Harlem Community Justice Center

Overview

The Harlem Community Justice Center seeks to solve neighborhood problems—including youth crime, landlord-tenant disputes, and the challenges faced by parolees—in East and Central Harlem. As a multi-jurisdictional civil and family court, Harlem is unique among community courts. Among the many non-traditional services the Justice Center has assembled under one roof are: programs to help local landlords and tenants resolve conflicts and access financial support; programs for at-risk youth, including a youth court; and reentry programs for both juvenile and adult ex-offenders returning to the community. Ultimately, the project's long-term goal is to test the extent to which a court can work together with a community to spur neighborhood renewal. To read a summary of results from the Harlem Community Justice Center, including caseload and impacts on crime reduction, improved school attendance, and eviction prevention, click here.

Rethinking Reentry is a blog about reducing recidivism and enhancing public safety in Upper Manhattan that is maintained by the Harlem Community Justice Center.

How It Works

The Justice Center has three principal programs:

Housing: The Justice Center seeks to resolve housing problems before they get to court. It accomplishes this by linking landlords and tenants to mediation, benefits assistance, social services and loan-assistance programs, as well as classes about the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords, and vocational training in building maintenance. Of course, not all cases can be resolved through the provision of services. When housing conflicts do proceed to court, the Justice Center is well-positioned to resolve cases quickly and meaningfully. The Justice Center judge hears cases involving non-payment issues, nuisance complaints and the failure to make necessary building repairs. With the help of a customized computer system, the judge can access information about each case with the click of a mouse. And the Justice Center's community setting encourages the judge to develop an understanding of the neighborhood's hot spots and eyesores. The result is more informed decision making.

Youth Justice: The Justice Center works intensively with young people at the first signs of delinquent behavior, giving them the help they need to avoid further offending. The Justice Center courtroom handles cases involving young people apprehended for non-violent drug and property offenses, linking participants to services like drug treatment, counseling and education. Compliance is rigorously monitored by the judge, who requires participants to come back to court frequently to report on their progress. The judge also has the option of sending young people to the Harlem Youth Court, where cases are presided over by a true jury of peers—other young people from the neighborhood trained to serve as judges, lawyers and jurors. The youth court, which also hears cases like truancy and schoolyard fights referred directly by police, encourages young people to take responsibility for their actions. Sanctions include community service, anger-management classes and letters of apology. Other youth programs available at the Justice Center include community service, parent-teen mediation, family counseling, mentoring, leadership development and career training. Each year, more than 300 young people participate in programs at the Justice Center.

Reentry: The Justice Center encourages both adult parolees and juveniles returning from state placement to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Parolees are linked to drug treatment and jobs and receive help reconnecting with their families. They are also required to appear before an administrative law judge on a regular basis to demonstrate compliance with both treatment mandates and parole conditions. Similarly, young people (and their parents) are linked to intensive services and participate in bi-monthly court appearances before a hearing officer to review progress in meeting established behavioral and program goals.  Evaluators have documented that the Justice Center's reentry court has reduced re-offending among participants by 19 percent.

Harlem Justice Corps: Part of the New York City Justice Corps initiative, the Harlem Justice Corps is an intensive career development and service program for justice-involved young men and women, ages 18-24, who are seeking employment, education services, and meaningful opportunities to serve their community. The Justice Corps seeks to improve the education and employment opportunities for Corps Members, reduce recidivism, and support community development in Harlem.

 

Featured Research

Audio

Welcome to Problem Solving: Kelly O'Neill Levy Embraces Her New Assignment as Presiding Judge of the Harlem Community Justice Center

Welcome to Problem Solving: Kelly O'Neill Levy Embraces Her New Assignment as Presiding Judge of the Harlem Community Justice Center

Acting Supreme Court Judge Kelly O'Neill Levy discusses her transition from Bronx Family Court to the Harlem Community Justice Center, where she applies problem-solving strategies to both family and housing cases. May 2013

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Interviews

Welcome to Problem Solving: Kelly O'Neill Levy Embraces Her New Assignment as Presiding Judge of the Harlem Community Justice Center

Welcome to Problem Solving: Kelly O'Neill Levy Embraces Her New Assignment as Presiding Judge of the Harlem Community Justice Center

Acting Supreme Court Judge Kelly O'Neill Levy discusses her transition from Bronx Family Court to the Harlem Community Justice Center, where she applies problem-solving strategies to both family and housing cases. May 2013

Read More

Publications

Reentry Court Tool Kit

Reentry Court Tool Kit

By Christopher Watler and Debbie Boar

The Reentry Court Tool Kit is designed to provide guidance to justice planners in developing or enhancing a reentry court through the use of evidence-based and research-informed practices. The tool kit is organized around topics, such as "Screening and Assessment" and "Engaging Family Members," that planners and practitioners often confront in their work.

Harlem Community Justice Center Blog
  • July 28, 2014
    Each One Teach One: A Profile of a Circles of Support Volunteer

    Meet Aubrey Woods, Jr., a religious education teacher at Carmel Hayes Catholic High School and Community Outreach Youth Coordinator for his housing...

    Read More
  • July 22, 2014
    Your Tongue Can Deliver The Message Of Your Heart: A Speaker's Bureau of Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

    “You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” This sentence is posted to the wall in the basement of St. Philip’s...

    Read More
  • July 21, 2014
    It's the People: A Profile of a Circles of Support Volunteer

    Though she is no longer a little child, Magali King is still fulfilling the mission that her mother instilled in her long ago—to give back to the...

    Read More
Contact
  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • One Park Place
  • 300 South State Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13202
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Kean House, 6 Kean Street
  • London, WC2B 4AS
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060