Brooklyn Justice Initiatives
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives seeks to forge a new response to misdemeanor and non-violent felony defendants in Brooklyn, New York. Operating out of Brooklyn Criminal Court on Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives is staffed by a team of court-based social workers, case managers, and court liaisons. By providing meaningful pre-trial supervised release and post-conviction sentencing options, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives seeks to use a misdemeanor arrest as a window of opportunity to change the direction of a defendant’s life and avoid the harmful effects of incarceration.
How It Works
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives focuses on misdemeanor defendants who are unable to post bail and individuals convicted of misdemeanor offenses and deemed eligible for community sanctions by a judge. It works with a variety of populations including adolescents and young adults, victims of sex trafficking, and individuals with mental health needs. In 2014, its first year of operation, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives served over 800 individuals.
Pre-trial Supervised Release: In his 2013 State of the Judiciary address, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman highlighted the need for bail reform in New York. The chief judge sought to develop a supervised release program that would reduce reliance on pre-trial detention for misdemeanor defendants, minimizing the negative impact of detention on individual lives while enhancing the justice system’s fairness. Brooklyn Justice Initiatives seeks to fulfill this mandate, ensuring misdemeanor defendants’ return to court through rigorous monitoring and links to voluntary services. Participants are recruited from the pool of non-felony defendants in Kings County who are unable to post bail. Upon referral to Brooklyn Justice Initiatives, each participant undergoes a screening process and is connected with a program case manager. The program offers supervision and case management for eligible defendants, as well as referrals to voluntary community-based programming such as job training, drug treatment, and mental health counseling.
Adolescent and Young Adult Diversion Programs: This alternative-to-incarceration program serves misdemeanor defendants ages 16 to 24 across Brooklyn, with the aim of reducing the use of jail and preventing future justice system involvement. It offers a broad range of alternative-sentencing options, including on-site services and referrals to community-based programs that offer mental health counseling, drug treatment, education, employment assistance, and job training.
Mental Health: Brooklyn Justice Initiatives provides alternatives to pre-trial detention and incarceration for defendants with mental health needs, a population comprising over one-third of all incarcerated individuals in New York City. The program offers mental health and substance use assessment, treatment planning, on-site individual case management or group services, on-site psychiatric services, linkages to appropriate community-based treatment service providers, and court compliance monitoring and reporting.
Human Trafficking Intervention: Brooklyn Justice Initiatives handles cases of prostitution using a trauma-informed and strengths-based approach and provides services to help sex trafficking victims escape the cycle of exploitation and arrest. Beginning with an assessment of the client’s needs, the program offers short-term individual counseling sessions and referrals to community based services, including culturally competent services for trans-women and foreign-born individuals, civil legal services, shelter, educational and vocational programs, outpatient counseling services, drug treatment and mental health services.
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives is a unique collaboration involving the New York State Court System, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Brooklyn Defenders, Legal Aid Society, Criminal Justice Agency, Robin Hood Foundation, the Probitas Foundation, and the Center for Court Innovation.