Thursday, February 25, 2010

Today at the Center

Our central offices were buzzing today. We had a site visit from the Department of Justice to check on our progress replicating the Ceasefire model from Chicago in Crown Heights. We also hosted a full-day focus group of drug court experts from around the country, including representatives from Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, Mississippi, Minnesota, Colorado, Maryland and Montana. The focus group was part of our effort to turn the failure lens towards drug court, attempting to mine lessons from places where drug courts have struggled. I only sat in on part of the conversation, but I heard a lot of interesting discussion about leadership challenges and in particular the importance of succession planning.

A Trip to UPenn

I spent last night in Philadelphia guest lecturing at the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology. I've been lucky enough to be asked to do this for the past couple of years and its always good fun. First, you get to meet notable scholars in the field (this year, I had a chance to spend time with John MacDonald and Bill Laufer). You also get to interact with dozens of sharp UPenn law and criminology students, who ask you hard questions about how courts should respond to domestic violence and what you think about Hawaii's HOPE program. Although Laurie Robinson has left to serve in the Justice Department, it still feels like UPenn is a place of real ferment in criminal justice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cy Vance in Harlem

Last night was another high water mark for the Harlem Community Justice Center. The reentry court graduated its latest class of parolees -- a group of 16 men and women who had successfully completed the program and made enormous strides towards getting their lives back on track. Before a standing-room-only crowd in the third floor courtroom, several graduates spoke eloquently about the obstacles that they had overcome and their gratitude toward the judge and their parole officers. I'm always struck at these events by the palpable warmth between the parole officers and the parolees. To my mind, Harlem's parole officers seem to strike the perfect balance: communicating that they care about their charges but also that they are watching closely for any deviations from the terms of parole. The keynote speaker last night was the newly-elected Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance spoke in personal terms about learning as a young prosecutor that treatment was often a better path than incarceration for certain offenders. Vance's appearance was a powerful symbol that he cares about more than simply prosecuting cases and that he is committed to making a difference in neighborhoods like Harlem. It was also an encouraging sign about the developing partnership between his office and the Center. So, all in all, a total home run of an evening. Kudos to Chris, John, Nigel and the rest of the Harlem team.

Domestic Violence in Hawaii

The first of a three-part series of articles from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald about domestic violence focuses on a study performed by the Center for Court Innovation.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Round Up

A few things from my in-box that might be of wider interest:

Red Hook Community Justice Center judge Alex Calabrese to appear at John Jay College screening of a BBC documentary about crime.

A1 story from yesterday's New York Times about New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

Interesting article on domestic violence from Gotham Gazette.

A new podcast series about criminal justice hosted by my friend David Onek at Berkeley Law School

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Partnership with John Jay

I spent this evening at John Jay College at a reception hosted by President Jeremy Travis. The event honored a partnership between John Jay College and the Red Hook Public Safety Corps that engaged more than a dozen John Jay students in a variety of visible community service projects. It was a feel-good event, all the more so because it honors the beginning of a program rather than the end; we plan to do even more with John Jay in the days ahead. Kudos to James for being the point person on our end.

New Post for an Old Friend

My old boss (and former director of the Center for Court Innovation) John Feinblatt was just named to a new position in city government by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The press release can be found here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

John Jay Panel

Another good article from the always interesting website Crime Report, this one about a panel on problem-solving justice held at John Jay College a few weeks ago.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Before and After

One of my favorite things in the world is a good set of "before and after" photographs. Thankfully, we now have a website that is dedicated to providing compelling images of the effects of community service work -- documenting how visible conditions of disorder throughout the city are being repaired thanks to the labor of supervised offenders. I've posted a "before" photo above -- you'll have to go to the NYC Community Cleanup to see what it looks like after the work crews have done their work.

Report from London

I've spent the best part of this week in London as part of our joint effort with the Young Foundation to test the feasibility of a Center for Court Innovation-like entity for the UK. From our meetings with various government officials, academics, funders, potential non-profit partners and political operatives, Aubrey and I took away mixed messages. On the one hand, this is a bad moment to try to start something new in England: the economy is in horrible shape, government is being forced to make drastic cuts and with an election looming in the not-too-distant future, it is unclear who will be in power and what their agenda will be. On the other hand, nearly everyone we talked to, both on this visit and earlier trips, seems to think that there is a real need for an institution that bridges the worlds of practice and theory and can push a justice system reform agenda over the long haul. We'll see. We've got the better part of 2010 to figure out whether we can make it happen or not.

Friday, February 5, 2010


The Center is officially on Twitter. Click here to follow us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Winning Time

Tonight I went to the premiere of "Winning Time," a new documentary about Reggie Miller and the Knicks-Pacers rivalry of the early 1990s. It brought back all of the emotions, images and characters of those great series -- the insanity of John Starks, the spectacle of Spike Lee, the pantomime villainy of Reggie Miller. As always, the player that stood out for me was Patrick Ewing, who missed a finger roll at the end of the deciding game 7 in 1995 to seal the Knicks' doom. In the film, Ewing is funny and engaging and rueful; he talks about the "basketball gods" closing the hoop to him on the fateful play. In the moments after falling short, Ewing's reaction is one of pride and dignity. Maybe I have been thinking about the upsides of failure too much, but I think Ewing's career should be celebrated and not scorned, as it is so often by New Yorkers.

Why Is Crime Down?

An interesting (although oddly full of typos) article from The Crime Report that includes interviews with a range of criminologists on the subject of why crime has gone down of late even in the midst of a recession.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MOMA and Midtown

Wow. Very cool new post on the Museum of Modern Art website about a joint project with the Midtown Community Court. Thanks to Danielle for calling it to my attention.