Across the country, the movement to reduce jail populations and close ageing facilities has scored some notable victories. But where the tide of confinement has receded, it has exposed a significant tension: what to do about the people still behind bars? Can efforts to improve their conditions of confinement be pursued in tandem with work to stem the flow of people into the facilities detaining them?
Community service has been a staple of sentencing in the United States for more than 50 years, yet we know surprisingly little about how it's actually being used. In Act One of this episode of New Thinking, an audio snapshot of community service at the Center for Court Innovation. In Act Two, Joanna Weiss of the Fines and Fees Justice Center offers a national perspective on community service, and the troubling findings of two new reports.
Our survey of more than 600 lower-level courts found that while community service is widely used across the country, many courts are adopting an ad hoc approach to issues such as eligibility, mandate lengths, and oversight of outside service programs. Numerous findings also suggest current practices are undercutting community service's potential to act as an alternative to fines and fees. The study ends with a list of recommendations and avenues for further research.
What’s the connection between ending bail and closing jails? Organizing, organizing, organizing. On New Thinking, the Katal Center's gabriel sayegh explains why New York's reforms to bail might be the most significant in the country, and, when it comes to New York City's notorious Rikers jail, what needs to happen to get "the last person off that island."
Project Reset is a diversion program operating in three of New York City's five boroughs offering a new response to low-level offending that is proportionate, effective, and restorative. Participants who complete brief community-based programming avoid a criminal record without ever setting foot in a courtroom.
As chief medical officer for New York City jails, Homer Venters realized early in his tenure that for many people dying in jail, the primary cause of death was jail itself. To document what was actually taking place behind bars, Venters and his team created a statistical category no one had dared to track before: "jail-attributable deaths." His work led him into frequent opposition with the security services. It also led to his book, Life and Death in Rikers Island.
Can art transform the criminal justice system? On this special edition of New Thinking, host Matt Watkins sits down with two New York City artists on the rise—Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo—who both work with our Project Reset to provide an arts-based alternative to court and a criminal record for people arrested on a low-level charge. With the program set to expand city-wide, the three discuss art's potential to help heal a racialized criminal justice system.
With so much focus on keeping people out of jail and prison, what about work to improve life for the more than two million people already there? One group beginning to mobilize on the issue is prosecutors. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine explain the “bright line” they see running from the overt racial control in America’s past to the disparities and dehumanizing practices behind bars today.
The Center for Court Innovation piloted a small electronic monitoring program—using smartphones—for young people under justice supervision. This article offers insights into the best ways to approach technology projects in the justice system, but also concludes that electronic tracking of 16- to 18-year-olds in school raised multiple challenges and provided too little benefit to serve as a replacement for traditional supervision methods.
As part of a conference sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation and the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, we asked justice system leaders and experts "What has been the biggest change in the New York City criminal justice system over the last five years?"