December 21, 2015

Changing the court system

New Yor Law Journal - Like most big ideas, the Center for Court Innovation started small. It began in 1993 with the formation of Midtown Community Court, which was created to address low-level offenses like prostitution and graffiti in the Times Square area. Greg Berman, now director of the center, was part of the court's initial planning effort.

Berman, 48, does not have a background in law or even criminal justice; he graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut with a degree in American Studies. But through a fellowship program that led him to work at the Fund for the City of New York, he met John Feinblatt, who was in the process of forming the Midtown Community Court.

"He made the argument that you could use the court as a jumping off point for any social issue," Berman said about Feinblatt.

In the beginning, community courts were seen as unconventional, but the Midtown court showed results: it not only helped to reduce crime in the area but also drove down incarceration rates. Its success led court administrators to support the center as a permanent engine for reform programs for the state's justice system.

interview with Greg Berman

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