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.