Center for Court Innovation, Bronx Criminal Court, Bronx Community Solutions and dinner with, amongst others, Michael Jacobson, former warden of Rikers Island.

http://www.courtinnovation.com, http://www.nycourts.gov

Another nice office in Manhattan. We meet Greg Berman and Adam Mansky of the center of Court Innivation. Guys look like (and speak like) law school people: sharp, intelligent. This foundation is doing research and consultancy on improving  the juridical system. They support and initiate projects nation wide and all over the world, They work with intensively with  a London organization on Problem Solving Justice. Our hosts express themselves in a very political way: they want to stay in connection with all the different forces in the system but they are clear about the fact that humanity and respect should be the base of all court systems and that one of the most difficult powers are those of the chosen proscecuters who want to be tough on crime.

We visit the Bronx Centre Court. A depressing building in the middle of the Bronx. Extreme security messuers when we walk in and a lac of space: small rooms, narrow corridors. In the cells we see the incarcerated people,waiting in groups. The court works 24/7 dependent on the amount of cases. It is a big logistic proces of thousands of cases a year. We meet judge Grasso who started as a street-cop in the Bronx, tidied in the evenings, became a lawyer and later a judge. He is a good guy, always looking for improvement of the system. He designed a software system which gives the judge the opportunity to have all the necessary information available when he needs it during the court sessions.  He invites me to join him behind his desk and we attend three court sessions. What I see is that he is always looking for a constructive solution: offering a suspect a program, treatment or another possibility, like avoiding to get a criminal record in the first place! Of course he depends on the possibilities that are available. Therefore he often sends people to Bronx Community Solutions. He brings us in contact with thm.

Thank you very much for the “key” and the photo, Frans

It was a great pleasure to meet you and your group! I am always interested in getting a new perspective on some of the seemingly intractable problems that we try and deal with in the Criminal Justice System. It seems to me that you have much to be proud of in your country’s approach. God willing, I hope that one day that I will have the opportunity to see your system in action first hand. In the interim, I will keep trying my best to figure out how we might do a better job in NYC!

My Best,

George Grasso

We meet Maria and her colleagues of the Community Solutions Centre. They are an interface between the judges and the organanisations that provide care and other programs for the people facing court. They connect to all kind of organization and like to work innovative and community-based. One of their people attends the sessions too, to immediately provide solutions in specific cases and help the judge to avoid incarceration and find alternatives.

In the evening we have dinner with a few scientists and also with Michael Jacobson, former commissioner of, amongst other facilities, Rikers Island. He and his wife, who is a sociologist, are very nice people. Michael has a long history within the person system and he is not at all positive about the system in the United States. We have an extended and very interesting exchange on a number of subjects, like only colleagues can have. He and his wife and two will visit Holland in juin and we will fill in one day for them: as a special guest of the city of Hoorn (and visiting Oostereiland and the Halve Moon) and taking the bike to Heerhugowaard where we will visit the prison! I look forward to see them again. Michael has visited the Dutch and German piston system a few years ago. Holland has a nice and friendly juridical climate, he says, but the Germans are a lot more innovative. I am not surprised…….

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