Mandatory minimum sentencing laws took shape amid the “tough-on-crime” push of the late 1970s, making a signal contribution at the origins of our mass incarceration era. How would eliminating these laws—in whole or in part—affect the stark racial disparities in who is in prison in New York?
In this report, the Center for Court Innovation’s West Coast Initiatives team shares valuable lessons derived from its experience in helping to plan and launch equitable early diversion programs in Los Angeles. The insights offered here can provide guidance for other diversion initiatives in efforts to bridge the gap between legal systems and communities while caring for vulnerable populations.
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.
In his 22 years as presiding judge of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, Judge Alex Calabrese has always taken a people-centered approach in his courtroom, understanding the underlying issues that brought people to court and suggesting services and programs that would help address them. We are incredibly grateful for Judge Calabrese's service. He has made a deep and lasting impact on the residents of Red Hook and the justice system as a whole.
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 Bronx Community Justice Center works to create a safer, more equitable Bronx through community-driven public safety initiatives, youth opportunity, and economic mobility efforts focused in the South Bronx. Our vision is to support the South Bronx community to become a safe and thriving place where local ownership, community-led investment, and youth opportunity can flourish. The Bronx Community Justice Center works toward this vision by focusing on community safety, restorative practices, and youth and economic development.
An alternative to the traditional system, Project Reset has looked to innovate again by partnering with arts institutions to create meaningful arts-based programming. Project Reset’s partnerships with the New Museum and the Brooklyn Museum are the latest chapter in a longer history of work in the arts.
Opportunity Youth Part is a New Rochelle City Court initiative that serves emerging adults who are facing misdemeanor or felony charges and are not in school, are unemployed or under-employed, and are typically disconnected from positive services. The court takes a community-centric approach to resolve cases and incorporates restorative justice and procedural fairness practices with the goal to support the participants’ success.
Jail populations can be reduced swiftly and humanely—where the political will exists. That is the primary lesson to emerge from our study of New York City’s Early Release Program. Quickly constructed as the pandemic first hit Rikers Island in March 2020, the program helped drive the city's jail population to its lowest level in 75 years. With the curtailment of those efforts, the population has since increased by 60 percent.
Kristina Singleton works on diverting people from court into supportive or educational programming. Among the programs she works with at the Midtown Community Court are Project Reset, which offers those charged with a low-level crime the chance to avoid court and a criminal record by completing community-based programming, and a recently launched youth gun-diversion program for young people who have been arrested on gun possession charges.