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In New York City, a "Community Court" and a New Legal Culture

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1996
11 pages
Publication Series
The recently initiated Midtown Community Court, which has jurisdiction over 350 blocks in Manhattan in New York City, follows a philosophy that differs from most traditional courts in its handling of misdemeanor arraignments and has a courtroom, a social services center, a community service program, and innovative computer support in one building.
The court focuses on low-level offenses that can lower a community's morale and holds defendants immediately accountable for their crimes. The court also addresses issues underlying the problem that led to the offenses by providing social services such as drug treatment. The building is atypical in that it has clean, light-filled rooms that are secured with glass panels rather than steel bars. The court hears about 55-60 new cases per day. Offenders who receive a short community service sentence of 1 day's work are often arrested and arraigned and complete 6 hours of community service in less than 24 hours. The court aims to make accountability swift, because delays between conviction and community service assignments have allowed many to avoid their obligations. The court has a 75 percent completion rate for community service sanctions; court officials say that this rate exceeds that of other busy urban courts. About 16 percent of offenders sentenced to community or social services have voluntarily continued with such programs as drug treatment, HIV testing, and employment counseling after completing their sentences. The court is wired for a computer network and uses software that was custom designed by programmers at the Vera Institute of Justice. Figures, photographs, and case example

Date Published: February 1, 1996