Thursday, July 26, 2012

From the Archives

I've spent a fair amount of time this week with my door closed writing.  In a week's time I'm going to England to participate in an international symposium on therapeutic jurisprudence and problem-solving justice put together by Jane Donohue, a professor at the University of Oxford.  I'm delivering a paper with the working title, "Reflections on Two Decades of Success and Failure with Problem-Solving Courts," so I've had an excuse to go back through the archives of the Center for Court Innovation.  I've found a bunch of interesting stuff but I'll share just one document here: the original concept paper for the Red Hook Community Justice Center, which was one of the first things that I wrote after coming to work here back in 1994. 

While I'm on the subject of archival material, I also wanted to share this link to an unreleased KRS-One track entitled "It's Gettin' Hectic."  The song dates from 1993 and comes from the sessions that KRS-One did with DJ Premier for the Return of the Boom Bap album -- arguably the greatest hip-hop producer and MC working together at the top of their respective games.  How did this cut not make the album?  Every time that I get depressed about how much time I spend online, up pops a gem like this that probably would never have seen the light of day were it not for the Internet.  I'm praying that there's more where this came from...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Booker on Court Reform

Another recent quote that I liked, this time from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, in an online discussion the other day on reddit:  "Court reform . . . I discussed this in another answer but by having youth courts, veterans courts, drug courts and more, we are finding that we can empower people to stay out of jail and turn their lives around as opposed to get chewed up in the system. Court innovation is critical and Newark is leading the way in New Jersey thanks to great partners like The Center For Court Innovation in NYC."

How to Criticize Courts

New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman had an interesting op-ed in yesterday's New York Daily News that touches on the stop-and-frisk debate.  Lippman's principal point was to defend the judges who have had to make controversial rulings involving stop-and-frisk encounters from personal attacks by politicians and editorial writers.  But he also acknowledged the positive role that criticism of the courts can play: "The judiciary is one of our most important democratic institutions, and no public agency is immune to criticism. Indeed, criticism of the judiciary can be healty and constructive, helping to spur innovation and needed improvements in the administration of justice."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Three Quotes

The Centre for Justice Innovation, our London outpost, is readying a new paper that looks at Intensive Alternatives to Custody, a pilot probation program that, against the odds, has managed to survive despite the withdrawal of central government funding.  In reviewing an early draft of the paper (which is great, by the way), one of my critiques was that it needed more quotations.  As a reader, I am a sucker for a good quote.  I like to think that one of the things that distinguishes our writing at the Center for Court Innovation from some other agencies is that we use quotations almost as much as a good newspaper does.

Anyway, here are three (non-criminal-justice) quotes I came across recently that struck a chord with me:

Iggy Pop in the New York Times: "I couldn't stand the sincere punks.  I never believed them.  Still don't.  Like the Clash were going to make the world politically correct for everybody's benefit -- but only if you kept buying Clash records. I never really went for the righteousness."

(These lines sent a little shudder through me.  The Clash have long been my favorite band, but as I grow older, I am beginning to agree with Iggy's assessment.)

DJ Premier on Rakim: "I like when you look and sound like the record.  Before we even knew what Rakim looked like, we didn't know what Eric B. looked like, when we saw them, we were like, they looked just like the record...[Rakim] looked like what we were hoping he was going to look like."

(I think Premier hits on an underrated part of Rakim's reputation here: for all the justified accolades his lyrics earn, his appearance has always been a big part of his appeal.)

Josh Levin of Slate on LeBron James: "His horrible self-presentation during and immediately after his move from Cleveland to South Beach meant that any on-court failings would be seen as personal ones, consequences of ego and selfishness rather than of poor form on his jump shot. This conflation of game and life—the notion that good players are good, self-actualized people—is the sports media’s laziest, most-infantilizing habit."

(I couldn't agree more.  Levin goes on to write: "The struggles of great players do not always have a deeper meaning...struggles with a game aren't indicative of struggles with personal demons...even the greatest players can be stymied in their efforts to win the NBA Finals.")

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mental Health Courts Work

I'm back in New York after an all-too-short vacation in Martha's Vineyard.  While I was gone, we sent around an email blast announcing the release of the Urban Institute's evaluation of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court.  The study, which documents reductions in recidivism among participants in the mental health court when compared to similarly situated defendants whose cases received conventional case processing, was picked by the New York Law Journal which did a short piece on its front page yesterday (behind a pay wall, unfortunately, so I'm not bothering with a link).  Our friend Kevin Burke at the American Judges Association also did a short blog posting about the study under the headline "Mental Health Courts Work."

While I'm sharing links -- and with apologies if this crosses some sort of invisible self-promotional line -- here is an interview I did recently with two members of our Youth Justice Board about the Center for Court Innovation's work with young people.