Monthly Archives: May 2013

After Rockefeller: Research Findings on the Statewide Impact of Judicial Diversion

Shannon M. Carey
of NPC Research discusses
the impact of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, which in 2009 eliminated New York’s mandatory prison sentences
for most felony drug offenders. According to a study she co-authored, court-ordered treatment enrollment after the reform
was implemented in 2009 increased by 77 percent. Also, the study estimated that there would be a potential $2 of
newly available resources after five years for every taxpayer dollar invested.

May 2013


ROB WOLF: Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation.
Today I’m with Dr. Shannon Kerry, and executive vice president and senior research associate at MPC Research,
which is based in Portland, Oregon. Today we’re talking about a study. The proper name of the study is 
the Cost Savings of the Judicial Diversion Program
. And if I understand correctly, what this
study is looking at is the impact that that passing of the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms in April 2009 had on judicial
diversion. In other words, drug addicted offenders who were going through court. How many were now being diverted
to alternatives to incarceration. So I thought maybe we could begin with the parts of the study which really looked
at the impact on treatment and on sentencing outcomes.

the first question that we looked at was, as you said the impact on treatment and what we found was quite a bit of
an impact. There was a 77 percent increase in enrollment into treatment programs, and so people are being diverted
into treatment instead of being incarcerated. The actual numbers went from 1,801 participants in the one year before
to 3,192 people in the one year after October 7th, when it was implemented. So that’s, again, a 77 percent increase
in enrollment in treatment.

ROB WOLF: And that’s statewide in all of New York?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: That’s all the state, right.

ROB WOLF: So 77 percent increase.
So it really, by giving the judge’s discretion, which is essentially what the law did—freed them up from a mandatory
jail sentence, many of them took advantage of that, clearly.

DR. SHANNON KERRY: Right. And it
did vary by geographic location. So some places increased up to 500 percent, and in other places there wasn’t
much difference.

ROB WOLF: The other issue was—

question was what kind of sentences to people receive for the same charges? So Article 216 is the name of the actual
legislation. And people who are eligible for Article 216, we wanted to see what their sentences were before and after
it was actually implemented. Before the implementation, 100 percent of the people who had an Article 216 eligible
charge were convicted. Afterwards, it was about 81 percent of the people. So 19 or almost 20 percent of the people
after Article 216 had their cases dismissed. So if they successfully completed the program, they never had a conviction.
As far as sentencing outcomes, we found that people spent less time in jail and less time on probation, and about
the same time in prison. And then community supervision was also lower after implementation.

WOLF: Well let’s move on to the cost benefit part of the study. What costs were you looking at, and what benefits
were you actually measuring?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: The first question we looked at was what was the
cost of a judicial diversion case in itself before the new law was implemented and after. What we found was the cost
of judicial diversion, including the program with treatment, was about $18,500. The cost of the case that was eligible
for judicial diversion, but before judicial diversion, the actual cost of processing that case was about $13,000.
So it was fairly expensive per offender to process them anyway. And the difference in cost was about $5000, a little
bit more than $5,000 per offender. So judicial diversion does cost more, and the majority of that additional cost
is due to treatment.

ROB WOLF: I see. And so the $13,000, before the law was passed involved all
the sort of non-treatment aspects that take place in a case before someone’s going to jail. Before the actual
sentence is implemented?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: Right. So then the next question we asked was about
the sentence for that judicial diversion eligible case, so what we’re calling the instant case. So what kind
of sentence did people get before, and what kind of sentence did they get after? So earlier we talked about the finding
we had about the sentencing practices is that people after judicial diversion spent less time in jail and less time
on probation, and about the same amount of time in prison. So that translates into cost if they spent less time in
jail and less time on probation, then they’re going to cost less. With prison being basically a wash, there
wasn’t a big difference between them, there was a total savings due to judicial diversion of about $5,500 per

ROB WOLF: So in that case, you’re simply comparing the amount of time spent in
jail, prison, or probation for both these groups?


WOLF: And so this is where you saw some savings, because there was less time spent in prison and on probation for
those involved in judicial diversion after the implementation of the law?

So those people who were spending less time in jail were spending a lot more time in treatment. So that treatment
cost we talked about earlier, $5,000, is kind of made up for by them not spending the time in jail.

WOLF: So what else did you look at?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: The other thing that we wanted to look
at was the impact of being in judicial diversion on their future criminal behavior. So did they get rearrested less
often because they went through treatment or not? Because Article 216 wasn’t implemented until 2010, October
2010 we didn’t have enough time to look to see if people who were literally sent through the new judicial diversion
had lower recidivism outcomes. When we were doing the study it was 2012. Most of the people were still in the program.
So what we did was we took another study that CCI is just in the midst of completing, and they looked at people who
went through drug court and people who didn’t, and they selected out the people who had Article 216 crimes.
And then they compared the comparison group to people who went through drug court for a three year period, looked
at their recidivism outcomes. And then we put costs to those recidivism outcomes. What we found was over three years,
the cost of someone who went through judicial diversion was just under $20,000, so $19,000. The cost of their time
in jail, prison, their court cases, their new rearrests. Altogether over three years came to just under $20,000,
$19,589 specifically. While the cost in the comparison group, people who were eligible for judicial diversion that
didn’t go was $25,787, so almost $26,000 which results in a savings of just over $6,000 per offender. We then
extrapolated over a five year period. It comes to about $11,000 per participant, a benefit of $11,000 per participant.
And then if you include victimization costs, which anybody who committed a person crime or property crime, there’s
a victim involved. So when we included the victimization costs as well, it comes to just over $18,000 saved, per
offender, for that time period.

ROB WOLF: And what is that associated with? The victimization
cost? That’s actually the value of the stolen goods?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: It’s a whole
combination of when there’s a victim involved there’s often, you know, injuries and the property, and the
damage, fixing the damage. It’s all those things combined.

ROB WOLF: But it doesn’t
include things like pain and suffering? It just includes the tangible injury? Like if someone was injured, it’s
the medical costs. Is it also their lost wages?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: Yes. And we pull those from
a national study of victimization, so those are ones that were calculated specifically for New York.

WOLF: And when you look at benefits, do you also calculate things like someone is now re-employed, and therefore
contributing taxes to the economy, and that sort of thing?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: We do include that
when we can, but for this study we were looking specifically at taxpayer savings due to criminal justice costs. So
they didn’t include the employment costs.

ROB WOLF: So overall what was your finding? There’s
clearly the money that goes into any case involving judicial diversion, but then there’s also money saved. So
when you compare those two, what’s the overall conclusion?

DR. SHANNON KERRY: Well what we
found is that as far as investment goes, there’s kind of a net investment of just over $5,000 per offender.
And then if you look at the people afterwards, their recidivism, we found that there’s a net savings of about
$10,000, a little over $10,000 per offender. So basically the net benefit is a little over $5,000, which is a cost
benefit of 1:2. So for every dollar you spend investing in the program, you get $2 back.

That sounds like a substantial, or meaningful, at least, return on an investment.

KERRY: It is pretty good.

ROB WOLF: Well I want to thank you very much for taking the time to
explain your work on this study which is an impressive piece of work. People can download it from our website, and
from MPC Research website, which is—Shannon, if you don’t mind telling me?


ROB WOLF: Great, well I’ve been speaking with Dr. Shannon
Kerry, and executive vice president and senior research associate at MPC Research based in Portland,
Oregon. We’ve been talking about the recent study that she was involved with along with the team here at the
Center for Court Innovation that looked at the Cost Savings of the Judicial Diversion Program, here in New York,
after the passing of the Rockefeller Drug Law reforms. I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center
for Court Innovation. You can download this and other podcasts at our website, and also on
iTunes. Thanks for listening.

Welcome to Problem Solving: Kelly O’Neill Levy Embraces Her New Assignment as Presiding Judge of the Harlem Community Justice Center

Acting Supreme Court Judge Kelly O’Neill Levy discusses her transition from Bronx Family Court to the Harlem
Community Justice Center
, where she applies problem-solving strategies to both family and housing cases. May

Judge Kelly O'Neill Levy discusses a case with her law clerk and resource coordinator.Judge Kelly O’Neill Levy discusses a case with her law clerk and resource


LEVY: Always remember that the person who is before you—that the problem they’re coming to court with could
be the most important problem they have in their lives.

ROB WOLF: Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director
of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Welcome to another New Thinking podcast. Today I’m in
the Harlem community Justice Center with acting Supreme Court Judge Kelly O’Neill Levy, who came to the justice
center in January of 2013, just a few months ago, from the Bronx Family Court, where she was handling child abuse
and neglect cases. I thought we’d sit down and talk a little bit about the transition to her new position and
her vision for the work that she’ll be doing here, and has been doing here the last few months. So welcome to
New Thinking.

JUDGE KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: Thank you, Rob. It’s a pleasure to be able to sit
down and talk with you about the Harlem Community Justice Center.

ROB WOLF: Transitions sometimes
pose challenges as well as opportunities, and I was wondering what you’ve seen so far as far as your challenges
and opportunities as you’ve made the transition from a more conventional New York City family court to a community
court setting, where you’re hearing both family and housing cases, as well as interacting more with the community.

JUDGE KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: There have been challenges as far as getting up to speed. We’ve worked really
hard to get up to speed, but many of the issues that are facing the litigants that we have in Bronx Family Court,
or the issues that are underlying people’s concerns here in housing court are the same. And what is wonderful
about what we are doing here is often you hear when you’re listening to a litigant, other problems—unrelated
necessarily—to non-payment. And the beauty of the Harlem Community Justice Center is we have resources right here.
We have people to assist these litigants in the underlying problems, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s
adult protective services.

ROB WOLF: So it sounds like it’s a more holistic approach.

JUDGE KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: Yes. It’s the holistic approach and we’re thinking of all different
ways that we can be serving this community in our court. One of the things that we are going to be launching in the
next few months—custody and visitation cases that will originate in the Harlem Community Justice Center. Litigants
will have an opportunity to choose whether they want to commence a case for custody and visitation in our case, or
go downtown and commence the case in the downtown family court. I’m also going to be doing Article 78 cases,
which are appeals for an administrative body. So if somebody has an appeal based on a decision that the New York
City Housing Authority has done, they have, in the past, had to go to Supreme Court and do an Article 78 case based
on an administrative decision that has taken place in, for instance, a NYCHA case. Now if I am the judge who’s
handling the landlord-tenant case, I will also be handling the administrative appeal. And that also is a holistic
approach because unfortunately what has happened in the past is sometimes the Supreme Court judge was unaware of
what was going on in the landlord-tenant case, and the person could have possibly gotten a victory in Supreme Court
but by the time that case was heard, they may have already been evicted because that judge was unaware of the status
of exactly where the landlord-tenant case was at that time.

ROB WOLF: So it sounds like there
are a lot of advantages to brining the cases here to the Harlem Community Justice Center. It’s local for the
litigant. They don’t have to travel as far. It’s more comprehensive because you have a fuller understanding
of all the aspects of the case, and there’s also services here like the housing resource center that can support
litigant and landlords as well.

JUDGE KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: We’re very fortunate, because we
have this resource center right in the building. So both tenants and landlords can go to the resource center and
get assistance on how to navigate the process, which can be very intimidating, as we all know.

WOLF: So let’s talk about community engagement. That’s a guiding principal of a community court like the
Harlem Community Justice Center. Why do you think community engagement is important, and how is the justice center
giving you opportunities to work more closely with the community?

essential that we have community engagement because we are here to serve the community and it’s given us many
opportunities. We have the resource community in the courtroom. She is able to reach out to the service providers
that are in the area that are assisting our litigants to see what they need and how we can assist them better. We
also have a church that’s right across the street that is hosting programs for our reentry program, which assists
people formally incarcerated to get back into society.

ROB WOLF: We’ve talked a lot about
your housing cases, but I know you also handle family court cases. Maybe you could tell me a little bit about what
those case are and how the Harlem Community Justice Center does things maybe a little differently?

KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: We handle juvenile delinquency cases and custody and visitation cases. The things that we do
differently is that the custody and visitation cases, there’s mediation to help parents work out the conflicts
that they’re having. And with regard to the juvenile delinquency cases, we have the services here in order for
these families to be able to work through the juvenile delinquency justice process. Each child, they are living at
home and they meet with the social worker in the court to assist them in making the changes they need to make in
order to ensure that they don’t have any re-arrests in the future. Do they need drug treatment program? Do they
need counseling? And one of the things we just started, somewhat based on the work that I had done in Bronx family
court, is to recognize that the parents play such a critical role in making sure that the child is able to make those
changes. So we’ve started a parent support group. Some of the parents have been able to really turn things around,
assist in transferring their children’s school, helping to enforce curfew, and what we wanted to do was have
those parents be able to assist the other parents who may be having struggles with getting their child to adhere
to a curfew, or navigating the process of transferring them to a different school. The other component to the parenting
group is just an education of what the whole juvenile delinquency justice system is about, and what they can expect.
And we think that this is really a helpful new component that we’ve implemented in the Harlem Community Justice

ROB WOLF: You’ve had a chance to learn about the community so I wonder what have
you learned and seen so far?

JUDGE KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: Well this has traditionally been an underserved
community and one of the things that is great about this court is that the size is less intimidating for people than
a traditional court. We are on a much smaller scale because there is only one courtroom, there is only one judge,
and that gives us an opportunity to do exciting things which can, we hope, build confidence in the justice system.
One of the things that we are doing is we are translating pre-printed stipulations of settlement and right now many
attorneys come to court with pre-printed stipulations of settlement that they, then, negotiate with tenants and insert
the applicable numbers and time frames that a tenant would have to comply with in order to resolve their case. And
there are many Spanish-speaking litigants who would not have the benefit of leaving the courthouse with a document
that they could truly understand. And so what we have started is a process of getting the pre-printed stipulations
of settlement translated into Spanish. Of course the document that I would review and sign would all be in English,
but the Spanish speaking litigant would have a reference when they left in Spanish. And I think that that alone would
be one step in assisting public confidence in our justice system.

ROB WOLF: That translated stipulation,
other judges could use around the city because it’s a uniform language, I assume?

O’NEILL LEVY: Yes, certainly. If some of the larger firms who may practice in other boroughs in the city, they certainly
could use that translated stipulated if they find that they’re having that same issue.

WOLF: So do you have a philosophy of judicial leadership? I know you’ve only been here a few months so far,
but what does it mean to you to be a community court judge?

any philosophy of judicial leadership, it would be to always remember that the person who is before you—that the
problem they’re coming to court with could be the most important problem they have in their lives. And to always
make sure that they feel that they’ve had an opportunity to be heard, and that they’ve had a fair adjudication
of their case. And so one of the things I really enjoy about being a community court judge is that I am able to give
people that opportunity to be heard, and I am able to consider whatever their issues are, and really try to solve
their problems.

ROB WOLF: Well I want to thank you very much for sharing some of your experience
with our listeners. I’ve been speaking with acting Supreme Court Judge Kelly O’Neill Levy, about her experience
here as presiding judge over the family and housing cases at the Harlem Community Justice Center.

KELLY O’NEILL LEVY: Thank you, Robert, it’s been my pleasure.

ROB WOLF: I’m Rob Wolf,
director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to this podcast and others, visit our website
at or iTunes. Thanks very much for listening.