Monthly Archives: October 2013

Midtown Community Court Celebrates 20 Years of Problem-Solving Justice

The Center for Court Innovation celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Midtown Community Court with speeches by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan
Lippman, Center for Court Innovation Director Greg Berman, and others.

V. WOLF:  Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Tonight I’m at
the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Midtown community Court. Over
250 people have turned out—judges, city and state officials, representatives of businesses, not-for-profit organizations,
and the community at large, to honor the nation’s first community court.

Founded in 1993, the
Midtown Community Court has been dedicated to developing innovative and effective responses to low-level crime. A
typical sentence at the Midtown Court seeks to both restore the community and also link an offender to services to
help them rebuild their lives and discourage them from reoffending. Errol Lewis, host of Inside City Hall and tonight’s
emcee, said the court would not be possible without public and private entities working together.

LEWIS:  We don’t have a theme tonight, but if we did it would be public-private partnerships. Midtown is
the product of many different players from the public and the private sectors coming together to support justice

WOLF:  Tonight’s honorees included New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman,
the Shubert Organization, which as Broadway’s largest theater owner, provided key early funding support to the court,
and Nicole Robinson, a client of the court, who has made huge strides in turning her life around. Greg Berman, director
of the Center for Court Innovation, introduced Judge Lippman.

GREG BERMAN:  Now you probably
don’t need me to tell you what kind of public servant Judge Lippman is. All you have to do is pick up the New
York Times
to figure that out. But suffice to say over the last couple years since he became the chief
judge, he’s taken on a dizzying array of issues that basically no other public leader had the courage to touch, everything
from civil legal services, to human trafficking, to bail reform.

WOLF: Lippman noted how the Midtown
Court serves not only Times Square and surrounding neighborhoods but the entire justice system by serving as a laboratory
to test new reforms. He explained how his recently announced initiative to start special courts for victims of sex
trafficking was initially tested at the Midtown Court.

JUDGE LIPPMAN: The Midtown Community Court
is serving as a crucial test case. Before launching our statewide initiative to really shut down this evil, this
form of modern day slavery, we chose to pilot a new approach to women arrested for prostitution at the Midtown Court.
We learned an enormous amount about how to identify victims, how to link them to services and help them get off the
streets. We are now adapting these lessons to sites around the state, so the victims of trafficking will not be victimized
again by the justice system or by our society.

WOLF:  The final honoree of the evening
gave a human face to the policies being tested at the Midtown Court. The court’s director, Courtney Bryan, introduced
Nicole Robinson. First you’ll hear Bryan, and then Robinson.

victimized and abused as a young child, abandoned by adults who should have cared for her. Nicole’s story is incredible.
Sadly, it is not the exception. There are countless victims of trafficking who are hidden in plain view. In our schools,
in our courts, in our neighborhoods. Thanks to her bravery and her hard work, and with the support of several individuals
and agencies here in this room tonight, Nicole’s future is bright. She has no criminal record and has legal immigration
status and her own apartment. She’s in a leadership program with GEMS, a wonderful organization that works with survivors
of commercial sexual exploitation. She’s studying for the GED and plans to go to college.

ROBINSON:  When I came through Midtown three years ago, I finally was treated like a person, a whole person
– not as a number or as a criminal, or looked at as a victim, or as any other label. I really appreciated being treated
with respect and felt like my voice was finally being heard. I finally felt comfortable to trust and let people into
my life. And now three years later, those people are my family. If I could say one thing to you all tonight, it’s
to take time to get to know the person before judging them based on a label.

WOLF:  This
was just a sample of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Midtown Community Court, which took place October
21, 2013 in the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. To learn more about the court or the Center for Court Innovation,
please visit Don’t forget that you can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes and follow up
on Facebook and Twitter. I’m Rob Wolf of the Center for Court Innovation. Thanks for listening.


Information Technology & Social Services: Tracking Clients, Treatment, and Compliance

Andree Mattix, director of social services at Orleans
Parish District Attorney’s Office
, discusses how a customized technology application helps her staff
track data and clients in the D.A.’s diversion, victim-witness, and domestic violence programs.

V. WOLF:  Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation, and today’s New
Thinking podcast is focusing on technology, specifically how the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office in New
Orleans uses technology to implement programming and track data. With me on the phone is Andree Mattix, director
of social services at Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. Thanks for joining me today.

MATTIX:  Thank you for having me, Robert.

WOLF:  I understand that a few years
ago you found out about the data management systems that our technology team here at the Center for Court Innovation
developed for several of our programs, and you asked our technology experts to help you guys adapt the system for
your own programming. So I thought maybe you could give a little background. What is your programming like and what
kind of technology were you looking for?

MATTIX:  I came into the District Attorney’s
Office shortly after this particular district attorney took office, which was at the end of 2008, and when we came
into our offices—this was post-hurricane Katrina—we really didn’t have an office at that time. We were trying to
put our office building back together and trying to figure out what the previous administration had, didn’t have.
And one of the things that I found in my divisions, which are victim witness, diversion, and domestic violence, was
that there was no way of tracking data. There was no database at all. No technology was being used, it was all paper
and pencil files and I had come from a world where that was just not okay. So I had done a lot of reporting to the
federal government with the drug court program I was with and I knew that we were going to be looking at expanding
all of our programming, and that we would need a way to track our data for programming purposes, but also for funder
purposes and for anything that we would need in the future, as well as what we were doing right now. So that’s when
I started researching possible ways that we could do that. We also had no money to do it. I started looking into
Red Hook’s system so I reached out to CCI and I said, you know, is that something we could possibly get in on? 
So we figured out a way that we could do it for very little money.

WOLF:  So that was
the system that was being used at the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, which our team here
at the Center for Court Innovation helped design. So they adapted that program for you?

They did. They were able to work with me and my staff. We went back and forth a lot about what parts of that program
would be really good for us, and what parts of the program weren’t really necessary. We were able to take some things
out and they were able to extract New York’s data, an allow for us some new data fields that we would need, and create
a system that I was able to keep separate for each of the three programs, but still was pretty much the same system.
But I had special things that were needed in each one and CCI was really good about coming in and working with me
about the special needs for the different programs while still keeping it similar, and it wasn’t a huge undertaking
to create, you know, three different programs.

WOLF: Maybe you can give me a sense of what the
program does for you that you find most helpful?

MATTIX:  Probably the intake component,
especially with my diversion group, is definitely the most utilized for sure, and diversion uses all aspects of the
program. The most, I would say, without question. The other two programs, victim witness and domestic violence use
it for tracking out clients, tracking our client contacts, and for establishing the demographic information and being
able to kind of pull that out when I need to report to different people about what’s going on with the system and,
you know, funders as well as to city council, the mayor, governor’s office, legislature, anybody who needs to know
how many victims are we serving, what’s the domestic violence problem like in New Orleans. But they use it as well
in somewhat the same capacity as diversion does, is that same information is entered so that we have a way to quickly
find an individual, find their addresses, find their phone numbers, the case manager or the counselor having to actually
be here.

WOLF:  And were there any challenge to bringing the technology into your work?

MATTIX:  Obviously there were some changes, but there were a lot of changes happening at the same
time, so there was kind of a culture of change around here. So because of that it was a little easier. A lot of the
staff coming in were a lot more friendly with technology than some of the longstanding people that had been around
for awhile. So it still was a little bit teaching them, but it’s a fairly user-friendly program.

Did it help you track results, compliance?  Can you come up with figures and sort of summarize outcomes
in that way?

MATTIX:  I can and it’s particularly useful with diversion because we do
look at the number of people who successfully complete the program, as well as the people who do not complete the
program. And then I have different tracks of that program, so we’re comparing one program to another on the outcomes.
And then we’re able to take the successful completion, the information that we get from there to actually run recidivism
through another, you know obviously it’s through a police computer, but we use the demographic information from JCA
to be able to get the successful completion demographics to run the recidivism. So that’s been really helpful because
we do have fairly low recidivism rates and we’re very excited about that, because we believe that shows that what
we’re doing is working.

WOLF:  And just for our listeners, JCA stands for…

MATTIX:  Justice Center Application. It’s just you all’s name, not ours, and that’s what we call

WOLF:  Are there any challenges around confidentiality?  Does it have to
be – are the names blanked out, or is that not necessary?

MATTIX:  It’s not necessary
because only the people in my division have access to the database, so the attorneys in the office don’t have access
to my database. Secretaries in the office don’t have access to my database. Only the counselors and social workers
under my three different divisions actually can access it, and they can’t – so for instance, victim witness can’t
access diversion, and domestic violence can’t access victim witness, and that’s done for the sake of confidentiality.

WOLF:  Is that all password protected?  Is that how it works?

It is, and it actually prompts us to change our password very frequently. It just gets challenging to keep thinking
of new ones, but I think everyone’s kind of got a system now.

WOLF:  The whole world
has to come up with new passwords all the time.

MATTIX:  Yeah, but there are so many
everywhere, so we all know to keep track.

WOLF:  So just overall, how has technology
improved your work?  I mean does it save you time?  Does it save money?  Has it allowed
you to know certain things, or measure certain things that you couldn’t do very easily before?

Absolutely. There is no – I can’t even imagine us being able to do the volume of work that we do without this system.
You know, when I first came in, we only had 200 people in diversion and now we have almost 1,000 people in diversion.
So being able to do statistics on 200 people is a lot different than on almost 1,000 people. So being able to get
that data very quickly, at our fingertips, has just been critical to being able to do our quarterly reports, as well
as being able to provide just anyone in the community with information about our program. And the same thing for
victim witness, and domestic violence. Our victim witness program is over 2,000 people at any given time. There’s
just simply no way to do that by hand.

WOLF:  And just to give me a sense of what your
diversion program is like, who are the clients that you have?  What are they being asked to do and what
are the charges that they had been facing?

MATTIX:  We have two tracks of diversion.
Our track one program is designed for property offenders. It is for people who have really never been in trouble
before. They have to pay restitution, their restitution can’t be over 1000 dollars. They are with us, usually, from
nine to 12 months, and they typically cannot have substance abuse or mental health problems to be in track one. They
can still be in diversion, but they have to move to track two, and track two is – and these are all felony offenses,
that’s all we deal with. We don’t deal with misdemeanors in my diversion program. So track two is primarily substance
abuse related offenses, and it is a two year program. They come in, they work with their counselors. I have master’s
level counselors and social workers. We provide individual case management counseling, as well as we do group counseling
four days a week in our office. So some clients come to those groups, some clients go to outside groups, some clients
are in residential treatment. It really just kind of depends on the individual’s needs. But they come in, we do an
assessment, and part of that assessment is built into JCA so we’re able to ask those questions and get that information
up front while we’re doing that intake, so that we can kind of assess where we’re going to need to send this person,
what is this person going to need to be successful in the program. We will help them with employment, with school,
anything that is going to help them stay on the right track. And so JCA is going to be logging their drug tests,
it’s going to be – we have them for drug tests too. It’s going to be logging each of the individual visits, and it’s
also when they come for group counseling, that’ll be logged in there as well.

Wow, so it’s really keeping track of a lot of clients who, it sounds like, are involved in a lot of different possible
treatment options.

MATTIX:  Oh yeah. Our program is pretty extensive.

Well thank you very much. I think you’ve given a clear picture of how the Justice Center Application works in your
office, and how you’ve adapted it to your particular needs, there at the Orleans Parrish District Attorney’s office.

MATTIX:  Thank you for giving me a chance to speak with you about it.

I’ve been talking with Andree Mattix, director of social services at Orleans Parrish District Attorney’s Office about
their technology application that they use to track their participants in their various social service programs.
I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to other New Thinking podcasts,
please visit our website at You can also listen to our podcasts on iTunes. Thanks for listening.

(October 2013)