Red Hook Community Justice Center
Launched in June 2000, the Red Hook Community Justice Center is the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court. Operating out of a refurbished Catholic school in the heart of a geographically and socially isolated neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn, the Justice Center seeks to solve neighborhood problems using a coordinated response. At Red Hook, a single judge hears neighborhood cases from three police precincts (covering approximately 200,000 people) that under ordinary circumstances would go to three different courts—Civil, Family, and Criminal.
The Red Hook judge has an array of sanctions and services at his disposal. These include community restitution projects, short-term psychoeducational groups, and long-term treatment (e.g., drug treatment, mental health treatment, and trauma-focused psychotherapy). Red Hook features an on-site clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma- and evidence-informed approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services. The Justice Center also works to connect court-involved youth to strengths-based programming, including art projects and peer education programs.
The Red Hook story extends far beyond what happens in the courtroom. The courthouse is the hub for an array of unconventional programs that contribute to reducing fear and improving public trust in government. These include mediation, community service and a youth court where teenagers are trained to resolve actual cases involving their peers. The Center also has a housing resource center, which provides support and information to residents with cases in housing court, and an AmeriCorps program, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps.
How It Works
Key features of the Justice Center include:
Coordination: The Justice Center handles low-level criminal cases (including some felonies), as well as selected Family Court and Civil Court matters. In hearing these cases, the Justice Center recognizes that neighborhood problems do not conform to the arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries of the modern court system. By having a single judge handle matters that ordinarily are heard by different decision makers at different locations, Red Hook offers a swifter and more coordinated judicial response.
Restitution: By mandating offenders to restore the community, the Justice Center makes justice more visible to local residents and acknowledges that communities can be victims just like individuals. Restitution projects include painting over graffiti, sweeping the streets and cleaning the Justice Center.
Help: By linking defendants to drug treatment and by providing on-site services, the Justice Center seeks to strengthen families and help individuals avoid further involvement with the court system. Services are not limited to court users but are available to anyone in the community wishing to avail themselves of them.
Accountability: Compliance with social service and community restitution sanctions is rigorously monitored by the Red Hook judge, who requires litigants to return to court frequently to report on their progress and to submit urine tests. State-of-the-art technology helps ensure accountability.
Prevention: The Justice Center actively seeks to resolve local problems before they become court cases. The Justice Center's prevention programs include community mediation and a youth court that offers intensive leadership training to local teenagers.
To view more photos of the Red Hook Community Justice Center from the American Institute of Architects, click here.
Reduced Incarceration: The Justice Center has reduced the use of jail at arraignment in misdemeanor cases by 50 percent.
Accountability: Compliance rates with court orders average 75 percent–a 50 percent improvement on the standard at comparable courts.
Public Trust: Approval ratings of police, prosecutors and judges have increased three‑fold since the Justice Center opened.
Public Support: A door-to-door survey revealed that 94 percent of local residents support the community court. Before the Justice Center opened, only 12 percent of local residents rated local courts favorably.
Reduced Fear: Since 1999, the percentage of Red Hook residents who say they are afraid to go to the parks or subway at night has dropped 42 percent.
Fairness: More than 85 percent of criminal defendants report that their cases were handled fairly by the Justice Center–results that were consistent regardless of defendant background (e.g. race, sex, education) or case outcome.
Click here to read more about research results, including caseload, sentencing, compliance, and other outcomes.
The Justice Center is the product of a unique public-private partnership that has engaged all levels of government—county, city, state, and federal. Planning, which was led by the Center for Court Innovation in concert with the Kings County District Attorney's Office, was underwritten by the U.S. Department of Justice. Core operational funding is provided by the New York State Unified Court System and the City of New York. A variety of government and private funders also provide ongoing support.
The Justice Center's model of public-private partnership extends beyond funding—it relies on an array of institutional partners to identify local problems, supervise community service, and offer social services. These include:
- Advocates for Children
- Bridge Back to Life
- Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Initiative
- Community Counseling and Mediation
- Counseling Services of the Eastern District of New York
- Fifth Avenue Committee
- Groundswell Community Mural Project
- Legal Aid Society
- New Pathways to Counseling
- New York City Department of Education
- New York City Department of Probation
- New York City Housing Authority
- New York City Law Department
- New York Peace Institute
- Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow
- Realization Center
- Red Hook Initiative
- Resource Counseling Center
- Sanctuary for Families
- Safe Horizon
- Sunset Park Promise Neighborhood
- The Door
Red Hook Community Justice Blogs
May 21, 2013
Community Justice: Back on the Scene in Red Hook
After a long hiatus (Hurricane Sandy wiped out our community service headquarters on the lower level of the building), the Justice Center's...Read More
May 21, 2013
Positive Youth Justice: A Legacy
This image of Red Hook is one of the many that permanently adorn the halls of the Justice Center -- all of which are the work of three...Read More
May 16, 2013
Celebrating It's My Park Day and Red Hook Little Legague Opening Day
The New York Juvenile Justice Corps and our John Jay College of Criminal Justice partners joined the Brownsville Community Justice Center in...Read More