District Attorney Cy Vance speaking at Times Square Ink graduation
Midtown Community Court
Launched in 1993, the Midtown Community Court targets quality-of-life offenses, such as prostitution, illegal vending, graffiti, shoplifting, farebeating and vandalism. Typically in these cases, judges are forced to choose between a few days of jail time and nothing at all—sentences that fail to impress the victim, the community and the defendants that these offenses are taken seriously. In contrast, the Midtown Community Court sentences low-level offenders to pay back the neighborhood through community service, while at the same time offering them help with problems that often underlie criminal behavior. Midtown's judge has an array of sanctions and services at her disposal. These include community restitution projects, short-term psychoeducational groups, and long-term treatment such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, and trauma-focused psychotherapy. Midtown features an on-site clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma-focused, strengths-based, and evidence-informed clinical approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services. To read more about research results, including caseload, sentencing, compliance and other outcomes, click here.
How It Works
The Court achieves the following:
Making Justice Visible: Wearing bright blue vests, quality-of life offenders at Midtown pay back the community through visible community service projects—painting over graffiti, sweeping the streets, and cleaning local parks.
Making Justice Swift: Immediate sentencing sends the message to offenders that crime has consequences and that they will be held accountable for their actions. Offenders often begin their sentences within 24 hours of appearing before the judge.
Engaging New Partners: The Court works with local residents, businesses, social service providers and other government agencies to forge creative, collaborative solutions to neighborhood problems. The Court houses an array of non-traditional programs, including community mediation, GED classes and job training for out-of-school youth, and homeless outreach.
Offering Social Services: The Court uses arrest as a gateway to treatment, engaging defendants in on-site drug and mental health treatment, and job training.
Providing Better Information: The Court's award-winning computer application helps the judge craft individualized sanctions for each offender and monitor compliance. The system also provides police officers with regular feedback about the outcomes of their arrests.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hailed the Midtown Community Court for helping to revive Times Square. Midtown Community Court was also the subject of an independent evaluation by the National Center for State Courts. According to the National Center, Midtown's compliance rate of 75 percent for community service was the highest in the city. Offenders performing community service contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of labor to the community each year. In conjunction with aggressive law enforcement and economic development efforts, the Court has had an impact on neighborhood crime: prostitution arrests dropped 56 percent and illegal vending was down 24 percent. There are currently dozens of cities around the world that have opened or plan to open community courts based on the model of the Midtown Community Court. The Court has received awards from the National Association for Court Management, Municipal Art Society, Encore Community Services, the 9th Avenue Association, Windows World Open and the Broadway Association.
The Court is operated as a public/private partnership among the New York State Unified Court System, the City of New York and the Center for Court Innovation. During the Court's pilot period, funding came from a mix of sources, including the federal government, local government and dozens of foundations and corporations. Social service and community service partners include dozens of community-based and government agencies.
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MidtownCourt: Treatment helps offenders-and saves taxpayers money: http://t.co/ObRr6nqRkX. Read @Courtinnovation's report here: http://t.co/8dofljRuNtRead More