Message from the Director

Photo: Rick Kopstein/New York Law JournalPhoto: Rick Kopstein/New York Law JournalAs I hope our website makes clear, the Center for Court Innovation is a unique institution. We are a team of researchers, planners, technologists, attorneys, social workers and others who have come together to advance a simple idea: that if given the right tools, the justice system can aid victims, reduce crime, limit the use of incarceration, and improve public trust in government.

We are committed to helping judges and other key players—defense attorneys, probation officials, prosecutors, clerks, police officers, and community groups—test new approaches to the delivery of justice. And we believe in the value of rigorous research. We use data to measure the effectiveness of new programs, documenting what works, what doesn’t, and why.

In short, the Center stands at the crossroads of action and reflection, doing and thinking. Our job is to dream up new ideas and then go out and test them in the real world.

We believe in learning by doing. So we operate a number of programs that are testing new solutions to difficult problems like juvenile delinquency, mental illness, and neighborhood disorder. These range from large-scale reform efforts like the Red Hook Community Justice Center that handle thousands of cases each year to smaller experiments like the Brooklyn Mental Health Court that work intensively with a few dozen offenders at a time.

Unlike some other organizations, the Center for Court Innovation aspires to make a difference both on the ground and in policy circles. To give just a few examples of the cumulative impact of our work, the New York Times has credited our operating projects with helping to reduce the use of incarceration in New York City to the lowest rate in a generation. Our research documenting the effectiveness of treatment as an alternative to incarceration was a key factor in the reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State. And the White House has endorsed community courts as part of the national drug control strategy.

Here are a few recent examples of what policy leaders have to say about our work:

  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has endorsed community justice. Speaking at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, Mayor de Blasio said that Red Hook "epitomizes what I believe in terms of a progressive approach to public safety." 
  • New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in his State of the Judiciary address announced sweeping reforms of the bail process in New York, including encouraging us to launch what would become Brooklyn Justice Initiatives. Earlier, Lippman had this to say about the role that the Center has played in New York: “It's important to have an entity that is working just on research and development and is daring to think out of the box. It's been vital to our success in developing new ways of doing the judiciary's business.”
  • Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, appearing at our 15th anniversary event said: "No group has been more effective at finding ways to reduce recidivism than the Center for Court Innovation." In 2013, Mayor Bloomberg named the Center one of the ten most innovative non-profits in New York City.
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Over the course of nearly two decades, since the very first community court opened its doors in Manhattan, combining punishment with assistance has proven to be a critical strategy in improving public safety... I’ve seen this first hand...I’m proud of the progress that we are making and of the investments we are directing to support our community courts [and] the Center for Court Innovation.”

As proud as I am of our history, I think the best is still to come for the Center for Court Innovation. We are constantly seeking out new challenges. We are committed to studying the thorniest problems in the justice system and devising new solutions in response. Are there better ways to handle young people with mental health problems than locking them up? We are testing the efficacy of providing intensive treatment to troubled teens in Queens and the Bronx. Can you reduce gun violence in crime-plagued neighborhoods? We are attempting to mobilize the local community to fight crime in Crown Heights and Brownsville and the South Bronx. Is it possible to improve perceptions of the justice system? We are exploring this idea on many fronts, including devising new ways to train judges in effective communication techniques.

This is just a small sampling of the new work on our plate. In undertaking this work, we are building on a solid foundation: our track record of helping criminal justice agencies – both here in New York and around the world – improve the effectiveness and fairness of the justice system.

Thanks for your interest in our work. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Greg Berman


last updated September 9, 2014

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