The Center for Court Innovation was officially founded in 1996 but the story of its creation begins in 1993 with the founding of the Midtown Community Court. The team that created the nation's first community court went on to establish the Center for Court Innovation, in partnership with the New York State Court System and the Fund for the City of New York.
Over the years, the Center for Court Innovation has forged partnerships with decisionmakers at all levels of government—federal, state, and local. (See what some of them have to say about the Center.) Just as important, the Center has developed relationships with dozens of community groups and neighborhood service providers. The Center's achievements over the last two decades tell the story not just of one organization but of efforts to promote innovation in New York, across the U.S., and around the world.
• The Midtown Community Court, the nation’s first community court, opens in the Times Square neighborhood of Manhattan.
• Planning for the Red Hook Community Justice Center begins.
• The National Association for Court Management presents the Justice Achievement Award to the Midtown Community Court.
• The Midtown Community Court’s computer technology takes the top prize for public sector innovation at Windows World Open 1995.
• Under the leadership of Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, the New York State Court System formalizes its partnership with the Fund for the City of New York, establishing the Center for Court Innovation as an ongoing engine for court reform. The Center is led by founding director John Feinblatt.
• The Bureau of Justice Assistance at the US Department of Justice awards the Center a grant to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions around the country that are interested in developing community courts.
• The Center for Court Innovation receives the Innovations in American Government Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Ford Foundation, and the Council for Excellence in Government.
• The Center helps create the Manhattan Family Treatment Court.
• Portland, Oregon, becomes the first jurisdiction in the country to adapt the Midtown Community Court model. A few months later, Hartford, Connecticut, follows suit.
• Adult drug courts across New York adopt the Universal Treatment Application, a management information system created by the Center to monitor defendant compliance with court orders.
• The Center launches www.courtinnovation.org, an on-line resource for criminal justice reformers.
• The Center opens the Red Hook Community Justice Center in a renovated former Catholic school in southwest Brooklyn.
• U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno visits the Red Hook Community Justice Center.
• Dispensing Justice Locally, a book detailing the results of the Midtown Community Court, is published.
• The Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators adopt a resolution in support of problem-solving justice.
• The Center opens the Harlem Community Justice Center in Manhattan.
• The Center assists the New York court system in the development of the integrated domestic violence court model—a “one family/one judge” approach. Integrated domestic violence courts open in Westchester and the Bronx.
• The Center opens the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, the first mental health court in New York State.
• The American Bar Association adopts a resolution endorsing the development of problem-solving courts.
• The United Kingdom’s Lord Chief Justice and Home Secretary visit the Red Hook Community Justice Center.
• The Center releases a multi-year evaluation that documents consistent and meaningful recidivism reductions in New York State drug courts.
• The Midtown Community Court celebrates its 10th Anniversary. At a commemorative ceremony, New York State Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman declares: “I think after 10 years we can officially retire the word ‘experiment’ when it comes to the Midtown Community Court and call it what it is: a permanent part of the judicial landscape in New York.”
• The Center helps create the Brooklyn Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court, the first court in the country to address exclusively misdemeanor domestic violence cases among teenagers.
• The New York State Court System assumes full control of the Brooklyn Treatment Court, integrating it permanently into regular court operations.
• The Red Hook Community Justice Center receives the 2003 Rudy Bruner Silver Award for Urban Excellence.
• The Center starts the Youth Justice Board, an after-school leadership training program for New York City teens.
• The Citizens Budget Commission awards the Center its Prize for Public Service Innovation.
• The Center opens an office in Syracuse to provide training and technical assistance to courts in upstate New York.
• The Center launches Bronx Community Solutions, an effort to promote alternatives to incarceration for misdemeanor cases in the Bronx.
• The New Press publishes Good Courts: The Case for Problem-Solving Justice by Greg Berman and John Feinblatt.
• The Center pilots a law school curriculum on problem-solving justice at Fordham Law School.
• The documentary “Red Hook Justice: A Legal Revolution Grows in Brooklyn” airs on PBS.
• U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer visits Red Hook.
• The National Association of Drug Court Professionals honors the Center for Court Innovation with its National Leadership Award, in recognition of New York State's efforts to “go to scale” with drug courts.
• The Center starts Queens Engagement Strategies for Teens, later renamed the Queens Youth Justice Center, to provide support to young people with delinquency cases.
• The Center starts the Staten Island Youth Court, the first program in what will become the Staten Island Youth Justice Center.
• The Red Hook Community Justice Center receives the Outstanding Criminal Justice Award from the National Criminal Justice Association.
• The Center and The New York Times co-host a briefing on community justice featuring New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Louise Casey, the British government’s neighborhood crime and justice advisor.
• The Center receives the Peter F. Drucker Award for Non-Profit Innovation.
The Center launches Newark Community Solutions, its first operating program outside of New York State.
• The Urban Institute publishes Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform by Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox, which encourages policymakers to talk openly about failure.
• The Center’s Youth Justice Board, collaboration with The Center for Urban Pedagogy and the New York City Department of Probation, publishes “I Got Arrested! Now What?” The guide, which uses a comic book format to explain the juvenile justice system, receives a PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
• At the Center’s 15th anniversary celebration, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that “no one has been as effective at finding new ways to reduce recidivism than the Center for Court Innovation.”
The Center starts the Brownsville Community Justice Center.
• The Center establishes the Centre for Justice Innovation, based in London, to promote justice reform in England and Wales.
• National Council on Crime and Delinquency awards the Center three separate PASS Awards: one for its film Testing New Ideas, one for its New Thinking podcast series, and one for its comic book guide to criminal justice reform, Learning by Doing.
• The Center is one of 10 organizations honored with a NYC Innovative Nonprofit Award by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
• The Center launches Brooklyn Justice Initiatives as part then-New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s efforts to reduce the potentially deleterious use of money bail on defendants who are incarcerated due to an inability to pay.
• The Center creates the Peacemaking Program in Brooklyn, adapting Native American practices to a state courthouse.
• Researchers document that gun violence in Crown Heights is 20 percent lower than what it would have been without the creation of Save Our Streets.
• Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announces his appointment of Bill Bratton as his police commissioner at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, which he calls an “extraordinary institution” that “epitomizes what I believe in terms of … a progressive approach to public safety.”
• The Robin Hood Foundation honors the Center for creating innovative programs designed to reduce recidivism and help people get their lives back on track.
• The National Center for State Courts releases an independent evaluation that finds that the Red Hook Community Justice Center's emphasis on alternatives to incarceration helps reduce the use of jail as well as recidivism among misdemeanor offenders.
• Alfred Siegel, the Center’s long-time deputy director, is posthumously honored by the New York City Bar Association with the Kathryn McDonald Award for his contributions to New York City Family Court. The Alfred Siegel Scholarship is created in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
• Groundswell, a public arts organization, honors the Center for its work in engaging young people in neighborhoods like Red Hook, Brownsville, and Crown Heights.
• A randomized controlled trial of the Harlem Parole Reentry Court finds that the court reduces recidivism and results in higher rates of employment among participants.
• The Center founds Poverty Justice Solutions in collaboration the Robin Hood Foundation, the New York State Unified Court System, and the New York City Human Resources Administration in order to expand the pool of attorneys representing low-income New Yorkers in Housing Court.
• The Center establishes the Near Westside Peacemaking Program in Syracuse, N.Y.
• The Red Hook Community Justice Center celebrates its 15th anniversary with a benefit at the Brooklyn Museum. Speakers include Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who declares, “I’m determined … to make sure every neighborhood in Brooklyn benefits from the Red Hook model.”
• Bronx Community Solutions celebrates its 10th anniversary.
• Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman visits the Center for an extensive one-on-one conversation with Greg Berman. Lippman calls the Center “a great resource” that helps the courts “think about how to change the way we do our business—to think out of the box.”
• Chief Judge of the Newark Municipal Court Judge Victoria Pratt appears on MSNBC to discuss how Newark Community Solutions promotes procedural justice.
• The Center creates the Brooklyn Young Adult Court to offer diversion opportunities and alternatives to incarceration to young adults charged with misdemeanors.
• The Center launches Project Reset, a diversion program that seeks to create a proportionate response to low-level crime for young adults ages 16 and 17.
• The Center starts Legal Hand, which trains volunteers to provide free legal information to improve access to justice for members of communities in Brooklyn and Queens. At the opening of the Legal Hand office in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore praised Legal Hand for “working to bridge barriers between the justice system and historically underserved communities.”
• The Center hosts Community Justice 2016, its fourth international summit and the largest to date with more than 400 criminal justice reformers representing more than 100 jurisdictions.
• New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito launches an independent commission, to be chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, to create a new "blueprint for justice for New York City." The Center for Court Innovation supports the work of the Commission with research and strategic advice.