Thursday, May 20, 2010

Community Service in the Bronx

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a sucker for before-and-after photos that document community service in action. So you can imagine my delight when I heard the news that Bronx Community Solutions and the 161st Street Business Improvement District had organized a photo exhibit entitled “Shifting Lenses" that chronicles court-ordered community service projects in the Bronx.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Trip to Staten Island

The highlight of my day today was a trip to Staten Island to visit our Staten Island Youth Justice Center, which includes both a youth court and an alternative to detention program. I was accompanied by Joseph Lauria, the former chief administrative judge of New York City Family Court, who came to talk to the youth court members and offer feedback on a youth court hearing. The youth court members peppered Lauria with questions for more than an hour -- about the law, his career and the challenges of being a judge. I'm not ashamed to admit that I learned a few things in the process, which is a credit to the quality of the exchange. Kudos to Melissa and the rest of the Staten Island team for running such a good program.

Monday, May 17, 2010

QUEST Celebration

This afternoon Queens Family Court hosted a celebration of our QUEST program -- Queens Engagement Strategies for Teens. Aside from a small moment of panic at the start (three of the principal speakers were late in arriving due to traffic), the event was a big success. New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman delivered the keynote address, placing QUEST in the context of a statewide vision of juvenile justice reform that includes closing placement facilities and transferring responsibility for juvenile probation in New York to the judiciary. In addition, Gladys Carrion (the head of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services) and Vincent Schiraldi (the NYC Commissioner of Probation) spoke about how we need more alternative programs like QUEST throughout the City and State. Although all of the endorsements from officialdom were nice, the best part of the program was the testimonials from parents whose children had had life-changing experiences in QUEST. Two mothers and one dad spoke movingly about their gratitude to Dave and Carol and the rest of the team at QUEST -- a gratitude that I most definitely share.

Failure on the March

This is the first of what I fear will be many blog entries in the coming weeks about the topic of failure. We are fast approaching the June publication date for the book that Aubrey and I have been working on for the past few years: Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure (Urban Institute Press). Even as we wait for the book to arrive, I have been inundated with reminders of why we chose to wrote a book on projects that struggled to achieve their goals. One comes from my friend Phil, who is one of the smartest people I know about non-profits. He sends along this link from the Case Foundation -- a rare example of a foundation takling openly about its own mistakes. Also, this article from Slate discusses the recent proliferation of books about success, thus highlighting why it might be a nice balance to have a few books about failure.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Drug Czar in Red Hook

This morning, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske visited the Red Hook Community Justice Center. It was a short visit, but an inspiring one. Kerlikowske was in town as part of his effort to promote the President's new national drug control policy, which was released earlier this week. The strategy explicitly mentions Red Hook and community courts as an innovative approach to fighting substance abuse. Kerlikowske spoke about the need for more projects like Red Hook capable of bridging the worlds of treatment and prevention and law enforcement. Here's a link to the official blog from his office which talks about the visit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Good Courts in the Times

This is a link to a random New York Times blog that runs through some of the books written by Bloomberg administration officials. It includes a nice mention of Good Courts, the book I co-wrote with John Feinblatt. The bad news is that it undercounts our sales. Oh well.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Peter Drucker's Next Management

Just got my grubby mitts on a copy of Peter F. Drucker's Next Management: New Institutions, New Theories and Practices (Verlag Sordon), a new book devoted to examining the legacy of the influential management theorist. I contributed a chapter to the book -- "Court Reform, Non-Profit Management and the Writings of Peter Drucker: Lessons from the Center for Court Innovation" -- that attempts to tell the story of the Center through the prism of Drucker's writings about the non-profit sector.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Drug Court Celebration

This morning I attended a celebration of New York City's drug courts in Brooklyn. It was like a drug court graduation on steroids: hundreds of people in attendance and dozens of happy graduates talking about how their lives had been saved thanks to the combination of treatment and judicial supervision. Because much of the event was dedicated to the history of drug courts in New York, I found my mind wandering back to the early days of the Brooklyn Treatment Court. It is easy to take for granted now that drug courts are everywhere and such a potent political force, but in the early days of the Brooklyn Treatment Court the project felt very much like a wild experiment. I remember lots of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing until we were fortunate enough to have Val sign on as project director. She brought a number of talents to the table: not only a deep knowledge of the criminal justice system and all of the relevant players, but a fierce commitment to doing the right thing and a willingness to step into the background if it was the right thing for the project. While numerous players helped make the Brooklyn Treatment Court a success, including two -- Brooklyn DA Joe Hynes and judge Jo Ann Ferdinand -- that were honored today, Val's contribution was crucial. So, kudos to Val and also to Christina who helped organize today's event.