Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DEPARTMENT OF GOOD THINGS

Charles Hynes, NY Daily News - The Red Hook Community Justice Center is the first multi-jurisdictional community court in the nation. The Justice Center, a collaborative effort between the Kings County District Attorney's Office, the Center for Court Innovation and the Office of Court Administration, was developed as a response to tragically high levels of crime, unemployment and general community disorder that the Red Hook neighborhood experienced in the 1980s and early 1990s. . .

The Justice Center houses an innovative, problem-solving court. The Criminal Court alone adjudicates about 4,000 cases annually. Although physically located in Red Hook, the court covers the misdemeanor cases arising in three police precincts - the 72nd, 76th and 78th. The cases range from such quality-of-life offenses as graffiti, trespass, and unreasonable noise to driving while intoxicated, prostitution, drug possession, assault and domestic violence.

Embracing the philosophy that public safety and crime reduction are not achieved by incarcerating nonviolent offenders, the prosecutors at Red Hook strive to administer justice with common sense and compassion.

Whenever possible and appropriate, they use rehabilitative, educational and preventive measures with an ultimate goal of reducing recidivism. The sentences can include drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, vocational counseling, GED classes, anger management, batterer's programs, performing community service, restitution, mediation, youth groups, groups specially designed for prostitutes and those offenders who patronize them, defensive-driving classes and more.

When crafting sentences, prosecutors strive to address the needs of the victim, to recompense the community and to offer the defendant services that are likely to reduce the odds of reoffending. Therefore, sentencing often involves a combination of sanctions and services. Jail sentences are sought for violent offenders and for career criminals who decline to accept alternative sentencing.

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