Monthly Archives: August 2012

Officials Announce Funding for the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project

A multi-faceted partnership to lower violence in one of Brooklyn’s most beleaguered neighborhoods gets a major
boost with the announcement of $599,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice. Among those speaking at a
press conference to announce the grant are Denise E. O’Donnell, director of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance,
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E.
Lynch, and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. September 2012

WOLF: While crime is down across New York City, residents of some neighborhoods still fear gunfire and gangs. One
of those neighborhoods is Brownsville, Brooklyn, site of several new programs launched by the Center for Court Innovation
to address violence and strengthen community responses. I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center
for Court Innovation and in this New Thinking podcast, the focus is on the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project, which
was the subject of a press conference September 26, 2012, in which the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance
of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that the project would receive nearly $600,000 in funding out of $11
million in grants distributed to 15 neighborhoods across the U.S. With a siren in the background reminding the audience
what was at stake, the Bureau of Justice Assistance Director, Denise O’Donnell, said that the grant was not
about the federal government dictating priorities but about empowering communities.

This program is not about the federal government changing neighborhoods. It’s about community members and stakeholders
working together to identify priorities and solutions to persistent crime problems.

O’Donnell was joined at the podium in the Heritage Room of the Stone Avenue Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library
by a number of officials, including New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who said his department was always
willing to test new ideas.

RAY KELLY: You know, when it comes to driving crime down or saving
lives, I can assure you that the New York City Police Department is open to new ideas. Anything that has the potential
to save lives and make this community safer, we’re for it, and we see in the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program
some very strong potential.

ROB WOLF: District Attorney Charles J. Hynes described call-ins, a
key feature of the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program, in which recent parolees are offered services and encouragement
while, at the same time, being reminded of the serious consequences they face if they get into trouble again.

CHARLES HYNES: The past two months we have partnered with the Center for Court Innovation, United States
Attorney Lynch, Commissioner Kelly, and the NYPD in implementing an evidence-based gun violence reduction strategy
with Project Safe Neighborhoods call-in forums. These call-in forums send a clear message to those with violent pasts
who are reentering the Brownsville community after incarceration, to desist from picking up guns, that gang life
is a dead end, and that we stand ready to help anyone who wants to be on the productive trail.

WOLF: The real life importance of the grant was underscored by Mark Tannis, a community leader.

TANNIS: With this grant, in conjunction with VJA, we can have a coordinated effort to get guns off the street. Stop
the gun violence. By far, the large majority of our community want safe streets and a sense of peace, where they
all call home. Unfortunately, too many times that tranquility is shattered by senseless gun violence.

WOLF: The Brownsville Anti-Violence Program works closely with the community, according to James Brodick, director
of the Brownsville Community Justice Center.

JAMES BRODICK: We started to do a community wide
survey and focus groups. And time after time after time we hear common themes. Theme number one is a lack of opportunities
for young people. And we understand that it’s very clear that we need to get our young people better education, job
readiness, and actual jobs. But what we also hear is that there are real issues with gangs and guns, and unfortunately
as much as people say one of the ways of solving this problem is opening up more after school centers, or opening
up you know, opening up a community center, if young people don’t feel comfortable to cross Van Dyke to the
Brownsville Houses, we can’t get past that. And again, you know, one of the things that the Center for Court
Innovation is here to do today, is what we bring to the table is an expertise in research and expertise in trying
to convene people to solve problems, but we’re not the ones who are going to solve the problem by ourselves.
It’s gonna be the systems, the partners, and most importantly the community.

Attorney Loretta Lynch, whose office is a partner in the Anti-Violence Initiative, said the Department of Justice’s
anti-violence strategy has three legs.

LORETTA LYNCH: Our anti-violence strategy consists of what
has been described, really as the three-legged stool. Each piece equally important. Prevention—you’ve heard
about the youth programs. Let’s prevent this crime from occurring. Let’s keep people safe. Targeted prosecution—and
yes, we’re here to do that. And re-entry assistance—because we all know that to send people home, back into
the same environment and issues and conflicts that led them into violence in the first place, is just creating a
vicious cycle.

ROB WOLF: For more on the Brownsville Anti-Violence Program or the Brownsville
Community Justice Center, or other podcasts in our series, you can visit our website You
can also subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes. And feel free to like the Center for Court Innovation on our Facebook
page. I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Thanks for listening.

Improving Youth Programming: The Role of Research

Angela Irvine, director of research in the Criminal Justice Division of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency,
sat down for this podcast interview after participating in a research roundtable on youth courts that was sponsored
by the Center for Court Innovation and the Lowenstein Family Foundation on July 18, 2012.  Irvine also discusses
research into lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender justice-involved youth.

WOLF:  I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. In this New Thinking
podcast, I’m with Angela Irvine, director of research of the criminal justice division of the National Council
of Crime and Delinquency. And I have the good fortune to have a few minutes with her just as she’s finished
participating in a research roundtable on youth courts that the Center for Court Innovation hosted here today in
Manhattan, at the law firm of Skadden Arps. So thanks, Angela, for taking the time to talk with me.

IRVINE:  Thank you for having me.

WOLF: Are there particular challenges that researchers
face when looking at a justice program geared for youth?

IRVINE:  I’m not sure if
there are different challenges. I think that people, in a lot of ways, have given up on adult criminals. In a lot
of ways I find research on adults challenging because it’s hard to engage a public, or to find a source of sympathy
for adult criminals. I think that what’s actually exciting about doing research in the juvenile justice arena
is that we have the possibility of engaging sympathy for different populations of youth who are engaged in the system.
I think if you look at girls in the juvenile justice system, researchers have done a really good job of sort of highlighting
the links between past traumatic experiences and how that drives young people into the juvenile justice system, and
how therefore we, as a society, need to take responsibility for creating firewalls so that girls who have experienced
trauma don’t end up in the juvenile justice system. And what I’m really interested in, moving forward, is thinking
about ways to engage the public in becoming more sympathetic to boys of color who are in the juvenile justice system
who’ve also experienced trauma.

WOLF:  One thing I hear you saying is that there’s
a greater, perhaps, societal interest in research of justice programs that focus on youth, and that is because it’s
easier to have empathy for youth?

IRVINE:  I think so, yes, compared to adults.

WOLF:  And is it also because there’s this general sense that there’s a greater possibility
of rehabilitation?

IRVINE:  I think that there is so much fear of boys of color, in particular—in
public schools, in public spaces, and so I’m not sure how much the general public thinks about wanting to rehabilitate
that population. In theory I think that the juvenile court system was developed to rehabilitate young people in a
different way than the adult criminal justice system has been, but I think that we’re caught in a little bit of a
quagmire right now. If you look from the ’80s on, I think that that’s when super-predators in urban Chicago,
urban New York, started to take over media. You know –

WOLF:  Like “wilding,” that kind
of thing?

IRVINE:  Yeah, exactly. And I think that it’s really important for us
to sort of stop the fear of those young people, and to try to move back in time, to a time when we really do think
of the juvenile justice system as different than the adult criminal justice system, and a system that does seriously
invest in the rehabilitation of those young people, because they’re all our kids.

And do you think researchers have a role to play in helping to change that orientation? 

Researcher always have a role in identifying which program should be invested in. So if researchers identify programs
that effectively reduce recidivism or improve graduation rates, I think that the government, the federal government,
state governments always justify their investment in programs based on research. I think that it’s really important
to think about who the researchers should be doing this work. I think it’s really important that we try to recruit
researchers of color who come from the neighborhoods where we are arresting most of the people, so that we can have
a richer discussion about what the findings are, but also have a richer discussion about what the possible solutions
are because in my experience, researchers who are more familiar with low-income communities of color come up with
more realistic solutions in terms of effectively changing behavior, essentially.

You’ve done a lot of research with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and they face a number of
problems that make them more likely to offend or get involved in the system. I wonder if you can maybe explain some
of your findings.

IRVINE:  The most important finding is that LGBT youth are over represented
in the system. We surveyed young people at the point of arrest and we found that at that point, 15 percent of young
people disclosed being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, which we believe is a higher percentage than the general
population, though we don’t have an accurate measure of the general population. And if you just aggregate by
what we consider, you know, traditionally consider gender, that’s about 11 percent of boys but 27 percent of girls.
I also think it’s important to remember that we have the same disclosure rates for African-American, Latino,
and white youth. Now, in terms of why LGBT youth are there, our surveys show that LGBT youth were twice as likely
to be removed from their home as children because of conflict with their parents, were twice as likely to be homeless
at some point in time, and then twice as likely to be held in detention for status offenses like running away, or

WOLF:  Your employer, the National Council of Crime and Delinquency, started
a project called Improving Permanency for LGBT Youth, which is trying to build an infrastructure of permanent, competent
housing for LGBT youth.

IRVINE:  So I think that what’s really exciting for me about
this program is that youth who are placed outside of their home are at risk for negative outcomes, no matter who
you are. I think that the data shows that if you are a youth of color, or that if you’re LGBT, you’re less likely
to be placed in a home that can meet your needs because it’s very difficult to identify foster parents of color,
or group homes that can adequately serve the needs of African-American and Latino youth, and LGBT youth. And so what
you see is then youth running away from placement, and then because they’re running away from placement, then they
get elevated to higher levels of placement, and they essentially get anchored into the system.

in each of three counties, Alameda, Orange, and Fresno county, we’re going to be working with task forces and the
goal of all three task forces would be immediately to try to pass anti-discrimination policies because that—the moment
of crisis is when LGBT youth are in juvenile detention centers, and we need to make sure that youth are not discriminated
against, that we deconstruct homophobic sort of systems, what people say, but also how particular gender non-conforming
youth are placed in housing units. But then the next step is to try to dig into these communities and see, what is
the infrastructure?  How many, you know, do we have homes that have been identified as LGBT culturally competent? 
Are there solutions that can be put into place to reunify kids with their families, or with some sort of kin care,
sooner than later?

WOLF:  And will research be playing a role in the development of this
program?  How will researchers be helping inform this process?

IRVINE:  That’s
a really good question. So the project is being managed by Bernadette Brown, who’s a really accomplished attorney
and LGBT advocate. And so she’ll be running the task forces in each of the counties. And then I’ll sit on, as
a researcher, each of the task forces and make sure that we are setting data-collection protocols into place, so
that we can measure outcomes for youth in each of those system.

WOLF:  So let me ask
you about what brought you here, to New York today, from Oakland, California, your home. So you spent the day here
in Manhattan, here at the law firm of Scadden Arps, where we are now in the middle of an incredible thunderstorm.
So the theme of the roundtable discussion was on the topic of youth courts and research. The roundtable itself was
sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation. And I’m wondering now, after the five-hour conversation, you know,
what did you learn from it, and what did you think about youth courts before you arrived and have your attitudes
changed or is it too early to really make any particular declaration?

IRVINE:  I think
that my initial concerns about youth courts is that they were a program that could accidentally pull low-risk youth
into either the juvenile justice system or school disciplinary procedures.

WOLF:  Maybe
I’ll just clarify that youth courts, as we’re talking about them here, are program that train teenagers
to play court-like roles to evaluate cases of their peers, and usually just come up with a disposition—they usually
don’t determine guilt. And some are in schools and some are outside of schools. So I just wanted to say that.
I didn’t want to interrupt you.

IRVINE:  So I think that what—I’m really impressed
by the group of people that were here and I think that what I saw is a real commitment to creating a model that works.
I think that there are really two populations that potentially benefit from youth courts. I think that there are
what are called the respondents, so young people who have gotten in trouble, who are essentially the defendants in
a youth court, and then there are the young people who serve as jurists and judges and bailiffs. And the engagement
of those young people who are involved in the program, and staffing the program, is much longer and the benefits
to those young people are very, very clear. I think that in general these young people develop positive relationships
with the adults who are facilitating the program. I think that you see really high rates of graduation and college
attendance. And I think that what everybody coalesced around was the idea that Jeffrey Butts proposed, which is that
we don’t want to do any harm to the respondents or the defendants in this system. And understanding that is a complicated
process, but I’m really excited to have been a part of a group that really sort of rolled up our sleeves and
thought about, how is it that we can document, or how is it that we can ensure that the respondents or the defendants
have positive outcomes instead of negative outcomes.

WOLF:  These are important questions
because youth courts are sort of gaining popularity, and yet there hasn’t been a whole lot of research about
their efficacy.

IRVINE:  Exactly. I think it’s really, really important that we
be able to posit an effective model. I think that the idea of youth courts is easy to replicate, right, just based
on common sense. And I think that it’s really, really important that we identify elements, potentially effective
elements like peer-to-peer-led courtrooms. That was a variable that came up today that we try to reduce the punitive
nature of those courts, perhaps not even calling them courts anymore, that we think about healing and stopping the
cycle of trauma, so that we create—intentionally create what I want to call systems, or structures of those youth
courts that make young people feel comfortable and forgiven by their peers.

WOLF:  Well
listen, thank you so much Angela.

IRVINE:  Thank you.

I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to talk with me. I’ve been speaking with Angela Irvine, who’s
the director of research of the criminal justice division of the National Council of Crime and Delinquency. And her
office is based in Oakland, although the National Council has offices in several locations. If you want to learn
more about some of her work, you can go to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s website which is And to find out more about youth courts or about the Center for Court Innovation, please go to You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes. You can follow us on Facebook as well, and
on Twitter. I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you for listening.

July 2012

Parent Support Program Helps Repair Parent-Child Relationships

The graduation of seven fathers serves as a jumping off point for Liberty Aldrich, director of the Center for
Court Innovation’s family
and domestic
programming, to discuss the Kings County Parent Support Program, which links non-custodial parents with needed services
to increase child support payments and maintain healthy parent-child relationships.


ROBERT V. WOLF: Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. 
And today I’m talking with Liberty Aldrich, who is our director of domestic violence and family court Programs. 
Hi Liberty.


WOLF:  We’re talking
today about the King’s County Parent Support Program, which the Center for Court Innovation operates in collaboration
with New York City Family Court and the city’s Human Resources Administration.  The Parent Support
Program works closely with non-custodial parents who owe child support. Over the course of the program’s first
17 months there have been about $140,000 in child support collected.  Liberty and I recently had a chance
to see a graduation of participants, so today I thought we would listen to some excerpts from that.  To
start off, Liberty, I thought maybe you could give an overview of what the King’s County Parent Support Program is. 

LIBERTY:  Sure, thanks.  The Parent Support Program takes a problem-solving approach to
address a problem that has bedeviled courts and parents and families for a long time, which is how can we address
the persistent problem of non-payment of child support in a way that is both fair to the non-custodial parents, but
also provides support to children.  The Parent Support Program is open to any non-custodial parent in Brooklyn
who is in arrears on their child support. Support magistrates, attorneys, or other folks can refer potential participants
to the Parent Support Program and that program has a resource coordinator. The resource coordinator meets with the
non-custodial dad, sees whether he’s eligible for the program, sees what kind of services he needs in order
to become better employed, better able to support his children, and if it’s appropriate, she makes that recommendation
to the support magistrate that that non-custodial dad be ordered to participate in those programs in lieu of more
traditional sanctions. The court continues to monitor his compliance with the programs on a regular basis, bringing
him back to court and checking in to see if, in fact, he’s taking advantage of the services offered. 

WOLF:  I’m gathering that the program really is to support, as its name suggests. I thought
maybe we could listen to some of the things we heard from the graduation.  Here, in her welcoming remarks,
Theodora Andreopoulos, the deputy borough chief of child support for the Brooklyn Family Court Division, pointed
out that the Parent Support Program goes beyond focusing just on the parent’s failures to actually trying to
offer some concrete help.

THEODORA ANDREOPOULOS:  Enforcement petitions are often viewed
as proceedings which focus on a parent’s failure to pay child support. However the Parent Support Program and
the success of the graduates today has shown that enforcement petitions can be more than that. They can be an opportunity
for a second chance to be given to a parent who wished to comply with the child support order but had not had the
ability to do so in the past, because of his or her own personal circumstances.

So maybe you can tell me what kind of personal circumstances might prevent a parent from being able to make child
support payments. 

ALDRICH: In a lot of the cases that we’ve had so far, and so
far we’ve worked with over 120 non-custodial parents, the major issues are a history of incarceration, which
makes it very difficult to find adequate employment, and under-employment. So folks who’ve lost their jobs,
folks who were previously making a regular salary who are no longer able to sustain that level of income, and so
they may be making ends meet for their personal needs by doing odd jobs, but they are unable to find adequate employment.

WOLF:  Let’s listen to what Devin Banton said about why he wasn’t able to make his payments.

WOLF:  What brought you to the program?  What was the situation that got you here?

DEVIN BANTON:  The situation was that you know, the economy got bad and I had my own vehicle, and
I had an accident, twice.  Not my fault, but because of the accident I had suffered the loss of T&LC
license and then wasn’t working, payment got backed up on me. So the child’s mother decided to take me

WOLF:  When I spoke to Support Magistrate Nicholas Palos he said the problems for
some non-custodial parent often start with the child support order.  Here’s part of what he said.

NICHOLAS PALOS:  A needs-based order for most of the people that we see in Brooklyn, and the way
we calculate them, they’re way beyond the means of the non-custodial parent. 

So what is a needs-based order?

PALOS: A needs-based order is if you don’t have good information
regarding the income of a parent, we have to then enter an order based upon the needs of a child.  When
you have nothing countering it—it’s a default order for example, that’s what we enter and these guys get
these huge bills. And a lot of times they’re never going to get out from underneath them unless we take some
more proactive steps, and that’s what we’re looking to do.

WOLF:  So Liberty,
let me ask you if someone is facing high arrears because of an order that goes well beyond their ability to pay,
how does the Parent Support Program help the parent turn the situation around?

In two ways. The first is that we do an individualized assessment with each participant in the program and see what
kind of services that we know are out there, would actually improve his chances of finding a good job that will allow
him to support his children. The second point is that many of these folks are overwhelmed by the court process itself,
so while they knew they weren’t really able to make this payment, they felt so overwhelmed that they never came
into court to ask for it to be reduced to reflect what their actual income was. So they let the payments continue
to accumulate and they got further and further behind. So the second thing that we really do is work with them on
understanding the legal process and understanding what they can do to make their payments more manageable in the

WOLF:  Magistrate Palos also explained that the Parent Support Program doesn’t
just offer the parent services like job training, but also intensive supervision.

It’s intensive in court that they may be on the calendar for a while every week, but it’s also a matter
of carrots and sticks as well. I mean it’s a matter of—if they’re doing well, I pat them on the back and
we move them along and we expand their court appearances out. If things aren’t going, well we’ve used things
such as contracting the amount of when you come to court, a couple of times sit in the back of the court room and
just watch for a day, sort of the equivalent when I was a kid of standing in the corner.  I’ve had
them write essays, and about three guys we’ve actually referred for community service. The ultimate leverage,
of course, is proceeding to the hearing on a willful violation and the potential for possibly recommending jail. 

WOLF:  So how important is this kind of supervision that the Parent Support Program offers?

ALDRICH:  It is absolutely essential. That’s really the key factor that distinguishes the
Parent Support Program from any other program. We are combining the provision of services, making sure people know
where they can get help – with the accountability to make sure they are taking advantage of those services. It’s
not okay for folks not to support their children. That can’t be the outcome here. The outcome here has to be
that it’s a win for the non-custodial dad, but it’s also a win for the kids. And the way that we ensure
that is through the compliance reviews. By making sure that the non-custodial parents are actually applying for jobs,
that they’re actually participating in the programs, and that they’re taking proactive steps to address
their legal situation.

WOLF:  How widespread is this model?  Is this happening
in other places, and what are the plans for carrying it forward?

ALDRICH:  There are
several jurisdictions around the country that are trying similar kinds of approaches in child support cases, and
we think that it’s very promising. We think that it’s, as I said before, really can be a win for everybody,
for the custodial parent who needs and has a right to get support, for the non-custodial parent, who can reestablish
a relationship with their child, because often when they’re not paying child support that causes difficulty
in their relationship with their children, and for the child, obviously, who is able to have the support that they
need. We’re certainly hoping to replicate it in other jurisdictions in New York City, as well as work with other
jurisdiction around the country who are interested in replicating this approach.

I have to say my overall impression, just having been there for the graduation, was of this incredibly positive energy
from the fathers speaking very positively about the program, and I thought maybe we could conclude just by hearing
from the father we heard earlier, Devin Banton.

BANTON:  Uou know, I really feel great
about the program because at first I thought it would kill me.

WOLF:  How so?

BANTON:  Because you know, listening to people’s experience that a, it’s the ladies always
win, and the judge gives you the burden, some amount to pay, but it was reasonable to me and the program was created
in a way that it gives me a chance again, to see myself as a father because I was feeling less of myself, especially
when I’m – you’re a deadbeat dad. So I was encouraged that this program here give me a certificate and
it really makes me feel as if I have achieved something great, so I’m just looking forward to just making my
payments on time, and double up to catch up with some of the arrears that I owe.

I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation and I’ve been speaking with
Liberty Aldrich, who is the director for the Center for Court Innovation’s family and domestic violence programming,
which includes the Parent Support Program, which is run in close collaboration with Brooklyn Family Court and the
New York City Human Resources Administration. To find out more about the Parent Support Program or anything else
we do at the Center for Court Innovation, you can visit our website, and you can listen to
more New Thinking podcasts on our website or on iTunes.  Thanks for listening.  

(August 2012)