Saturday, June 13, 2015

Snapshots of Brownsville


I take an enormous amount of pride in the Center for Court Innovation's reputation as a serious  research organization.  Under the leadership of our research director, Michael Rempel, our research department has grown steadily in size and stature, conducting dozens of studies of national and international import.  We also ask our research team to look at our own operating programs to figure out whether we are actually achieving the kind of results that we intend.

As important as I think it is to use data to examine the impact of our work, numbers inevitably fail to communicate much of what we do.  Take the Brownsville Community Justice Center, for example.

We are running a variety of different initiatives in Brownsville, all designed to reduce local crime, improve public trust in justice, and provide meaningful opportunities for young people to avoid criminal involvement.   This includes a campaign to combat violence in the neighborhood, a youth court that trains local teens to handle cases involving their peers, and a variety of efforts to transform the physical environment in Brownsville.

Even as I type this (partial) list of our activities, I know that I am failing to capture the feeling and texture of the work in Brownsville.  In the face of significant challenges, our team is helping to transform the lives of hundreds of people each year.  Everyone who I have ever sent out to Brownsville to see the work in action has come back a believer.

But it is hard to get people out to Brownsville.  So we have tried to tell the Brownsville story through podcasts, including this one with Loretta Lynch.  We have tried to tell the Brownsville story through a wonderful blog that is well worth following.  We  also have an Instagram account for Brownsville: @the_brownsville_justice_center.

Our latest effort is an investment in photography and design.  Spurred in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, we have created a beautiful poster (see photo above) that features portraits of a number of local residents and participants in our programs.  I can't wait for the final product to come back from the printers.

While we still have a lot of work to do to spread the word about the Brownsville Community Justice Center, the New York Times has gotten the message, running this piece earlier this week and this editorial endorsing the idea of a community court for the neighborhood.