Technology has been a key component in the Harlem Community Justice Center’s growth and community outreach. The tool linking almost all the Justice Center’s components together is the Justice Center Application, which has been used internally by staff almost since the opening of the Center to warehouse information on clients receiving services. The application collects client data in one central database, tracking program enrollment and attendance, referrals, and general case management notes.
This information is simultaneously accessible by the judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys and social service staff, allowing all parties to share information as soon as it is available. Through this tool, case managers are able to maintain up-to-the minute lists of all active clients, as well as current data regarding compliance or non-compliance with case management plans. And with detailed information about clients right in front of them—what the client’s case history is, what programs they’re in, what their needs are—judges are able to make more informed decisions in the courtrooms.
A separate system was developed in 1999 to confidentially track all mediation case information, including referrals, case management and follow-up of cases screened and assessed at the Justice Center. Since mediation requires complete confidentiality for the parties, this database is separate from all other Justice Center technology, and is only accessible to designated staff performing intake, screening, assessing and actual mediations.
The database has automatic, built-in report generation capabilities that displays referral and dispute information, danger assessment, and police information. Reports can also be generated regarding the number of mediators trained, certifications, contact information, and the individual area of expertise of the individual mediations (i.e., housing, parent-teen, custody visitation, attorney). Outcomes and nature of disputes, referral sources, and active cases can also be tracked.
This Justice Center Application was expanded in 2005 to support the community coalition building activities of the Youth Futures Network—a coalition of 50 community-based organizations that provides a full array of services to young people through constant collaboration and sharing of information and resources. Whereas before the tool had allowed all Justice Center staff to approach an individual client in an informed and organized manner, now the tool allowed network members to refer community members to services.
The network makes use of simple, user-friendly technology through which coalition members can refer youth online to mental health and drug treatment providers within the network. A school counselor, for example, might see that a student is in need of treatment. He or she can log onto the referral network, enter the student’s information, select the needed service, and make a referral to a specific provider. The recipient of the referral receives an email prompting him or her to log onto the system to respond to the referral, and is then expected to respond to the referral within three days of receiving it. The system then tracks the case as the person making the initial referral follows up. The information is stored in the system. Should the student then opt to make use of resources at the Justice Center, staff will already have a record of his or her referral history. The system allows network members to cut out a lot of time and red tape and get young people quickly into needed services. In 2006, over 150 referrals were made through the system.