser extent my wife) have worn down my resistance to having a pet in our house. This weekend, we rescued a kitten from a shelter. The kids have dubbed her Ginny in honor of a character from Harry Potter that we all admire. We're three days into this grand experiment and so far, so good -- although my kids do seem to be fighting over her an awful lot...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Center Alumni Round-Up

Last week I learned that Nicole Campbell, who used to work at the Center as a writer, had been named a White House Fellow. This got me to thinking about all of the amazing people who have come through the Center over the years. Here is a quick rundown of what a handful of Center alums are up to. I hope to pass along more in the weeks to come...

Eric Lee is the president of a consulting firm, Bennett Midland.

Sheryl Goldstein is the director of the Baltimore Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice.

Amanda Burden is the head of NYC's Department of City Planning.

Sarah Bryer is the director of the National Juvenile Justice Network.

Derek Denckla is an eco-friendly real estate developer.

Greg Steinberg runs a technology company called Something Digital.

Leslie Paik is a professor of sociology at CUNY.

Emily Sack is a professor at Roger Williams College of Law.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Friends in the News

A handful of recent highlights from a few of my friends in the worlds of government, media and academia:

My friend Clara Jeffery is one of the editors of Mother Jones magazine. Their most recent issue is dedicated to the war on drugs.

Jeremy Creelan wrote a prescient op-ed in the Daily News about the stalemate in Albany.

To help promote his new book on the nature of genius, David Shenk now has a blog on The Atlantic's website.

Mark Lesko, recently elected town supervisor of Brookhaven, Long Island, is helping to put together a 'heroin summit' in Nassau County.

My wife, Carolyn Vellenga Berman, is organizing a special program on secular judaism at the New School.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Charles Ogletree Visits Red Hook

Today I had the pleasure of spending the morning in Red Hook along with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree. I can't speak for Ogletree, obviously, but my sense was that the Justice Center made a positive impression. The two highlights, at least for me, were the time we spent with Tina, a former addict and prostitute who has straightened her life out with the help of the Justice Center, and with Captain Corey, the commanding officer at the 76th precinct, who talked about how the Justice Center had helped make his precinct the safest in Brooklyn.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Arshavin Scores Four

A few months ago, I went to England at the invitation of Policy Exchange, a London-based think tank. While I was there, my favorite football team, Arsenal, played Liverpool, traditionally one of the strongest teams in the country. The resulting game, which I watched at a pub with Aubrey, was a 4-4 classic, highlighted by four goals by Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal's diminutive midfielder. Here are all four goals to help you pass the time until football starts again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Holder Speaks

Tonight I went to hear Attorney General Eric Holder speak at an event organized by the Vera Institute of Justice. Holder's address was a little like a state-of-the-union speech: he touched lightly on a broad range of topics in outlining his vision for the Justice Department. If I were a newspaper headline writer, I'd probably say that the lede was Holder's desire for a "post-partisan" Justice Department that would "bring science back" to criminal justice policymaking -- a desire that felt like an implicit critique of the previous administration. If I were a criminal justice policy nerd (which I suppose I am), I'd say that the most interesting element of the speech was Holder's forceful call for increased funding for indigent defense. And if I were a guy who had worked on problem-solving courts in New York for the past 16 years (which I definitely am), I'd say that the highlight was Holder's praise of New York's drug courts, which he credited with reducing both crime and prison admissions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stimulus Money for Criminal Justice

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference along with local district attorneys and assorted representatives from Congress to announce that the City has received $29 million in stimulus money to be used for criminal justice. Included in the list of projects that will be supported are a new city-wide community service program that we will be working on (about which I'm sure I'll write more later), the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the Midtown Community Court. Congressman Jerry Nadler specifically cited the Midtown Community Court and the Red Hook Community Justice Center, "which are located in my district and serve thousands of New Yorkers, promising to reduce rates of recidivism, improve local communities, and save the City money in the long term.” In a similar vein, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “This $29 million will reduce crime and help keep our communities safe. In Brooklyn, these funds will enable the Red Hook Community Justice Center to build on their already successful programs.” The press release can be found here.

Kaye on Staten Island Youth Court

After attending a recent youth court graduation, former New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye was moved to write this article for the Staten Island Advance.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Attendance Court in Red Hook

Here's a link to a story from the Brooklyn Eagle about last week's attendance court graduation in Red Hook.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Podcast

The most recent podcast in our "New Thinking" series is now available via iTunes and our website. In the podcast, Rob interviews Ronald Adrine, a judge in Cleveland who presides over a specialized domestic violence docket. Judge Adrine talks about Cleveland's efforts to distinguish defendants who are habitual batterers from defendants who are unlikely to offend again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In the Sunday Papers

Two stories related to the Center for Court Innovation in the papers today. The first is an editorial from the New York Daily News that looks at how misdemeanor cases are handled in Manhattan's centralized criminal court at 100 Centre Street. The second is a piece in the Guardian that describes a recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research calling for more restorative justice in England based on the success of the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A National Commission on Criminal Justice?

Sen. Jim Webb makes the case for why there should be a national criminal justice commission in this essay from the Huffington Post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reentry in Harlem

Two recent articles feature the Harlem Community Justice Center's efforts to improve the reentry process for parolees. The first, entitled "Staying Out of Jail -- And In Upper Manhattan," is from the Gotham Gazette. The second, from the Albany Times-Union, is entitled "At the Bottom of Job Ladder."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Strong Families, Safe Communities

Another night, another great event. Today was the unveiling of the Youth Justice Board's recommendations for improving New York City's alternative-to-detention programs. Before an audience of about 100 people, including Gladys Carrion, the commissioner of New York State's Office of Children and Family Services, the teenage members of the Youth Justice Board made an hour-long presentation at the midtown offices of Patterson Belknap. Over the course of a year, the members, who come from various public schools across the city, studied how delinquency cases are handled in Family Court for a year before coming up with a set of suggestions for how to reduce the use of detention. Their report, "Strong Families, Safe Communities" is an impressive piece of work. It should be available on our website soon -- check it out. In the meantime, Linda, Dory, Matt and Jackie deserve to sleep well tonight -- they put an enormous amount of energy into making today's event a success.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Staten Island Youth Court Graduation

Just home from a wonderful night in Staten Island, where we celebrated the graduation of the first class of members of the State Island Youth Court. There were numerous special moments. First, it was good to see Dan Donovan, the Richmond County DA (pictured above) out in support of the youth court -- his endorsement is crucial to the project's ability to handle criminal cases in addition to referrals from family court, probation and the police. Donovan's enthusiasm for the project was exceeded only by Judith Kaye's. This was Judge Kaye's third visit to the youth court in less than a year. Her commitment to the project has helped keep all of the necessary players on point -- and pushed the project to reach the highest possible standard of excellence. Finally, the best part of the event was the palpable excitement on the part of the youth court members -- both the outgoing class and the incoming class, which was formally inducted tonight. At the risk of being corny, it made me feel good about our city to see a cross-section of teens who are willing to give up their free time to learn more about the law and help make their community a safer place. Congrats to Raye, Jackie, Melissa and Sabrina for putting together tonight's program.

Support for Alternatives to Incarceration

A new survey, sponsored by the National Council of Crime and Delinquency, shows broad public support for alternatives to incarceration.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Embracing Failure

My buddy David Shenk is writing a book on the nature of genius. I haven't read it yet, but from my conversations with him, I gather that his book will make a strong case for the value of hard work and perseverence as opposed to the widely-held belief that geniuses like Albert Einstein are genetic aberrations and that excellence is an unattainable ideal for most of us working stiffs. Anyway, to promote his book, David has a blog -- -- that is worth checking out. In fact, I was delighted to find a recent post dedicated to my favorite subject: embracing failure.

Midtown Graduation

Earlier today, the Midtown Community Court held a lunch-time ceremony in the courtroom to honor individuals who have turned their lives around after participating in one of the Court's many programs -- job training, drug treatment, fatherhood, etc. I've been involved with Midtown in one way or another for 17 (!) years now, but I don't think I've ever been prouder of the institution than I was today. I defy any one to sit in the courtroom and watch fathers reunite with their children, former prostitutes celebrate escaping life on the streets, and former addicts talk about getting jobs and not be moved. Congrats to Judge Weinberg, Angela, Danielle, Jeff and the rest of the Midtown staff for making it happen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Book on Problem-Solving Justice

This week sees the release of another new book devoted to the subject of problem-solving courts. Edited by Paul Higgins and Mitchell Mackinem, Problem-Solving Courts: Justice for the 21st Century? (Praeger) is a collection of essays that detail both the pluses and the minuses of this new approach to jurisprudence. (Full disclosure: I wrote one of the chapters.) The book is another indicator that academia is beginning to take problem-solving justice seriously.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Upcoming Events

As we get closer to Memorial Day and the start of summer, it is worth mentioning that June promises to be a busy month for us. The week after next will be a particularly special one:

On June 2nd, in a lunchtime ceremony in the courtroom, the Midtown Community Court will honor the successful graduates of several of its programs, including Midtown's job training initiative for ex-offenders.

On June 3rd, the Staten Island Youth Court will hold an induction ceremony for its second class of participants.

And on June 4th, the Youth Justice Board will present their findings on how to enhance alternatives to detention to an audience of city and state policy makers at the law firm of Patterson Belknap.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farewell to Maggie

Today we said goodbye to Maggie, who has been part of the administrative spine of the Center for a decade. With expertise in both finance and development, Maggie's influence was felt in every corner of the Center. In her time with us, the organization more than doubled in size and launched more than twenty new projects (and I'm sure that I'm forgetting some). Basically, Maggie helped us move from infancy to maturity as an agency, becoming more sophisticated and professional with each passing year. We owe her a great debt that I hope was at least partially repaid by this afternoon's memorable farewell party, which featured a truly remarkable and funny film made by Rob and Robyn in tribute to Maggie. I'd feel bad about Maggie leaving if I wasn't sure that a) she will stay in touch, and b) she will be an enormous success in the days ahead as she pursues a medical education.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robin Hood Foundation

Last night I attended the Robin Hood Foundation's annual gala at the Javits Center (they have supported our work in Red Hook, Midtown and Harlem). According to the New York Times, in deference to these troubled times, Robin Hood has downshifted on the glitz and glamour of the event, which draws thousands of Wall Street types each year. Still, the event didn't lack for star power: the host was Jon Stewart and Aretha Franklin and Black Eyed Peas provided musical entertainment. I'm not generally a huge fan of these kinds of events, but you've got to hand it to Robin Hood: not only did they pull off an enormous and complicated event without any discernible hitch, but they also raised a truly staggering amount of money (a reported $72 million, including a challenge grant from George Soros) to support efforts to fight poverty.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing

I just received a review copy of James Nolan's "Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing: The International Problem-Solving Court Movement." Over the years, Nolan has been a (mostly) critical observer of our work, so I don't expect this new book to read like a mash note to the Center for Court Innovation. Still, based on a quick skim of the contents, I think the book tells an interesting, and mostly under-reported, story: the growing interest overseas in adapting problem-solving pilots from the U.S. and some of the challenges that inevitably come up in the translation process.