Thursday, July 30, 2015

Design Like You Give A Damn


"Design Like You Give A Damn" is the name of a book that came out a few years ago that featured, among other innovative public projects, the Red Hook Community Justice Center.  "Design Like You Give A Damn" would also have been a good title for the conversation I participated in earlier today with a group of architects interested in rethinking how the justice system approaches design.

The participants in the meeting were full of good ideas about how to improve jails, courthouses, probation offices and other criminal justice settings. The group seemed to agree that before you can have good design, you have to have good clients (i.e. government agencies who are interested in more than simply replicating yesterday's facilities with better systems) and good process (to arrive at a shared programmatic vision to guide design).

Everyone in the room also seemed to agree that "environment cues behavior" as one architect put it. The implications of this for the criminal justice system are to create spaces that encourage (voluntary) law-abiding behavior and nudge participants (be they inmates, arrestees, victims, etc) toward participation in positive activities.

While the architects didn't use the language of procedural justice, they essentially were encouraging criminal justice agencies to create facilities that communicate respect to users not just through program but through design and signage as well.  This idea has animated all of the design projects that we have engaged in at the Center for Court Innovation.

As it happens, I talked a little bit about the intersection of design and procedural justice at the National Network for Safe Communities conference a few weeks ago -- see video link below around the 16 minute mark.


For anyone interested in more detail about how we have tried to approach these topics -- typically with a major assist from the architect Alta Indelman -- check out this breakdown of the Red Hook Community Justice Center that was published by the Rudy Bruner Foundation

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Revolutionary Idea


She works in a building called "the green monster."   She's been called "a warrior of procedural justice." Now I think you just have to call her a star.

It has been a big couple of weeks for Judge Victoria Pratt of Newark Community Solutions.  A couple of weeks ago, she was profiled in a great long read in the Guardian under the headline: "The simple idea that could transform US criminal justice."  And this morning she appeared on Melissa Harris-Perry's show on MSNBC talking about how she has implemented procedural justice in Newark's Municipal Court.

In just a few minutes on screen, Judge Pratt explains how to treat even difficult defendants with dignity and respect.  She also talks about how she has used essay assignments to help defendants accept accountability for their behavior and think outside of the four corners of their block.

This is must-see TV for criminal justice reformers.