Community Courts combine conventional punishments with alternative sanctions and on-site treatment and training in an effort to break the “revolving door” cycle of crime. They are a collaboration between traditionally separate entities, including citizens, criminal justice agencies, businesses, local civic organizations, government entities, and social service providers which results in neighborhood-focused problem solving.
By, for example, sentencing low-level offenders to community service, Community Courts address local concerns in a way that:
- strengthens the court’s relationship with the community;
- increases community confidence in the criminal justice system;
- enhances appreciation of how crime affects victims and communities;
- provides faster dispositions and innovative sanctions;
- shows visible compliance with court ordered sanctions and sentences;
- increases community access to the criminal justice system; and
- improves the quality of life for the entire community.
Many Community Courts house an array of non-traditional programs, such as community mediation, job training and placement, drug treatment and homeless outreach, all of which are rigorously monitored by the court in order to address problems that often underlie individuals’ criminal behavior. Services specifically targeted for youth include job readiness, substance abuse and HIV prevention and tutoring and mentor programs.
New York is a national and international leader in the development of Community Courts. The Midtown Community Court, located in Manhattan, was the first community court to have been implemented in the United States and has been addressing quality-of-life issues since 1993, while the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn was the nation’s first multi-jurisdictional community court, with a single judge to hear criminal, housing and family cases. Since then courts have been piloted or planned in nearly three dozen U.S. cities and several countries, including South Africa, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
As of January 2017 there are six Community Courts operating in New York State.
For further information on Problem-Solving Courts or if you would like to schedule a court visit, please contact the Office of Policy and Planning at ProblemSolving@nycourts.gov