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The Justice Center Saves Money, Lowers Crime, and Reduces Incarceration - Study

We're excited to announce the results of a multi-year, independent study about the Red Hook Community Justice Center. These results wouldn't be possible without the long-time collaboration between the Justice Center, the community, and law enforcement.  See the press release below for more details.

Summary of results:
Full Copy of the Report:

New Report on NYC’s Red Hook Community Justice Center Shows
Offenders 10-20% Less Likely to Commit New Crimes;
Savings to Local Community Surpassed $12 Million Annually
BROOKLYN – A pioneering “community court” in Red Hook, Brooklyn is being heralded for its innovative role in reducing crime and saving taxpayer money, according to a new, independent study released today by the National Center for State Courts and commissioned by the US Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice. 
The report, the most rigorous ever conducted of a community court, found that adult offenders at Red Hook Community Justice Center are 10% less likely to commit new crimes than offenders processed in a traditional courthouse, and juvenile offenders are 20% less likely to re-offend. These results compare favorably to more intensive and expensive criminal justice interventions.
“The Red Hook Community Justice Center is an important part of the city’s successful efforts to reduce crime and, at the same time, reduce incarceration,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Since I first saw it not long after it opened in 2000, the city has benefitted from the Justice Center’s model for approaching low-level crime, which can reduce re-offending and make real improvements to a neighborhood.”
Since its opening in 2000, the Justice Center has served as a national model, helping to inspire more than three dozen community courts across the country (including San Francisco, Newark, Washington DC and others) as well as international replications.  The goal of community courts is to reduce both crime and incarceration by linking low-level defendants to community restitution and social services. Defendants who participate in alternative sentences are closely monitored by a judge to ensure compliance. At the same time, community courts seek to revitalize the relationship between the justice system and citizens, inviting local residents to play an active role in advisory boards, neighborhood beautification projects, and volunteer initiatives.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has endorsed community courts as part of its national drug control strategy.  New York City mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has called for expansion of community courts across the City.  New Jersey Senator-elect Cory Booker has called for increased federal funding of community courts.  
The U.S. Department of Justice views community courts, and the Red Hook Community Justice Center in particular, as model programs.  “The Department of Justice has been committed not just to the Red Hook Community Justice Center but to spreading the practices that have worked in Red Hook to the rest of the field.  We are gratified to see our investment in Red Hook pay off in lower recidivism rates and improved perceptions of justice.  We look forward to working with criminal justice agencies across the country who are interested in adapting some of the lessons from Red Hook, particularly the idea that reaching out to the community and improving procedural fairness can help improve public safety,” said Denise O’Donnell, the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Researchers described the Justice Center’s impact on re-offending as “a robust and sustained decrease” in recidivism in comparison to traditional case processing.
“These findings validate the New York State Court System’s longstanding commitment to the Red Hook Community Justice Center and the community court model,” said New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “The Red Hook Justice Center is not only helping prevent crime and improving the quality of life in Brooklyn -- it’s showing other jurisdictions how to do it.”
By increasing the use of alternative sanctions, the Red Hook Community Justice Center significantly reduced—by 35%—the number of defendants who received jail sentences. In this way, the Justice Center contributed to the larger New York story of reduced crime and incarceration over the past 20 years.
The Justice Center uses a wide range of tools to combat minor offending, including mandated social services, such as drug treatment, and collaborative community initiatives, such as youth programs and park cleanups.  For instance, 78% of offenders at the Red Hook Justice Center are sentenced to perform community service or participate in social services, while only 22% of similarly charged offenders receive such sentences at the traditional courthouse in downtown Brooklyn, according to the study.
But the Justice Center’s most powerful tool, according to the researchers, is something called procedural fairness.
Evaluators found that the Justice Center integrates procedural fairness at all levels—ranging from building design to staff behavior and courtroom procedures. The courtroom’s lowered bench, for example, allows the judge to be at eye level with the defendant rather than looking down on him.  It also allows the judge to speak directly to defendants in a manner that evaluators described as “a respectful two-way interaction.”
“While all courthouses seek to be fair in the way they make decisions, the Red Hook Community Justice Center has sought to deliver the message of fairness in every aspect of a visitor’s experience, from the way court officers greet people at the door to the way it engages local kids in youth development programs,” said Greg Berman, the Director of the Center for Court Innovation, which helped to plan and implement the Red Hook Community Justice Center and is currently working on replicating the model in Brownsville.
The Justice Center handles more than 13,000 cases a year from three precincts in southwest Brooklyn. Planning for the Justice Center, which is housed in a former Catholic elementary school just a few blocks from one of New York City’s largest public housing projects, began in the early 1990s after the shooting death of local school Principal Patrick Daly, who was accidently slain while looking for an absent student. At the time, the neighborhood was one of the most dangerous in the city. In 1990, the 76th Precinct, where the Justice Center is located, recorded 13 murders, 15 rapes and 571 robberies. Last year, the precinct was one of only six in the city to see no murders. It had only one reported rape and only three robberies.
The Red Hook Community Justice Center has successfully integrated itself “into the fabric of the community,” the study found. The Justice Center houses community programs for both adults and youth and works closely with community-based groups to solve neighborhood problems.
Evaluators found that, overall, the Justice Center saves money, concluding that for each of the 3,210 adult misdemeanor defendants arraigned at the Justice Center in 2008, society realized a savings of $4,756 in avoided victimization costs relative to similar cases processed in a traditional misdemeanor court, resulting in a total of $15 million in savings. After factoring the upfront costs of operating the Justice Center, savings outweighed program costs by a factor of nearly 2 to 1.
“The National Center for State Courts is proud to have been selected by the National Institute of Justice to evaluate the Red Hook Community Justice Center,” said National Center for State Courts President Mary Campbell McQueen. “I have little doubt that this study will be a lasting contribution to making our trial courts more effective.”


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