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Community Court: The Research Literature - A Review of Findings

NCJ Number
Kelli Henry; Dana Kralstein
Date Published
26 pages
This paper reviews the research literature to date about community courts.
As the community court model expands, it is important for more rigorous evaluation studies to be performed. To date, only the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan, NY, Hennepin County Community Court in Minneapolis, MN, North Liverpool Community Justice Center in Liverpool, England, and Salford Community Justice Center in Salford, England have been examined as part of a comprehensive evaluation, including a specific comparison group drawn from non-participating litigants. The Red Hook Community Center in Brooklyn, NY, and the Harlem Community Justice Center in Harlem, NY studies also included comparison groups but were less comprehensive in scope, focusing primarily on the perceptions of litigants. Accordingly, more research is needed concerning how community court outcomes differ from traditional courts and, perhaps most importantly, what kinds of effects community courts are able to achieve in ameliorating problems at the community level, apart from the effects that these experiments have on individual defendants and other litigants. It would also be helpful for more evaluations of community courts that address criminal behavior to assess whether alternative sanctions ,such as community service, that seek to give back to the community and reduce jail time offset the cost of increased court appearances, a vital part of community court's problem-solving approach to justice. Finally, although community court stakeholders often cite recidivism reduction and solving underlying offender problems as important community court goals, only three studies to date (of the projects in Midtown, Liverpool/Salford, and Seattle) have assessed their impacts on these issues, with all three reporting mixed results. As the global study suggests, perhaps the most important contribution evaluations could make is to identify quantifiable performance indicators. Future analyses should seek to give a more comprehensive picture of these complex and varied projects. References