Nov 16, 2013

Evaluation of Red Hook Community Justice Center Released

The National Center of State Courts released a comprehensive evaluation of the Red Hook Community Justice Center. The full report, entitled "A Community Court Grows in Brooklyn: A Comprehensive Evaluation of the Red Hook Community Justice Center," is available at:

The following is a summary of key findings published by the Center for Court Innovation.

1) Increased Use of Alternative Sanctions 
The Justice Center increased the use of alternative sentences: 78 percent of offenders received community service or social service sanctions, compared with 22 percent among comparable cases processed at the regular criminal courthouse in Brooklyn.

2) Reduced Use of Jail 
The Justice Center reduced the number of offenders receiving jail sentences by 35 percent. In addition, there were significant differences in how the Justice Center used jail compared to the downtown courthouse. At Red Hook, almost no defendants (1 percent) received jail at arraignment. Instead, jail was reserved as a “secondary” sanction, for offenders who were noncompliant with their initial community or social service sentences.

3) Reduced Recidivism 
Adult defendants handled at the Justice Center were 10 percent less likely to commit new crimes than offenders who were processed in a traditional courthouse; juvenile defendants were 20 percent less likely to re-offend. Further analysis indicated that these differences were sustained well beyond the primary two-year follow-up period.

4) Impact on Local Crime
There was a sustained decrease in both felony and misdemeanor arrests in the police precincts served by the Justice Center. Similar phenomena were not apparent in adjacent precincts, where arrest patterns remained highly variable throughout the observation period. Although precise causality cannot be established, crime (as measured by arrests) went down in Red Hook in a way that it did not in surrounding areas.

5) Improved Procedural Justice 
Evaluators concluded that the Justice Center had improved perceptions of procedural justice, reflected in the fair treatment of defendants throughout the courthouse; the “respectful two- way interaction” between judge and defendant in the courtroom; and efforts at building citizen trust through community outreach.

6) Cost-Efficiency 
For each of the 3,210 adult misdemeanor defendants arraigned at the Justice Center in 2008, taxpayers realized an estimated savings of $4,756 per defendant in avoided victimization costs relative to similar cases processed in a traditional misdemeanor court –a total of $15 million in avoided victimization costs. After factoring the upfront costs of operating the Justice Center, total resource savings in 2008 were $6,852,477; savings outweighed program costs by a factor of nearly 2 to 1.

7) Project Implementation 
The Justice Center’s efforts to achieve a close and meaningful engagement with the local community were successful. Based on interviews with residents, community leaders, and offenders, the public perceives the Justice Center not as an outpost of city government, but as a homegrown community institution.

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