The Center for Court Innovation works to create a fair, effective, and humane justice system.
Originally founded as a public/private partnership between the New York State Unified Court System and the Fund for the City of New York, the Center for Court Innovation creates operating programs to test new ideas and solve problems, performs original research to determine what works (and what doesn't), and provides expert assistance to justice reformers around the world.
The traditional criminal justice system is bereft of any real research and development functions, so new ideas from entrepreneurs on the outside should be encouraging… New York City’s Center for Court Innovation is now the premier institution [at fostering innovation].
— Malcolm Feeley, author, 'The Process Is The Punishment'
The Center conceives, plans, and operates programs that seek to test new ideas, solve difficult problems, and achieve system change. Our projects include community-based violence prevention projects, alternatives to incarceration, reentry initiatives, and court-based programs that reduce the use of unnecessary incarceration and promote positive individual and family change. Some of our projects are big, serving thousands of people each year. And some are small, working intensively with a few dozen people at a time. No matter the size or the topic, our approach is always the same: thoughtful planning, an emphasis on creativity, and the rigorous use of data to document results. Our efforts have produced tangible results like safer streets, reduced incarceration, and improved neighborhood perceptions of justice.
Key to our work is the idea of collaboration. To get things done, we partner with a broad range of government, non-profit, and community agencies. We have a strong relationship with government in New York—especially the state court system, for which we provide ongoing strategic advice and programming.
Researchers at the Center conduct independent evaluations, documenting how government systems work, how neighborhoods function, and how reform efforts change things. We have performed multiple randomized controlled trials. Our researchers have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. And we have published much-cited studies that have looked at such topics as youth in the sex trade, reentry court, and drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration. We believe in the “action research” model; accordingly, our researchers provide regular feedback on the results of the Center’s own operating programs. The Center disseminates information about justice reform through books and other publications, videos, podcasts, social media (including Facebook and Twitter), and other vehicles.
The Center for Court Innovation provides hands-on, expert assistance to reformers around the world, including judges, attorneys, justice officials, community organizations, and others. Having launched dozens of innovative justice initiatives, we know firsthand the nuts-and-bolts of how to get a new project off the ground. Experts from the Center for Court Innovation are available to help plan, implement and evaluate new policies, practices, and technologies. Our assistance takes many forms, including help with analyzing data, facilitating planning sessions, and hosting site visits to our operating programs in the New York City area.
We are lucky to have the Center for Court Innovation in New York. Over the past 20 years, the Center has played a crucial role in making the justice system smarter, more effective, and more humane. I salute the Center for its work to define the cutting edge of court reform and look forward to partnering with them in the days ahead.
— Janet DiFiore, New York State Chief Judge
The Center for Court Innovation grew out of a single experiment, the Midtown Community Court, which was created in 1993 to address low-level offending around Times Square. The project’s success in reducing both crime and incarceration led the court’s planners, with the support of New York State’s chief judge, to establish the Center for Court Innovation to serve as an ongoing engine for justice reform in New York. The Center’s founding director was John Feinblatt. From 2002 to 2020, Greg Berman served as director. Our current executive director is Courtney Bryan, and we also have an advisory board.
Over the years, we have helped design, implement and run over three dozen operating programs (many of which now function independently of the Center, such as the Brooklyn Treatment Court), produced original research about hundreds of justice initiatives, and hosted tens of thousands of visitors interested in justice reform. We are proud to have received numerous awards for our work, including the Peter F. Drucker Prize for Non-Profit Innovation and the Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University and the Ford Foundation.