Sunday, March 15, 2015

"It's A Crazy World"


This afternoon, the Brooklyn Museum hosted a panel on juvenile justice reform as part of the roll-out of Nell Bernstein's new book "Burning Down the House."  I took my family to the event for multiple reasons.  To be honest, part of my motivations were ulterior -- the panel gave me an excuse to see the Kehinde Wiley exhibit currently at the museum.  But it is also true that I had multiple connections with the event.  For example, Bernstein's publisher (The New Press) also published my book "Good Courts."  And three of the panelists were drawn from organizations that the Center for Court Innovation has partnered with in the past (Vera Institute of Justice, the Brooklyn DA's Office, and the Brooklyn Community Foundation).

But the primary reason I went to the event was to support the Brownsville Community Justice Center, which was represented by Jasmine Bowie (a social worker) and Abdul Francis (a participant).   Together, Jasmine and Abdul helped to ground the conversation in the realities of life in central Brooklyn -- the pressures exerted by local gangs, the dire consequences of incarceration, the challenges of working with young people suffering from various forms of trauma.  "It's a crazy world," said Abdul at one point (or words to that effect).  More positively, Abdul also spoke about coming to the Justice Center as a mandated participant but then continuing on after his mandate, thanks in no small part to the efforts that Jasmine made to engage him in the various youth development programs offered by the Justice Center.  Clearly, for Abdul, connecting with the Justice Center has been a life-changing experience.

We have a lot of work to do before we realize the vision of a full-fledged, functioning courthouse in Brownsville.  But today was a nice reminder that we are doing a lot of good work on the ground even before the courthouse opens it doors.