The Center for Justice Innovation works with communities and justice systems to advance equity, increase safety, and help individuals and communities thrive.
Our work touches all stages of the justice system, from arrest through reintegration into the community. But our work goes further by seeking to reduce the need for justice system involvement in the first place. Our primary long-term goal is to identify and resolve as early as possible the challenges that bring people into the criminal and civil legal systems. We do this in a number of ways, including investing resources in underserved communities, problem-solving side-by-side with populations affected by crime, and building programs that respond to offending and increase safety without imposing lasting harms on individuals or communities.
As an organization that works closely with systems and with communities, we are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between them, fostering communication, understanding, and trust. Our approach involves collaboration among our three main teams: research and evaluation; direct-service programming; and training and expert assistance. Research informs programming, programming informs research, and both research and practice inform our efforts to train and assist communities across the U.S. and internationally in adopting tailored reforms.
We plan, implement, and operate new programs that address urgent issues related to safety, justice, and community well-being. Our projects include community-based violence prevention projects, alternatives to incarceration, reentry initiatives, and court-based programs that reduce the use of unnecessary incarceration and promote positive individual and family change. Some of our projects are big, serving thousands of people each year. And some are small, working intensively with a few dozen people at a time. Consistent with our values, our approach is collaborative and inclusive; we seek to include the voices of all constituencies impacted by the issue or proposed program during the planning process. This means we routinely invite into the planning process not only representatives of the justice system (police, prosecutors, defenders, judges, probation, etc.) and other government officials, but also community members, victims, and those with direct experience of the justice system, including those who have been charged with offenses or civil violations and those who have been incarcerated. Our initiatives range from court-based programs in both civil and criminal settings that offer opportunities to divert participants away from traditional penalties, like fines and incarceration, and toward resources and opportunities to address underlying problems, such as drug use, mental health conditions, and lack of employment. Our housing programs seek to reduce evictions, address repair and safety issues, and increase the availability of stable and affordable housing. Our community programs focus on prevention, local empowerment, and investing resources in historically under-resourced neighborhoods. Our youth programs offer a wide range of support, training, and leadership opportunities to young people, with a focus on those who are system-involved or from historically under-resourced communities.
We believe policies and programs should be informed by humane values and data that is responsibly collected and analyzed. Our researchers’ goal is to help identify what programs produce positive outcomes, which don’t, and how to implement mid-course changes to improve programming on the ground. We provide regular results and analysis of data in-house to our program staff and also work with partners in New York, nationally, and internationally to help practitioners develop evaluation tools, hone research strategies, and identify best practices. Our research methodologies include randomized controlled trials, qualitative evaluations, action and participatory research, and surveys. Our much-cited studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals and address a wide range of subjects, including the sex trade, reentry court, drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, public perceptions of the justice system, and prosecutors’ attitudes toward alternative sentencing.
We share what we learn in order to advance reforms around the United States and the world. Our experts provide hands-on assistance to other communities and justice practitioners to help them implement effective, cutting-edge responses to local challenges. Rather than import outside solutions to solve local problems, our approach involves providing communities with the structure and tools to solve problems for themselves. Our experts encourage peer-to-peer learning, helping communities learn from others and enabling them to customize solutions for their local needs. Experts help plan, implement, and evaluate new policies, practices, and technologies. Our assistance takes many forms, including help with analyzing data, facilitating planning sessions, and hosting site visits to our programs in the New York City area.Annual Report: 2021
Originally called the Center for Court Innovation, we grew out of the Midtown Community Court, which was created in 1993 to address crime and safety issues in and around Times Square. The project’s success in reducing both crime and incarceration led the New York State Unified Court System to establish the Center for Court Innovation as an independent non-profit dedicated to justice reform. Over the years, we have helped design, implement, and run dozens of programs (some of which now function independently of the Center, such as the Brooklyn Treatment Court), produced original research about hundreds of justice initiatives, and hosted tens of thousands of visitors interested in justice reform. In 2023, we changed our name to the Center for Justice Innovation to reflect how our work has evolved from primarily court-based to a combination of justice system- and community-based programming that emphasizes local leadership, community empowerment, prevention, equity, and safety.