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Speaking of Law Schools and Problem-Solving Justice...

Stein Scholars debriefing at the Hope & Anchor in Red Hook

I spent yesterday afternoon at Fordham Law School with the Stein Scholars, the school's public interest lawyering program. Three students, Liz Ling, Prescott Loveland, and Amanda Niederauer, presented their reflections and findings from a semester-long project with the Red Hook Community Justice Center. We asked the group to conduct a qualitative analysis of the Brooklyn Adolescent Diversion Program, particularly with an eye toward a new program slated to launch in July.

The project required the group to spend quite a bit of time in Red Hook and at the downtown criminal courthouse on Schermerhorn Street. Ultimately, the students' collective experience resembled some sort of wonderful, albeit peculiar hybrid of crash-course in criminal justice reform and acute immersion in the professional culture of misdemeanor criminal practice. Not surprisingly, this experience yielded an equally fascinating set of observations and recommendations, a thoughtful blend of process analysis, distillation and synthesis of stakeholder interviews, and good ol' fashioned thick description a la Clifford Geertz -- with a touch of bricolage a la Claude Lévi-Strauss.

As good as the substantive content was (and it was good!), I was especially taken by the students' enthusiasm and electrifying energy.  When you work in criminal justice, it is easy to lose the proverbial forest for the trees, to lose sight of opportunities for meaningful change amidst the aggravations and flotsam and jetsam of daily professional life. But I left yesterday's presentation feeling refreshed; I bounded for the subway eager to revisit the ongoing, untidy complexities of justice reform on the ground.

Props & Appreciation to the Steins,



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