Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reclaiming the Streets, Healing the Community

A few months back, we worked with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Michigan State University to make a short film about the drug market initiative in High Point, North Carolina. The brainchild of David Kennedy at John Jay College, the drug market initiative is a unique effort to simultaneously address open air drug markets and police-community relations. I'm proud of how the film turned out. Most of the credit goes to Rob Wolf, who directed the project.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Juvenile Justice Reform in New York

This morning, radio station WBAI did an hour on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to have the City relieve the State of some of the responsibility for running the juvenile justice system. Al Siegel from the Center for Court Innovation was a guest. Click here to listen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


One of my favorite traditions at the Center for Court Innovation is the annual bake-off that happens at our holiday party. I can't remember exactly when the tradition started, but I seem to recall my friend Eric being at the center of it. The best part of the bake-off for me is all of the trash talk it engenders in the run up. Here is my small contribution: a photo of the cupcakes I baked this weekend with my daughters. I don't know how they will taste by Tuesday, but I think they look pretty good.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Left, Right and Drug Court

Funny how the world turns. When I first started in this business in the early 1990s, drug courts were viewed by many as a liberal response to an increasingly punitive (read: conservative) criminal justice system. By offering defendants treatment in lieu of incarceration, drug courts were a step away from "tough-on-crime" initiatives such as mandatory minimums, three-strikes-and-you're-out, and truth in sentencing legislation. Fast forward to today. Now it appears that the principal criticisms of drug court come from the left. See, for example, this recent piece in The Nation, which criticizes drug courts for requiring guilty pleas and for widening the net of social control. On the flip side is a new conservative criminal justice reform group, Right on Crime, which argues for more drug courts (and more alternatives to incarceration in general) on the grounds that taxpayer spending on corrections has gotten out of control.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Midtown Success Story

My favorite email of the week comes from Becca at the Midtown Community Court, who sends along an example of the positive outcomes that happen on a regular basis at our demonstration projects. I've edited the email slightly for clarity and length. I also changed the name of the participant.

Mr. Scott has come through Midtown regularly quality-of-life offenses. Through the years, our staff “planted seeds” in Mr. Scott’s mind, encouraging him to strongly consider our on-site Times Square Ink job training program. Finally, something clicked for Mr. Norwood the last time he appeared in Court before Judge Weinberg. After completing a one day court mandate, Mr. Scott decided to voluntarily enroll in Times Square Ink. As one of the only voluntary participants in TSI, Mr. Scott was always the first one here and the last one to leave. He devoted every ounce of energy, poise and drive to take advantage of the program. The computer exercises and interviewing practice did not come easy to Mr. Scott, but his determination ultimately paid off. He completed Times Square Ink in late November and two weeks later TSI placed him in a sanitation job with Times Square Alliance! This same man who just 6 months ago was breaking the law in our neighborhood, is now helping the neighborhood and helping himself! Mr. Scott’s story is a true MCC success. It took everyone from the Court Officers, to Judge, to Resource Coordinator, Alternative Sanctions staff, Social Workers, and lastly TSI staff, to help him evolve into a law abiding, working NYC resident!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Corrections and Mental Health

The National Institute of Corrections has a new online publication covering correctional mental health practices. Would be worth mentioning even if one of their first pieces wasn't a brief overview of Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform.

Monday, December 6, 2010

American Prospect

The current issue of American Prospect includes a special section on criminal justice, including this piece by Sasha Abramsky on problem-solving courts that features the Center for Court Innovation.

BJA Conference

I'm currently in Washington DC attending a national conference on justice reform convened by the US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance. It is a fairly massive gathering -- more than a thousand attendees, speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano, dozens of breakout sessions, etc. Remarkably, BJA put this whole thing together in just a couple of months. Hats off to them -- particularly because I'm told that it is their first such gathering in more than a decade. I'm speaking tomorrow, but I spent today hopping from panel to panel, listening to Mike Jacobson of the Vera Institute talk about cost/benefit analysis, Candice Kane of Operation Ceasefire talk about reducing gun violence and Robin Steinberg of Bronx Defenders talk about indigent defense reform, to name check just a few.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Latest from London

Aubrey is back in NYC to report on his progress in London so it seems like a good excuse to share two new reports out of England that have recently crossed my desk.

The first, Fitting the Crime: Reforming Community Sentences is written by our friends at Policy Exchange and features a foreword by another friend -- Louise Casey. In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that NYC Community Cleanup is featured in a sidebar on page 78 of the report.

The second report comes from a group I'm less familiar with: Clinks. They have released a briefing on community justice courts in the UK that includes references to the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the report that Aubrey and I wrote for Police Exchange last year.

ABA Journal Story

This month's ABA Journal has a short piece on our Youth Justice Board and their efforts to use comic books to educate teens about the juvenile justice system.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Three Moments

Three highlights from a busy day:

I rose early to attend the Fund for Modern Courts' annual breakfast where they give out the Cyrus R. Vance Tribute to someone who has made a significant contribution to reforming New York courts. This year's recipient was Fern Fisher, the administrative judge who is responsible for overseeing New York City's courts and for administering access to justice programs statewide. Nice recognition for a long-time friend of the Center for Court Innovation.

While I was at the breakfast, I learned that New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (a previous winner of the Cy Vance award, by the by) has apparently won a major victory in Albany, convincing the legislature to establish a judicial salary commission that will, knock wood, de-politicize judicial compensation as an issue in the years to come.

Finally, I spent a chunk of my afternoon with Mark Kleiman, a professor at UCLA and the author of When Brute Force Fails. He has some interesting ideas about how to use the threat of swift and certain punishment to reduce both crime and incarceration. Many of these ideas are embodied in Hawaii's HOPE probation program, which has recently gotten a fair amount of attention.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drug Courts and Community Service

A busy, but short week here at the Center for Court Innovation, at least for me -- I am heading to my hometown of Washington DC for Thanksgiving. I spent a good chunk of my day yesterday at a mini-retreat convened by our drug court team. It was a good opportunity to take a step back from the fray and reflect on where we've been and where we've going. It wasn't that long ago that the Brooklyn Treatment Court -- NYC's first drug court, which we helped to plan and implement -- was viewed as a risky experiment. It is sometimes hard to remember that now, given how much has transpired in the years since then -- the Fiske Commission, the spread of literally hundreds of drug courts across New York State, the reform of the Rockefeller drug laws which have opened the doors of drug courts to thousands of additional defendants, etc. I'm enormously proud of the part that the Center has played in all of this.

Another highlight from this week was a press event to celebrate NYC Community Cleanup's partnership with the Long Island Rail Road. Click here to check out the press release and a few photos.

Best wishes for a happy holiday...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Public Safety: The Cuomo Agenda

Gotham Gazette (a great source of news about New York, by the by) has a piece on New York State Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and public safety. The Center for Court Innovation is mentioned about half way through.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Research and the Department of Justice

One of the things that the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice has been doing of late that I find most interesting is attempting to think through a more productive connection between research and practice in criminal justice. Here is a link to Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson talking about the initiative.

Speaking of research, the Department of Justice has started to highlight preliminary results from the multi-site adult drug court evaluation that we have been working on in concert with the Urban Institute and RTI. Click here to see powerpoint presentations that explain some of the early findings, which seem to confirm that drug courts do indeed reduce re-offending and incarceration among other positive impacts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading Jay-Z

I was talking to an acquaintance of mine at a party this past weekend who worked on the rollout of Jay-Z's new book Decoded. I think the promotion of the book is fairly brilliant. And the book may be too. On Monday, Jay-Z appeared at the New York Public Library to publicize the book. The video is worth checking out: if you ever wondered why Jay-Z is so successful, this will answer your question.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Drucker Innovation Forum

I spent the bulk of this week in California, where I attended a forum on innovation convened by the Drucker Institute at Claremont University Graduate School.

I came to the event with a fair degree of skepticism and trepidation. It was a small gathering (about 30 people) that included a handful of non-profit types and academics sprinkled among executives from major corporations: Coca-Cola, Boeing, Intuit, Lockheed-Martin, Herman Miller etc. The purpose was to share wisdom about management and innovation.

While part of the appeal in attending was to be with a slightly different audience than I usually interact with, in all due modesty, I wondered what on earth I might contribute that would be of value to business executives who are responsible for tens of thousands of employees. And vice versa.

The upshot is that what we had to offer each other was mostly empathy. While the content, size and context of the organizations around the table varied enormously, if you took a step back, everybody was grappling with the same issues: how do you take things that work on a pilot basis to scale? How do you spread new ideas/products/practices to resistant audiences? How do you create a work environment that stimulates employees to innovate? And how do you create mechanisms so that your organization is being thoughtful about learning from its failures and the failures of others in its industry?

I don't know whether its good news or bad news, but it turns out there are no simple answers to these challenges. But it was a rare pleasure to get to compare with professionals from a variety of disciplines who are all struggling with similar problems.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Wrong Stuff

Apologies for the lack of posts of late. I've had a busy week, highlighted by a visit from an Australian professor who is starting a Center for Court Innovation down under (more on this in the months to come), a trip to NYU to discuss procedural justice with the great Tom Tyler, a benefit to suport the Brooklyn Community Foundation and a guest lecture at Brooklyn Law School on failure. Speaking of failure, we are putting the finishing touches on a new failure-related monograph that will feature interviews with dozens of leading criminal justice scholars and policymakers talking about the lessons they have learned from being wrong on occasion. As it turns out, we aren't the only ones to come up with this idea. Kathryn Schulz, who wrote the book Being Wrong (which I have just started) has been doing a similar series of interviews for Slate. Worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zimring at Vera

I spent a few hours this evening at the Vera Institute of Justice for a lecture by law professor Franklin Zimring, who offered a preview of a new book he is working on that looks at the crime decline in New York City over the past two decades. Zimring was unequivocal in hailing the decline, calling it the most sustained improvement in public safety that any city has ever experienced since crime rates began being measured. In his effort to explain what happened, he focused primarily on changes in police practice since 1990 -- more cops on the street, more aggressive policing, reforms like COMPSTAT and hot spots policing, etc. He also discussed something that I have found bewildering: while the drop in crime in New York City is well documented, a related phenomenon has gone mostly unreported: over the same period that incarceration rose by more than 60 percent across the U.S., the use of incarceration actually declined by 28 percent in New York City (it is worth noting that the population of the City rose by 11 percent during this period). His conclusion was heartening to those of us in the reform business. New York City has not changed in any fundamental way over the past 20 years when one looks at the population, employment, education rates and other demographics. And yet serious crime has gone down 80 percent. The most likely explanation to Zimring given these facts is that a series of policy initiatives and changes within government actually made a difference on the ground. A far cry from "nothing works." And another great event from Vera.

Friday, October 22, 2010

R.I.P. Elizabeth Sturz

Sad news today: the New York Times reports that Elizabeth Sturz passed away yesterday. I only knew Elizabeth glancingly, through my relationship with her husband Herb Sturz. As her obituary makes clear, she was a remarkable woman. Please join me in sending condolences to Herb and the rest of her family.

More from Dallas

The Justice Department has posted the speech that Mary Lou Leary, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, made at our community court conference in Dallas earlier this week. Among other things, she says: "Evidence shows that community courts simultaneously help to reduce crime, streamline the justice process, change sentencing practices, solve individual problems, and increase public trust in the justice system."

As an added bonus for public speaking buffs, here is a link to a recent speech by Nick Herbert, a justice minister in England, who recently spoke about sentencing issues in London. Herbert reference a recent visit to our QUEST program in Queens:

A few weeks ago in New York I went to a tough neighbourhood in Queens to see an innovative project which is offering courts an alternative to detention for young offenders. Run by the Center for Court Innovation from a church hall, an impressive team of professionals supervise and guide the juveniles, with rigorous after school courses (including sport) and checks to enforce their curfew. To date 84 per cent of participating youths have complied with court requirements, remain arrest free and have successfully completed the programme. Now the Center is also developing simultaneous mental health treatment to address the needs of young offenders while they are on the programme. I do not believe that rigorous sentences like these are soft options. I think they are smart options, giving courts a better choice of disposals. Where young offenders are turned away from committing new crimes, the public has been made safer. I heard no voices in New York calling for this programme to be scrapped.

Community Justice 2010: A Brief Report

Just back in New York after four days in Dallas, Texas for Community Justice 2010, the first ever international gathering of community courts. I'll probably send along some more thoughts about the conference later, but in the meantime I thought I'd share an excerpt from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks:

Over the course of nearly two decades, since the very first community court opened its doors in Manhattan, combining punishment with assistance has proven to be a critical strategy in improving public safety...Community courts have been essential in guiding efforts to reduce crime, empower communities and create opportunities. I’ve seen this first hand...While the size and scope of our community courts vary, they have all proven the power of community involvement in strengthening public safety and public confidence in our justice system...I’m proud of the progress that we are making and of the investments we are directing to support our community courts and the Center for Court Innovation.

The Crime Report ran a short story on the conference and Rethinking Reentry also offered some live blogging.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

News from the UK

Two bits of news from England caught my attention today. The first was a report that the BBC is making a short-run daytime drama based on the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre.

The second was the news that the Youth Justice Board, a quasi-governmental body that was created during the Blair years to reengineer the juvenile justice system in England and Wales, is closing its doors. (Click here for an obituary of sorts by Max Chambers from Policy Exchange.)

I'm still trying to figure out what I think of both stories. The demise of the Youth Justice Board in particular has put me in a nostalgic mood. About a decade ago, with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, we put together a US-UK exchange that brought together representatives of the Youth Justice Board with innovative American scholars and practitoners. While it was a one-time only event, it did have enduring reverberations for us as an institution. It was one of our first forays into the world of juvenile justice policymaking -- a field that now takes up a significant share of our time. Just as important, it helped us meet a range of influential people in England -- most namely the great prison reformer Rob Allen -- that continue to be our friends and partners to this day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

People I Admire, Pt. 1

Earlier this week I was at an event put together by LIFT where I had a chance to talk about some people that have been particularly meaningful in my life -- people like John Feinblatt, Mary McCormick, Jonathan Lippman and Judith Kaye. It got me thinking about people that I admire professionally. I thought I'd start an occasional series spotlighting some of them. Here's a first installment.

Amy Ellenbogen, the director of our Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, who has been nominated for a Brooklyn Do-Gooder award.

Ben Rogers, a British intellectual who writes frequently about the relationship between government and communities.

Laurie Robinson, the head of the Office of Justice Programs, who recently gave a speech about the importance of community prosecution.

Jeff Butts, a researcher at John Jay College who specializes in youth justice.

Timothy Murray, the director of the Pretrial Justice Institute, who has been leading a national campaign to change bail practice.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Events, Events, Events

I spent this morning at John Jay College at an event put together by David Kennedy's Center on Crime Prevention and Control. Tracey Meares and Andrew Papachristos gave a talk about and the importance of legitimacy in controlling crime. We don't always foreground this vocabulary when we talk about our work, but I think our projects all speak to this idea: that if we hope to create safe, law-abiding communities, criminal justice system players need to be viewed as legitimate and rightful actors. A focus on procedural justice is hard-wired into what we do, particularly at our community-based projects.

Speaking of events, here are a few upcoming gatherings that the Center for Court Innovation is involved in:

October 12th at New York Law School: A panel entitled "Combating Domestic Violence Through the Courts: Addressing the Gaps Within the Legal System" that features Robyn Mazur from the Center and Hon. John Leventhal who used to preside at the Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court.

October 15 at John Jay College: Do Reentry Courts Reduce Recidivism? -- a panel that looks at our Harlem Reentry Court, sponsored by the Prisoner Reentry Institute.

November 4-5 in Washington DC: American Bar Association conference on sentencing and reentry that we are co-sponsoring.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Norval Morris Project

I'm just back in New York following a whirlwind trip to Maryland to speak about Trial and Error at a gathering of the Norval Morris Project. An initiative of the National Institute of Corrections, the project honors the memory of Norval Morris, "the most influential criminologist of his time" according to Michael Tonry. The project has gathered two dozen leading scholars and correctional officials (for example, the heads of corrections in Oklahoma, Michigan, Massachusetts) to discuss two ambitious goals: reducing the prison population by half over the next eight years and transforming the correctional workforce. As is almost always the case, I felt like I got more out of the event than I gave. I look forward to seeing how the group transforms their lofty goals into action.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Great Night for Midtown

Yesterday night the Midtown Community Court held a special event to honor the graduates of its on-site job training program, Times Square Ink. A packed house -- I can't remember the last time the courtroom was so crowded -- heard Manhattan DA Cy Vance talk about the importance of the justice system giving formerly-incarcerated individuals a second chance and watched a preview of "Being August," a short film made by John Jay College that profiled one of Midtown's graduates. As is almost always the case, the highlight of the evening for me was the speech by one of Midtown's graduates who has overcome enormous odds to change his life and become a productive member of society.

Last night had a special resonance for me. I haven't been around for the Midtown Community Court's entire history, but I've certainly experienced most of the ups and downs -- I recently celebrated my 16th year working at the Center for Court Innovation. Last night felt like it achieved a difficult balance, simultaneously honoring the past and celebrating the present. In his remarks, John Jay President Jeremy Travis talked about the origins of the project and traced Midtown's impact on the administration of justice not just in New York but across the country. On hand were a number of important figures from the early days of Midtown -- people like Jeff Hobbs, Eric Lee, Greg Steinberg, Julius Lang, Judy Harris Kluger, Eileen Koretz and others.

As nice as it was to see Midtown's history honored, the bulk of the event looked forward, not back. New partners were honored. New staff members had prominent speaking roles. Midtown is no longer a scrappy little experiment. It is no longer under constant attack from skeptics and critics. It has a history and a significant reputation now. But the animating spirit of the project still burns bright. It is still a place of energy and creativity. This is nothing to take for granted. One of the key lessons I learned during the writing of Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform is how easy it is for even the best innovations to collapse over time as political winds shift and leaders move on to other posts. Midtown's longevity and continued vitality is something to marvel at and be proud of.

PS, While I'm on the topic of community court, here's a link to a column in the Baltimore Sun from yesterday calling for a community court in Baltimore.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Justice Reinvestment

My colleague Brett recently emailed me a link to information about Justice Reinvestment, an effort to help states get smarter about reducing both crime and correctional spending. It made me realize, to my great shame, that I have never blogged about this project, which comes out of my buddy Mike Thompson's shop at the Council of State Governments' Justice Center. I think the best place to start, for those who are interested, is this webpage, which includes presentations by several of my criminal justice heroes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Criminal Justice and the Lindsay Years

I spent this evening at the Museum of the City of New York, which is hosting an exhibition on former New York City Mayor John Lindsay. (The exhibit, which closes October 3rd, is a must-see for any one who is interested in the history of urban politics.) I was drawn uptown by a special program devoted to criminal justice during the Lindsay administration. After a brief introduction by John Jay President Jeremy Travis, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly offered a snapshot of how things have changed on the streets since the end of the Lindsay years in 1973. Suffice to say that things are a lot better by almost any statistical measure. (Along with the usual stats documenting the decline in homicides, robberies and other index crimes came one that I don't remember hearing before: in '73, New York police officers apparently discharged their guns more than 1,000 times. In the last year, that number was less than 300 -- a staggering decline in the use of force.) Then came a panel of criminal justice heavyweights from the Lindsay years, including my friend Herb Sturz. Guided by questions from the moderator, Sam Roberts of the New York Times, the panelists detailed many of the innovations -- and battles -- of the Lindsay years, including efforts to create a civilian complaint review board, improve prison conditions, devote more resources to crime prevention, enhance race relations, introduce new technology, and extend the police presence on the streets. This is not an inconsiderable record of accomplishment, to be sure. Still, the panel never quite addressed Roberts' most provocative question, which was: given the benefit of hindsight, what should Lindsay have done differently to reduce crime in the '60s and early '70s -- an era when New York's reputation for lawlessness and disorder was cemented in the public mind? While I didn't get the answer tonight, I'm hoping that the book from the exhibition -- America's Mayor -- provides some clues.

Community Court Events

The fall schedule feels extraordinarily busy here at the Center for Court Innovation. For example, tomorrow the Midtown Community Court is hosting an event to honor the graduates of its job training program. The speakers will include Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and John Jay College President Jeremy Travis. Keeping with the community justice theme, another event that I'm looking forward to happens in Dallas, Texas in the middle of October: a gathering of community courts from across the country and around the world that we are helping to convene. For more info, click here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kaye on Youth Court

Former New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye has an op-ed in today's Albany Times Union extolling the virtues of youth court. The Center is mentioned towards the end.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Press Clips

A New York Times piece on Caroline Giuliani and other celebrities assigned to community service mentions a number of Center for Court Innovation projects, including NYC Community Cleanup and Bronx Community Solutions.

A Huffington Post article on commercial sex trafficking cites research that we conducted a few years back.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bruce Winick

Earlier today I received word that Bruce Winick has passed away. Along with his friend David Wexler, Bruce was the originator of therapeutic jurisprudence, a school of thought that has influenced many problem-solving courts and sparked a minor movement within the legal academy. I knew Bruce in passing -- we had coffee a couple of times, he asked me to contribute to a book he edited (Judging in a Therapeutic Key) and he was kind enough to share a portion of his work with me. (He was, by just about any standard, an insanely prolific scholar.) I always looked forward to our correspondence -- he was always kind, thoughtful and eager to engage in give-and-take. He will be missed. For a snapshot of Bruce's work, check out the Cutting Edge Law website.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Save Our Streets

One of our newest projects is Save Our Streets, an anti-violence campaign launched by the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. With the help of a grant from the Department of Justice, we are attempting to replicate the Ceasefire model from Chicago, which essentially argues that gun violence should be treated like a public health problem. The program has several key components. One component involves sending credible messengers (i.e. individuals with their own history of criminal involvement) out into the neighborhood to intervene and defuse tension whenever a shooting occurs. Another component involves organizing community protests after every shooting to send a message that local residents will not accept violence on their streets. For a glimpse of what this looks like, check out this blog posting.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Innovation and Failure

Lest anyone think that I am only interested in my own writings about failure, here are three recent clips from others that highlight the inextricable relationship between innovation and failure.

Paul Tough's New York Times op-ed on the federal Promise Neighborhoods initiative argues that it is sometimes a good idea to invest in unproven innovations.

In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Clara Miller writes about the Social Innovation Fund and makes the case that innovators need both transparency and privacy if they are to learn from failure.

And the New York Times reports on FailFaire, a gathering designed to highlight lessons from failed technology efforts.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Turning the Corner

The Young Foundation in London has just released a report entitled Turning the Corner: Beyond Incarceration and Re-offending. Among other things, the report calls for the creation of a Centre for Justice Innovation, modeled after the Center for Court Innovation, in England. If you don't want to read the whole report, check out this piece from The Independent entitled "Our justice system must embrace innovation as a necessity" and you'll get the gist.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Things I've Read Recently

Here are some links to a few things worth reading:

Village Voice profile of Gladys Carrion, the commissioner of the New York State agency that oversees juvenile placement facilities.

Article by Center for Court Innovation alum Kate Krontiris about how innovative technology can support foreign policy.

Congressional testimony from John Roman of the Urban Institute about the efficacy of drug courts that builds on joint research completed by Urban, the Center for Court Innovation and RTI International.

A new law review article by Minnesota judge Kevin Burke that looks at the importance of procedural fairness in drug court.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"They Don't Use the Slang We Do"

Today's New York Law Journal has a front-page story on the Youth Justice Board's comic book guide to the juvenile justice system in New York City. My favorite quote in the article comes from a Youth Justice Board member who says that the comic "is a little masterpiece. You want to spend time with it. We didn't want to make it a boring black-and-white novel."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rethinking the Politics of Crime

An essay that I wrote appears in the Crime Report. Entitled "Rethinking the Politics of Crime," the piece examines a recent controversy about prison reform in England and offers some thoughts about the challenges of criminal justice policymaking in the glare of the media spotlight.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Youth Court on TV

A great piece on the Newark Youth Court appeared on New Jersey public television the other day. Click here to see.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Report from London

Just a quick report from London, where the pace of criminal justice reform feels feverish at the moment. It seems like almost every day brings a new headline about some aspect of the criminal justice system, whether it be the government's decision to close a number of magistrates' courts, efforts to expand the use of restorative justice or a justice minister's controversial speech about investing in entertainment for inmates. Hanging over all of this is the specter of massive funding cuts driven by Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to cut the deficit. Through a series of lucky breaks and good strategic moves, Aubrey has found himself with a ringside seat as 10 Downing Street and the Ministry of Justice attempt to forge a new, cost-effective approach to justice reform. We're coming to the end of our 6 month study of whether it might be feasible to create an experimental Centre for Justice Innovation in London. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic at the moment. More to come...

PS: Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an op-ed that I wrote entitled "Failures are key to public safety success."

PPS: Crime Report ran a great story by the always reliable Bernice Yeung that touches on some important themes related to Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Refrom.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back from Vacation; Still Promoting Failure

Apologies for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks -- I've been on vacation or traveling for work much of the time. But I'm back now with my usual dose of self-promotion: here are a handful of links related to Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure...

Op-ed from Chronicle of Philanthropy

Nice mention in Sentencing Law and Policy Blog

Urban Institute panel: Failure -- Public Policy's Stepladder to Success

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nancy's Cake

As promised.

Food Glorious Food

I'm on vacation next week so I am frantically trying to work my way through my in-box and get things squared away before I leave. Although the awful heat seems to have broken here in New York, the Center for Court Innovation is still cooking, in some cases literally. Case in point: earlier this week, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center held a party to celebrate the release of Crown Heights Is Cookin', a new cookbook that gathers recipes from the diverse ethnic groups that comprise Crown Heights. Click here to order the book.

The Midtown Community Court has food-related news to share as well. Green Mountain Coffee selected the Court as one of the finalists in their Revelation to Action competition. In addition, the Crime Report did a recent story on prostitution in New York City that featured the Court.

I was struggling to come up with a food-related angle to talk about the Greenpoint Youth Court, which held its second-ever graduation ceremony last night, when Beth sent along a photo of a beautiful cake that Nancy made for the event. If I can figure out how to upload it, I'll share the photo at some point.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Guide to the Juvenile Justice System

Today sees the unveiling of the Youth Justice Board's wonderful comic book/guide to the juvenile justice system, with an event featuring NYC Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi at Manhattan Family Court. Created in concert with the Center for Urban Pedagogy and artist Danica Novgorodoff, the guide is intended to explain how Family Court works to any young person who finds him or herself enmeshed in the system. Aside from being incredibly useful, it is a beautiful object -- click here for more photos.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Failure Book Publicity

This week was a busy one in terms of Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure. It started with a party at the Fund for the City of New York to celebrate the book's release. It was great to see so many friendly faces from the non-profit sector, state government and city government (including new Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith). Better still, the event functioned as a mini-Center for Court Innovation reunion, drawing back alums like John Feinblatt, Amanda Burden and many others. Here's Urban Institute's press release publicizing the book.

In the days since the party, Aubrey and I have been working on an op-ed about the book for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. I'll let you know when it runs. In addition, I've been doing a fair number of talk radio shows across the country. Easily the funniest was my appearance on Rude Awakening with Bulldog and the Dude from Maryland. Please know that it was a 7am appearance and that I am not generally an articulate person in the morning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Miss Emma

Friday brought sad news from Red Hook: Emma Broughton, a long-time community leader and friend of the Justice Center, passed away after a long battle with illness.

I first met Emma in the early 1990s -- she was a regular at community board and precinct council meetings in Red Hook. I think, like a lot of folks, she was somewhat skeptical of me at the start. But she never allowed her skepticism to overcome her feelings of hope for her community -- or her good manners as a person. She always had a gracious, gentle way about her that tended to win friends and disarm potential enemies. More than this, she exuded a sense of decency that made me want to live up to her expectations. In many ways, she came to embody the frustrations and aspirations of the Red Hook community for me. That's why John Feinblatt and I chose to profile her in Good Courts. (That chapter is not available on the Internet, but here is a link to a Village Voice story about Emma that includes a nice mention of the Justice Center.)

I last saw Miss Emma a couple of months ago at the Justice Center's 10th anniversary. While she was clearly ailing, she still had her trademark mischievous smile. I'm happy to report that she was full of pride about the Justice Center. Her final words to me were "We did it. We really did it."

Jail in New York City

A few weeks ago, I was on a panel at the Kennedy School that attempted to look at how problem-solving courts have helped reduce both crime and incarceration in New York. To echo this theme, an article in yesterday's New York Times specifically mentions community courts, drug courts and mental health courts as contributing to a decrease in New York City's jail population.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Teamwork v. Individual Brilliance: The Case of Ray Allen

For those of you who have missed my non-work-related entries, this one's for you...

I'm currently counting down the moments until Game 3 of the NBA finals. I watched Game 2 in a soulless hotel room the other night in DC. The grim surroundings threw Ray Allen's brilliance -- he set an NBA record with 8 three pointers -- in stark relief. This clip from ESPN breaks down how Allen got open for his amazing shooting night, which helped to bury the Lakers. The operative lesson here is that every act of seemingly individual brilliance has its roots in effective teamwork.

Congressional Briefing and More

Yesterday, we convened our first-ever congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. The topic was "Innovation in Hard Times: How to Reduce Both Crime and Incarceration" and our speakers included Jonathan Lippman (New York State Chief Judge), Jim Burch (Acting Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance), Tim Murray (Pretrial Justice Institute) and Chris Watler (Harlem Community Justice Center). Having never done one of these before, I didn't really know what to expect, but it seemed to go well --we had a standing-room only crowd and there was lots of positive chatter afterwards. While the conversation was wide-ranging, covering everything from reentry to pretrial reform, I think the basic message to the assembled congressional staffers was that we shouldn't be complacent about crime reductions (a point echoed in a recent USA Today editorial) and that we should seize this moment to also reduce the unnecessary use of jail and prison.

After the panel, I did several other meetings in DC, including a visit with Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson. Among other things, she reaffirmed the Justice Department's commitment to drug courts and problem-solving justice in general. Attorney General Holder made a similar point in his recent speech at the drug court conference in Boston.

PS. By chance, I sat next to the founder of Craigslist on the train to DC. He seemed like a good guy.