A recent two-day training for Manhattan prosecutors was a drumbeat on the harms of incarceration, part of a wider effort by D.A. Alvin Bragg to expand the use of alternatives such as treatment and restorative justice. But in a newly cramped climate for criminal justice reform, can that effort become a reality? New Thinking investigates.
Prosecutors make many of the most vital choices in a case unilaterally. Yet little is known about how they arrive at decisions in the most consequential cases: those charged as violent. Results from our national survey of prosecutor offices show a willingness to try new approaches but also suggest how prosecutors conceive of and prosecute violence can be rife with inconsistencies.
The Family Healing Project uses restorative practices to offer supportive spaces for individuals and families, after incarceration. Evidence shows that strong social support is positively correlated with stable housing and that stable housing greatly reduces the risk of re-arrest amongst formerly incarcerated people. Yet support for people coming home is often narrowly focused on material needs, while heads of households, primarily women of color, shoulder the emotional, psychological, and spiritual challenges for all.
Many schools have adopted a form of restorative justice, but there are few rigorous evaluations of its effects. Our study of an ambitious project in a handful of New York City schools returned a mixed result: widespread perceptions of an improved school climate, but little movement in our primary metric—the use of suspensions. Should future researchers prioritize outcomes more aligned with restorative justice's overall goals?
Circles for Safe Streets, a pilot project of the Center for Court Innovation in partnership with Families for Safe Streets, provides a restorative justice response to vehicular crimes resulting in serious injury or death. The program builds on the Center’s work in both Driver Accountability and Restorative Justice, offering an avenue to support both victims and drivers.
Youth Impact: Bronx is a youth leadership program that offers a restorative approach to issues that young people face. Volunteer members develop and pilot projects to promote community change, lead restorative circles for their peers, and take actions to address the underlying issues causing youth contact with the criminal legal system. Youth Impact offers individual support, mentorship, and educational opportunities to support members as they move towards their individual goals. Watch the video to hear from young people themselves what this program means to them and their community.
“This job has really shown me our deep ability as human beings to be connected to one another.” Kellsie Sayers is the director of restorative practices where she oversees the design and implementation of restorative justice programming. Kellsie joined the Center for Court Innovation four years ago to lead the restorative justice in schools project, a four-year pilot looking at the impact of restorative practices on school culture.
This fact sheet summarizes the mission and impact of Manhattan Justice Opportunities, a program of the Center for Court Innovation, that helps build safer communities and a fairer justice system by providing social services and supportive resources as effective alternatives to the traditional responses to crime, empowering people to make positive changes in their lives.
This guide provides lessons learned from the Center’s Restorative Justice in Schools Project. Over the course of three years, our team worked in five high schools implementing restorative practices. The theory of change was simple: strong relationships create safer and healthier school environments. The aim of the guide is to assist educators, students, and community members in shifting their schools away from punitive approaches and towards a more restorative environment, and to lay the foundation for the entire school community to build positive connections.
Black History Month celebrates the voices, stories, and achievements of Black people and their central role in American history. As part of our Black History Month celebration at the Center for Court Innovation, we're highlighting a poem by Erica Wright, the lead facilitator of our Restorative Justice in Schools program. Ms. Wright wrote and reads "The Children Who Didn't Belong," a poem reflecting the reality of underserved, predominantly Black schools, where accountability needs to start with the system, not the students, as the poem underscores so poignantly.