Monday, October 31, 2011

Brownsville Notes

The centerpiece of my day today was a meeting with James Brodick and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to discuss Brownsville. In the aftermath of last week's horrible shooting, we are re-doubling our efforts to advance the idea of a community justice center for the neighborhood. Under James' leadership, we've already got a fair amount going in Brownsville, including a youth court that just held its 100th hearing and an array of community service projects. To this, we will soon add "Safe Surrender," a joint effort with the Brooklyn DA's office, the New York court system, the Legal Aid Society and local clergy to help local residents clear up outstanding warrants without having to schlep downtown to court. We also plan to convene a local task force to look at juvenile reentry issues. And we are hoping to raise money to attempt a Ceasefire-style gun violence project. While NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman have both endorsed the idea of a community court for Brownsville, the realities of New York real estate and raising capital dollars mean it is going to take some time before we have a vibrant courthouse in the neighborhood. But I think we can still do a lot of good in Brownsville in the meantime. The bottom line is that I think we don't have to wait for a courtroom to open the Justice Center.

P.S. A couple of interesting invitations hit my in-box today. The first is for a lecture, hosted by David Kennedy's Center for Crime Prevention and Control, by George Kelling at John Jay College on December 6th. One of the originators of the "broken windows" theory, Kelling has been a hugely influential criminal justice scholar for more than a generation. The community court model certainly builds on his insight that the justice system needs to take minor offending seriously.

The second invite comes from Youth Represent which is honoring Joel Copperman, the executive director of CASES at their upcoming event on December 8th. CASES is a wonderful organization that runs alternative-to-incarceration programs (among other things) and Joel is one of the true class acts that I have met in the world of justice reform.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Change at the Top

Yesterday came news that Ann Pfau had stepped down as the chief administrative judge of New York. While this position is mostly invisible to the general public, it is hugely important inside the justice system. Reporting directly to the chief judge of New York, the chief administrative judge is responsible for overseeing the third branch of government, which includes thousands of employees, millions of cases, and hundreds of tough policy calls each year. Today, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that Pfau will be replaced by Gail Prudenti. In the Law Journal story covering the announcement, Judge Prudenti said this: "I want to work with the Center for Court Innovation and look for partners that have the same goal of equal justice for all."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's Going On

A quick review of recent developments:

Our friends from the New Economics Foundation in England visit the Harlem Reentry Court.

The Offender Aid & Restoration of Essex County will honor Jethro Antoine and Newark Community Solutions at their upcoming gala.

At their 25th anniversary event headlined by Jeremy Travis of John Jay College, the Sentencing Project unveils a short film highlighting several alternative-to-incarceration projects, including the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

The New York Times editorial page endorses New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's court reform plan for teenage offenders.

And finally, strange days at the Midtown Community Court.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Design

Last night I had the chance to attend the Center for Urban Pedagogy's annual benefit and talk about our collaboration on "I Got Arrested...Now What?", a comic-book guide to the juvenile justice system that is now being distributed throughout New York City by the Department of Probation. For those that don't know CUP, they are a small, Brooklyn-based non-profit that serves as a bridge between the world of art and design and the world of public policy. I think quite highly of them -- they certainly did wonderful work with us.

Amidst all of the praise that I have heaped on our founding director John Feinblatt of late, one of the things that I didn't focus on was his commitment to good design. In the early days of our agency, he sent a clear signal about this by hiring Amanda Burden to think through signage, Alta Indelman to work on various architecture projects, and Pentagram to work on our branding. Since becoming the director of the Center, I've tried to carry forward this value, most recently by engaging Zago to re-engineer our website and Megan McConagha to assist with some of our printed materials.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tuesday Night in Chelsea

On Tuesday of this week, we held our first-ever fundraiser at the Chelsea Art Museum: a cocktail party to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Center for Court Innovation. More than 250 people came out to see us honor John Feinblatt, our founding director, and to hear New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman say nice things about us. My favorite line was probably this one from the Mayor:

“Reducing recidivism is one of the toughest things to do in criminal justice, but it is probably the most important and has the greatest impact on crime rates. Everybody wins when it happens, our streets are safer, taxpayers spend less money on jail, and people put their talents to more productive uses. And I think it’s fair to say that no one has been as effective at finding new ways to reduce recidivism than the Center for Court Innovation.”

New York Law Journal coverage here.

Mayor Bloomberg's official photos of the event here.

Our write-up of the party here.