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Closing Rikers Island: A Roadmap for Reducing Jail in New York City

July 19, 2021

New York City's promise to shutter its notorious Rikers Island jail complex hinges on reducing the number of people in city jails. This new report from the Independent Commission that called for Rikers' closure in 2017 and the Center for Court Innovation lays out a series of concrete, data-driven strategies to produce sizable jail reductions while prioritizing public safety.The annual cost of detaining someone on Rikers has soared to $447,000. As the report emphasizes, that is money that could be more productively used on a range of interventions to foster safer neighborhoods. Increasingly, research is finding stays in jail increase the likelihood of future criminal activity once someone is released, making us all less, not more, safe.The report recommends numerous policy changes, covering everything from improving case processing times—85 percent of the population on Rikers is presumed innocent and waiting, generally for months, for their day in court—to ensuring people's ability to pay bail is properly assessed, as is required by law. In combination, these changes can lastingly remake New York City's approach to incarceration.

From Drug Court to Classroom: Creating a Court to College Program (Practitioners Manual)

December 18, 2012

This guide for practitioners is one of four manuals that, together, explain how drug court teams can create a program to help drug court participants pursue higher education. The Practitioners Manual provides a road map for the entire program, which gives step-by-step guidance to participants enrolling in and seeking financial aid for college.

From Drug Court to Classroom: Creating a Court to College Program (Trainers Manual)

December 18, 2012

This guide for trainers is one of four manuals that, together, explain how drug court teams can create a program to help drug court participants pursue higher education. The Practitioners Manual provides a road map for the entire program, which gives step-by-step guidance to participants enrolling in and seeking financial aid for college. The other three manuals provide support for participants, interns and trainers.

The Adolescent Diversion Program in New York: A Reform in Progress

October 26, 2012

This paper reviews the lessons learned from nine pilot court sites testing the Adolescent Diversion Program, which brings cases of 16- and 17-year-olds before specially trained judges, who have access to an expanded array of dispositions, including age-appropriate services. The Adolescent Diversion Program was created as a forerunner to proposed legislation that would allow courts to divert cases pre-trial and focus more effectively on the special needs of adolescent defendants.

Community Court: The Research Literature

January 9, 2012

The first community court opened in Midtown Manhattan in 1993. Focusing on quality-of-life offenses, such as drug possession, shoplifting, vandalism,and prostitution, the Midtown Community Court sought to combine punishment and help, sentencing low-level offenders to perform visible community restitution, receive on site social services, including drug treatment, counseling, and job training. There are currently more than 60 community court projects in operation worldwide. In the United States alone there are 33 while there are 17 in South Africa, 13 in England and Wales, and one each in Australia and Canada.Community courts seek to achieve a variety of goals, such as reduced crime, increased engagement between citizens and the courts, improved perceptions of neighborhood safety, greater accountability for low level,"quality-of-life" offenders, speedier and more meaningful case resolutions, and cost savings. In advancing these goals, community courts generally make greater use of community-based sanctions than traditional courts (Hakuta, Soroushian,and Kralstein, 2008; Katz, 2009; Sviridoff et al., 2000; Weidner and Davis, 2000). Among a sample of 25 community courts surveyed in 2007, 92 percent routinely use community service mandates, and 84 percent routinely use social services mandates (Karafin, 2008). This paper reviews the research literature to date about community courts. Community court studies have employed a number of different research methods, reflecting the variation in community court models.

Looking Forward: Youth Perspectives on Reducing Crime in Brownsville and Beyond

May 26, 2011

This report presents the findings and recommendations of the Youth Justice Board, a group of New York City teenagers who study public policy issues that affect young people. Since August 2010, the Youth Justice Board has focused on reducing youth crime in New York City using the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn as a case study. This report presents ideas about how to reduce incidences of youth crime in Brownsville and neighborhoods that face similar challenges. In 2011-12, the Board will work to implement many of the ideas contained in this report in conjunction with the development of a new community justice center in Brownsville. The Board's ultimate goal is to make Brownsville a safe, supportive neighborhood for young people that provides for their social, emotional, and educational needs. Over five months, the Youth Justice Board conducted interviews with over 30 individuals involved in the city justice system and the Brownsville community. The Board visited four community justice centers and conducted three focus groups with young people involved in the justice system to learn about the experiences and perspectives of youths. The Youth Justice Board developed 10 recommendations designed to reduce youth crime in Brownsville and make the community a safer, more supportive place for youths to grow up.

Community Perceptions of Brownsville: A Survey of Neighborhood Quality of Life, Safety, and Services

May 17, 2011

In 2010, the Center for Court Innovation began exploring the possibility of creating a community court in Brownsville, Brooklyn. A community courtis a neighborhood-focused court that attempts to harness the authority of the justice system to address local problems. As part of the planning process community members were asked to voice their opinions about their neighborhood and community through an "Operation Data" survey, a tool to assess community needs and inform future initiatives. In October 2010, 815 residents, merchants, or people who work in Brownsville completed the survey. Their perceptions of quality of life, safety, services, and youth issues in their neighborhood are presented in this report.

What Makes A Court Problem-Solving: Universal Performance Indicators for Problem-Solving Justice

February 1, 2010

This report identifies a set of universal performance indicators for specialized "problem-solving courts" and related experiments in problem-solving justice. Traditional performance indicators related to caseload and processing efficiency can assist court managers in monitoring case flow, assigning cases to judges, and adhering to budgetary and statutory due process guidelines. Yet, these indicators are ultimately limited in scope. Faced with the recent explosion of problem solving courts and other experiments seeking to address the underlying problems of litigants, victims, and communities, there is an urgent need to complement traditional court performance indicators with ones of a problem-solving nature. With funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI), the Center for Court Innovation conducted an investigation designed to achieve three purposes. The first was to establish a set of universal performance indicators against which to judge the effectiveness of specialized problem-solving courts, of which there are currently more than 3,000 nationwide. The second purpose was to develop performance indicators specific to each of the four major problem-solving court models: drug, mental health, domestic violence, and community courts. The third purpose was to assist traditional court managers by establishing a more limited set of indicators, designed to capture problem-solving activity throughout the courthouse, not only within a specialized court context.

A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts

December 1, 2009

A growing number of criminal courts nationwide handle domestic violence cases on separate calendars, termed domestic violence courts. There are now 208 confirmed domestic violence courts across the U.S. (Center for Court Innovation 2009). More than 150 similar projects have been established internationally. Some domestic violence courts emerged in the context of the broader "problem-solving court" movement and share characteristics with other specialized courts, such as separate dockets and specially trained judges. However, the origins of domestic violence courts are also distinct, growing out of the increased attention afforded domestic violence matters by the justice system over the past 30 years. With funding from the National Institute of Justice, this study explores how criminal domestic violence courts have evolved, their rationale, and how their operations vary across the U.S. This study does not test whether domestic violence courts reduce recidivism, protect victims, or achieve other specific effects -- although we provide a thorough literature review on these points. Rather, our aim is to present a comprehensive national portrait of the field as it exists today, laying the groundwork for future information exchange and research.