The Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC) is a problem-solving community court that seeks to prevent crime by addressing its underlying causes, while also aiming to improve the quality of life in the Red Hook neighborhood. The RHCJC functions as a multijurisdictional court, uniting the following four different parts: 1) a criminal court, which handles adult misdemeanor cases along with some felony arraignments; 2) a summons part, which handles minor violations of the law; 3) a family court that hears juvenile delinquency cases; and 4) a housing part that handles tenant–landlord disputes.
Red Hook is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York with a population of approximately 200,000. The median income is less than one third that of New York City, and over 30 percent of the working-age men are unemployed. Red Hook is also considered a high-crime neighborhood, dealing with drug-related crimes and shootings. At the RHCJC, a single judge hears cases from three police precincts in Brooklyn (76th, 72nd, and 78th precincts).
All defendants arrested for a misdemeanor or minor felony in the RHCJC catchment areas are arraigned at the RHCJC between Sunday afternoon and noon on Friday (these times are set because the RHCJC is not open on the weekends). The goal at arraignment is to resolve cases by assigning and enforcing meaningful sanctions that serve as a deterrent to criminal behavior.
The family court was created to address the juvenile crime in the neighborhood, while also providing positive opportunities for youth. The family court only hears cases from juvenile delinquents (persons older than 7 and younger than 16 years old). Following arraignment, the juvenile undergoes a comprehensive assessment by the RHCJC. This information is used to develop recommendations that form the basis of a 120-day contract for the youth. The contract specifies the court-mandated recommendations that may include drug treatment, counseling, a curfew, and monitoring of school attendance.
There are long-term and short-term drug treatment services available to some adult defendants in the RHCJC. All individuals must consent to be in the drug treatment clinic. An assessment is completed to determine the recommendation for the defendant. Typically, the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a dismissal of charges if the defendant participates in treatment.
The RHCJC is founded on three theoretical approaches: deterrence, intervention, and enhanced legitimacy of the justice system. Deterrence theory is founded on the belief that people make rational choices about whether to engage in criminal behavior, weighing the costs and benefits of the action, and that potential lawbreakers will be less likely to commit a crime if they believe they will be caught and that the result will be a severe punishment. The RHCJC uses the deterrence theory by ensuring that a defendant receives a meaningful sanction for even minor offenses, and that these sentences are served as quickly as possible. The RHCJC intervention services are modeled after the established drug-court model, whereby the court uses its coercive power to motivate defendants to participate in drug treatment through a system of sanctions and rewards.
In addition to the deterrence and intervention theoretical approaches, the RHCJC is also founded on the importance of enhancing the legitimacy of the justice system. Procedural justice, the belief in the fairness of the justice system, and a close relationship with the local community are all central to ensuring legitimacy, which is, therefore, a key focus at the RHCJC.
Lee and colleagues (2013) found that the Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC) had mixed effects on measures of recidivism for criminal-court misdemeanor defendants, drug-treatment defendants, and family-court juvenile defendants. Overall, the RHCJC did not appear to impact recidivism rates for drug treatment and juvenile defendants, and had a small effect on recidivism rates for criminal-court misdemeanor defendants.
Criminal-Court Misdemeanor Defendants’ Recidivism
At the 2-year follow-up, Lee and colleagues (2013) found that misdemeanor defendants had fewer rearrests than comparison group defendants (36 percent versus 40 percent, respectively). This was a small, but statistically significant difference.
Drug-Treatment Defendants’ Recidivism
At the 2-year follow-up, drug-treatment defendants in the experimental group had more rearrests than those in the comparison group; however, this difference was not statistically significant.
Family-Court Juvenile Defendants’ Recidivism
At the 2-year follow-up, juvenile defendants in the Red Hook Community Justice Center Family Court had fewer rearrests than those in the comparison condition. However, this difference was not statistically significant.
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