Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reclaiming the Streets, Healing the Community

A few months back, we worked with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Michigan State University to make a short film about the drug market initiative in High Point, North Carolina. The brainchild of David Kennedy at John Jay College, the drug market initiative is a unique effort to simultaneously address open air drug markets and police-community relations. I'm proud of how the film turned out. Most of the credit goes to Rob Wolf, who directed the project.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Juvenile Justice Reform in New York

This morning, radio station WBAI did an hour on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to have the City relieve the State of some of the responsibility for running the juvenile justice system. Al Siegel from the Center for Court Innovation was a guest. Click here to listen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


One of my favorite traditions at the Center for Court Innovation is the annual bake-off that happens at our holiday party. I can't remember exactly when the tradition started, but I seem to recall my friend Eric being at the center of it. The best part of the bake-off for me is all of the trash talk it engenders in the run up. Here is my small contribution: a photo of the cupcakes I baked this weekend with my daughters. I don't know how they will taste by Tuesday, but I think they look pretty good.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Left, Right and Drug Court

Funny how the world turns. When I first started in this business in the early 1990s, drug courts were viewed by many as a liberal response to an increasingly punitive (read: conservative) criminal justice system. By offering defendants treatment in lieu of incarceration, drug courts were a step away from "tough-on-crime" initiatives such as mandatory minimums, three-strikes-and-you're-out, and truth in sentencing legislation. Fast forward to today. Now it appears that the principal criticisms of drug court come from the left. See, for example, this recent piece in The Nation, which criticizes drug courts for requiring guilty pleas and for widening the net of social control. On the flip side is a new conservative criminal justice reform group, Right on Crime, which argues for more drug courts (and more alternatives to incarceration in general) on the grounds that taxpayer spending on corrections has gotten out of control.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Midtown Success Story

My favorite email of the week comes from Becca at the Midtown Community Court, who sends along an example of the positive outcomes that happen on a regular basis at our demonstration projects. I've edited the email slightly for clarity and length. I also changed the name of the participant.

Mr. Scott has come through Midtown regularly quality-of-life offenses. Through the years, our staff “planted seeds” in Mr. Scott’s mind, encouraging him to strongly consider our on-site Times Square Ink job training program. Finally, something clicked for Mr. Norwood the last time he appeared in Court before Judge Weinberg. After completing a one day court mandate, Mr. Scott decided to voluntarily enroll in Times Square Ink. As one of the only voluntary participants in TSI, Mr. Scott was always the first one here and the last one to leave. He devoted every ounce of energy, poise and drive to take advantage of the program. The computer exercises and interviewing practice did not come easy to Mr. Scott, but his determination ultimately paid off. He completed Times Square Ink in late November and two weeks later TSI placed him in a sanitation job with Times Square Alliance! This same man who just 6 months ago was breaking the law in our neighborhood, is now helping the neighborhood and helping himself! Mr. Scott’s story is a true MCC success. It took everyone from the Court Officers, to Judge, to Resource Coordinator, Alternative Sanctions staff, Social Workers, and lastly TSI staff, to help him evolve into a law abiding, working NYC resident!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Corrections and Mental Health

The National Institute of Corrections has a new online publication covering correctional mental health practices. Would be worth mentioning even if one of their first pieces wasn't a brief overview of Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform.

Monday, December 6, 2010

American Prospect

The current issue of American Prospect includes a special section on criminal justice, including this piece by Sasha Abramsky on problem-solving courts that features the Center for Court Innovation.

BJA Conference

I'm currently in Washington DC attending a national conference on justice reform convened by the US Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance. It is a fairly massive gathering -- more than a thousand attendees, speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano, dozens of breakout sessions, etc. Remarkably, BJA put this whole thing together in just a couple of months. Hats off to them -- particularly because I'm told that it is their first such gathering in more than a decade. I'm speaking tomorrow, but I spent today hopping from panel to panel, listening to Mike Jacobson of the Vera Institute talk about cost/benefit analysis, Candice Kane of Operation Ceasefire talk about reducing gun violence and Robin Steinberg of Bronx Defenders talk about indigent defense reform, to name check just a few.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Latest from London

Aubrey is back in NYC to report on his progress in London so it seems like a good excuse to share two new reports out of England that have recently crossed my desk.

The first, Fitting the Crime: Reforming Community Sentences is written by our friends at Policy Exchange and features a foreword by another friend -- Louise Casey. In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit that NYC Community Cleanup is featured in a sidebar on page 78 of the report.

The second report comes from a group I'm less familiar with: Clinks. They have released a briefing on community justice courts in the UK that includes references to the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the report that Aubrey and I wrote for Police Exchange last year.

ABA Journal Story

This month's ABA Journal has a short piece on our Youth Justice Board and their efforts to use comic books to educate teens about the juvenile justice system.