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Dispensing Justice Locally: The Impact, Costs and Benefits of The Midtown Community Court

NCJ Number
Date Published
364 pages
This document evaluates the Midtown Community Court demonstration project in New York City.
The purpose of the project was to design a community-based courthouse that would provide effective and accessible justice for quality-of-life crimes. These crimes include prostitution, shoplifting, minor drug possession, turnstile jumping, unlicensed vending, and disorderly conduct and often arise in the Times Square area and the surrounding residential neighborhoods of Clinton and Chelsea. Research was conducted in a multi-method project, designed to examine the implementation, effects, costs, and benefits of the court. The first phase of research examined the effects of the project over its first 18 months; the second reviewed overall impacts and ways for assessing costs and benefits of the project. Project planners expected impacts in four primary areas: case outcomes, compliance with intermediate sanctions, community conditions, and community attitudes. The analysis of preliminary impacts showed that, in its first 18 months, the court had substantial effects in all four areas. Results in the second phase of the research revealed that early impacts on arrest-to-arraignment time, case outcomes, and community service compliance rates were sustained over 3 years. By the third year, the court produced a higher rate of dispositions at arraignment for comparable cases than the Downtown court. There was an increase in intermediate sanctions in sentencing and marked reductions in the frequency of “time served” sentences and reductions in the frequency of jail for some charges. Aggregate community service compliance was markedly higher than Downtown. There were substantial reductions in concentrations of prostitution and unlicensed vending in Midtown early in the project. Several factors converged to produce a general improvement in neighborhood conditions, such as increased police enforcement and general economic development. There was broad consensus among the community residents that the primary quality-of-life problems of the Midtown area, particularly prostitution, had been dealt with successfully. 20 figures, 24 tables, 8 appendixes, 83 references

Date Published: January 1, 2002