Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Farewell in Red Hook

Yesterday, the Red Hook Community Justice Center hosted a farewell party for Leroy Davis, a court officer who retired after more than a decade of service in Red Hook. Since the very start of the Justice Center, Leroy has been an important part of establishing the culture of the place. There's an old aphorism that you never get a second chance to make a positive first impression. Leroy, and the rest of the court officers who guard the building and keep inhabitants safe, seem to take that wisdom to heart. At the door to the Justice Center, they help set a tone that is both secure and friendly, welcoming and no-nonsense. But Leroy's role at the Justice Center was never confined to his job description; he always went above and beyond, particularly if kids were involved. To get just a little bit of the flavor of the man, it is worth checking out the short Red Hook video. We wish him well going forward.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The GAO on Drug Courts

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends its money. In a new report, the GAO declares that drug courts reduce recidivism. The GAO study is based, in part, on the multi-site adult drug court evaluation that we conducted along with the Urban Institute and RTI International. According to the GAO, “This is the broadest and most ambitious study of Drug Courts to date; it is well done analytically; and the results, as they relate to the impact of Drug Courts, are transparent and well described.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Honoring Joel Copperman

Last night, Youth Represent honored Joel Copperman, the executive director of CASES, at their annual benefit. It always makes me happy to see good work rewarded. There's much to admire about Joel -- his affability, his decency, his commitment to CASES' clients, etc -- but the thing that stands out for me is his longevity. Joel's been running CASES for more than twenty years, through good times and bad, and I can discern no dimunition whatsoever in his zeal for the work at hand. CASES is lucky to have him, as is New York City and the field of alternatives to incarceration.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NeON in Brownsville

This morning saw the official launch of the New York City Probation Department's Neighborhood Opportunity Network initiative (or NeON for short) in Brownsville. It was a feel-good event, headlined by Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Probation Commissioner Vinny Schiraldi (pictured above in a grainy shot taken on my cell phone). Along with the Brownsville Partnership, we will be core partners in the NeON initiative: in the days ahead, our Brownsville Community Justice Center team will be located side-by-side with a team of probation officers dedicated to serving Brownsville residents. Together, the hope is that we can improve service delivery, making it easier for probationers to get the help they need to get their lives back on track. In his remarks, Commissioner Schiraldi was particularly gracious toward the Center for Court Innovation, saying that the idea for neighborhood-based probation was partly inspired by our community courts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kelling at John Jay

I spent this morning at John Jay College at a standing-room only lecture by George Kelling hosted by the National Network for Safe Communities and David Kennedy. Kelling has said nice things about the Midtown Community Court in the past and was even generous enough to blurb my book Good Courts, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I found his speech fascinating. Kelling essentially provided an overview of criminal justice policymaking in the U.S., with a particular focus on policing over the past two generations. One of the themes that he returned to again and again was the importance of establishing and maintaining legitimacy among agents of social control. Two of his lines struck a chord with me: "police are the people and the people are the police" and "in a democracy, you cannot police citizens unless they consent to be policed."

Kelling's focus is obviously the police, but his thinking resonates with our work within court systems and the lessons we are learning about the importance of procedural justice. In talking about the transformation of the New York City subway system in the 1990s, Kelling credited police with clearly articulating their enforcement strategy and then rigorously following through on that strategy. The more I look around, the more I think that this seemingly simple idea -- purposeful communication combined with a focus on implementation that encourages the system to live up to its intentions -- underlies many of the most intriguing innovations of recent years (HOPE Probation, the drug market intervention, community courts, etc.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lessons from Greenlight

The latest issue of the National Institute of Justice Journal contains another look at Project Greenlight by James A. Wilson and Christine Zozula.

For those who don't recall, Greenlight was an effort to produce better outcomes among those leaving prison in New York by providing specialized programming in the months immediately preceding release to the community. An initial evaluation, which tracked participants for 12 months post-release, found that Greenlight actually increased re-arrests. Full credit to our friends at the Vera Institute of Justice, which helped to conceive and implement Project Greenlight: they have been remarkably forthright about these results and have sought to help the field learn from their experience.

Wilson and Zozula return to Greenlight, re-assessing the project's impact over a longer period of study (30 months v. 12 months) and looking at the results through the lens of risk. In particular, they sought to tease out whether Greenlight might have had different impacts depending upon the level of risk posed by participating offenders. They found that Greenlight participants still performed worse than the comparison group at 30 months, regardless of the risk level. Somewhat counter-intuitively, they also found that Greenlight performed best with low-risk offenders, despite the fact that, in general, intensive correctional programming seems to work best with medium- and high-risk offenders.

Kudos to NIJ for another interesting issue of NIJ Journal.