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.