December 25, 2017

Changing the feel of courts

NY 1 - In courtrooms across the city and country, the phrase "In God We Trust" is common.

But now, it has plenty of company in Manhattan Criminal Court. Like the quote, "Truth is powerful and it prevails" by Sojourner Truth, the anti-slavery and women's right activist.

"You come in and you read, you see it around and you don't feel alone because there are quotes there," said Adam Mansky of the Center for Court Innovation.

The mayor's office of criminal justice worked with the state court system to install the new signs.

Sitting in court, defendants and their families can read up on courtroom procedures, the constitutional right to a lawyer and how to pay penalties. There are even diagrams detailing who's who.

"If you are a member of the public or a defendant, it is pretty hard to navigate or to understand what your rights are. So by creating these signs, we are trying to amplify that, and a we are trying to create a more respectful atmosphere," Mansky said.

It is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's ongoing push to improve interactions between the public and law enforcement. The city is paying the nonprofit Center for Court Innovation $800,000 to research and come up with ways to make the courts fairer and more customer-friendly.

"If a defendant feels they have been treated with respect, that they understand what's going on, that they have a voice in the process, and they feel that the judge is impartial, then they are more likely to perceive the process as being fair," Mansky said.

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