Red Hook Community Justice Center 15th Anniversary

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Red Hook Community Justice Center 15th Anniversary

Red Hook Community Justice Center 15th Anniversary

This podcast covers the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, with highlights including speeches from New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, and honoree Stuart Gold, of Cravath, Swain, and Moore. 

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The following is a transcript

RAPHAEL POPE-SUSSMAN: Hi. This is Raphael Pope-Sussman of the Center for Court Innovation. Tonight we are here at the Brooklyn Museum, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Red Hook Community Justice Center. The Justice Center has been documented to reduce crime, increase public safety, and improve public trust in justice. Judge Alex Calabrese, who has presided over the courtroom at Red Hook since the Justice Center opened in 2000, said defendants who come to the Justice Center know this is a special place from the moment they walk in the door.

JUDGE ALEX CALABRESE: Justice starts at our front door. Our clerks and court officers treat everyone who comes through our doors and throughout the building with respect. Our community feels welcome to come to the Justice Center, and they feel it's their Justice Center due to their efforts. They know they're in a different place.

POPE-SUSSMAN: New York 1 anchor Errol Louis, who emceed the event, said that for him, the work of the Justice Center means something personal.

ERROL LOUIS: I live here in Brooklyn, and one of the things that I've learned is the importance of neighborhood trust, and events like this are what I think of as the making of the glue that holds our communities together. At the end of the day, neighborhood trust is what makes us safe.

POPE-SUSSMAN: The event honored Stu Gold, of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, for his long-time support of the Center for Court innovation and the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Gold, who first got involved with the Center for Court Innovation through his work with the Midtown Community Court, was an instrumental member of the planning team that launched the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Gold spoke about the key role the Justice Center plays in the community in Red Hook.

STUART GOLD: I grew up in Brooklyn, and as many teenagers do, I got into trouble from time to time. I remember I had an array of adults, my parents, my teachers, to help me figure out how to rehabilitate myself and get on a better trajectory. Many teenagers and young adults, for a variety of reasons, don't have those support structures ready at hand. The Red Hook Community Justice Center now supplies that support for a significant part of its community. For that, it deserves to be lauded, and I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to help.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Pauline Nevins, a former client of the Justice Center, was also honored.

PAULINE NEVINS: I struggled with addiction for more than a decade of my life. Throughout that time, I cycled in and out of the system, appearing before countless judges in countless courtrooms, where I was just a number: a criminal charge, a docket number, a body that had to be moved swiftly through the system so they could make room for the next one.

But in 2010, I was fortunate enough to end up at the Justice Center in Red Hook. Coming to the Justice Center was a whole new experience. When I went before the judge I expected what I was used to: a quick interaction, a bail or a short jail sentence. But instead, Judge Calabrese wanted to know why I was there and if I wanted help.

POPE-SUSSMAN: New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman offered a call to arms.

CHIEF JUDGE JONATHAN LIPPMAN: It is easy in a justice system as large as we have in New York, to just count the cases coming through, one in, one out. But that's not enough. Every single case we hear is a test of the system. A test of our commitment to equal justice. It doesn't matter who is standing before the judge--young or old, rich or poor, black or white--justice is equal justice.

You see this kind of justice in action when you visit the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Judge Alex Calabrese doesn't sit up on a bench at Red Hook, high above everybody else. He sits on the same level as everyone else in the courtroom. He listens to the people who come before him. He explains the procedures and the protocols. Each person is treated as an individual, each case given equal importance. This is the justice we aspire to, and this is the justice that works.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson praised the Justice Center for building ties between the community in Red Hook and the justice system. He also spoke about the need to bring the principles of the Justice Center to other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, particularly Brownsville.

DA KENNETH THOMPSON: We need to make sure that the people of Brownsville see that we're invested in their safety. We must show them that we're there to keep them safe and that we're determined to do justice in partnership with them. I'm determined to make sure that we get all the great things that we've done in Red Hook, that we take it to the people of Brownsville.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Nevins, who spoke last, left the audience with some powerful words.

NEVINS: The judge always tells me that I did all the work, and I did. But I would not be here today if I had never been given the opportunities, the encouragement, and the support that I needed. That is what the Justice Center did for me.

POPE-SUSSMAN: This is Raphael Pope-Sussman for the Center for Court Innovation. For more information about the Center for Court Innovation, visit www.courtinnovation.org.

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