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.