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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Snapshots from a Busy Week

June is proving to be a busy time at the Center for Court Innovation. This week, we sent a cadre of folks to the national drug court conference in Boston. Among other topics, staffers from the Center will be featured on panels about about confidentiality laws, juvenile drug courts, mental health issues, the Rockefeller drug laws, domestic violence, community justice, and drug court research. Kudos to Val for organizing it all!

In addition, before the formal drug court conference began, Al and Chris helped to organize a special two-day symposium on reentry court. I'm hoping that we will be able to build on our success in Harlem in the days ahead to do more reentry work across the country.

Back in New York, the Staten Island Youth Court held its third graduation/induction ceremony. Since the Youth Court's inception, it has heard 219 cases involving teens who would have otherwise gone through the traditional criminal and juvenile justice systems. Compliance with sanctions remains at 90 percent. Melissa and her team have done a great job with this project.

Finally, yesterday, the CEO of the Corporation of National and Community Service came to NYC to do an event with Mayor Bloomberg on the steps of City Hall celebrating AmeriCorps grants to New York. I'm proud to say that James was invited to represent us at the event since we are one of the fortunate organizations to receive a new federal AmeriCorps grant.

Just as exciting

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Now Available

Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure is now officially available for purchase on