The COVID-19 pandemic forced courts across the country to close their physical doors and rely exclusively on video conferencing technology. A scan of social science research shows that communicating over video can alter an interaction, making it more difficult for participants to understand each other, speak up, and relate to each other. This paper presents social science research to inform the long-term debate about video’s role when courts can safely reopen.
Punishments for violating the terms of probation are a major driver of prison and jail populations across the country. Calls for meaningful reform are growing. This study examines the impact of New York City’s early efforts to shift to a more client-centered approach to probation, including improved case management and establishing neighborhood-oriented probation offices.
The threat of incarceration has long been seen in some quarters as the best incentive to ensure people’s engagement in court-ordered treatment. But what if that assumption is wrong? This research brief argues the central element governing the effectiveness of treatment is the quality of the human interaction that accompanies it.
In partnership with the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center and State Justice Institute, the Center developed and pilot-tested a court website prototype founded in procedural justice principles. The idea was to give courts sample language, imagery, and layout advice—informed by a user experience designer—to turn a typical visit to a court website into a trust-building opportunity. This toolkit describes the key building blocks of a model website, strategies for implementation, and lessons learned from pilot courts.
In partnership with the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center and State Justice Institute, the Center developed this toolkit to help judges and other criminal court practitioners improve courthouse signage with the ultimate goals of helping enhance court users’ perceptions of fairness and build (or rebuild) trust and confidence in the justice system. The toolkit is organized by each element of procedural justice—understanding, respect, voice, and neutrality—and is paired with recommendations to help plan a local signage improvement project.
Can changes at a busy urban courthouse make users feel respected, ensure they understand the process, and enhance impressions of the legitimacy of the court? This study looks at a series of improvements to the Manhattan Criminal Court and before-and-after defendant surveys.
Procedural Justice for Prosecutors is a curriculum developed through a partnership between the Center for Court Innovation and the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College in New York City. The materials are a response to the growing recognition among prosecutors that bolstering public confidence in justice is an essential ingredient of reform.
Conversations about fairness (and unfairness) within the criminal justice system can be difficult to have. This guide highlights the real-life experiences and perceptions of justice-involved individuals and offers a road map for having candid and productive conversations about fairness and public trust in justice.
Just because smaller communities generally have fewer resources doesn’t mean they aren’t innovating or taking new approaches that others can learn from and emulate. In Pulaski County, Virginia, home to about 35,000 people, Judge H. Lee Chitwood and Court Coordinator Jaime Clemmer have implemented a number of changes to better address domestic violence.
In Misdemeanorland, Issa Kohler-Hausmann argues the lower courts are no longer primarily concerned with whether people actually committed the offense they’ve been accused of. Instead, the focus is on future behavior: upholding social order through managing and assessing—often over long stretches—everyone with the misfortune of entering Misdemeanorland. It's an argument that forces us to rethink what justice should look like in low-level cases.