New York City

Center for Justice Innovation issues report on 25 years of impact

April 3, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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CITYWIDE — It has now been 25 years since the Center for Justice Innovation has worked towards justice in all its forms, focusing on safety, fairness and equity, within the court system.

In 2022, the organization witnessed multiple transitions, including parting ways with the Fund for the City of New York, celebrating its 25th anniversary, and renaming itself to better reflect its evolving mission. This was reflected in its 2022 Annual Report that was released on Thursday.

“In May, we marked our 25th anniversary with a celebration, where we honored leaders of innovation in four areas — JPMorgan Chase for corporate innovation, the Tow Foundation for philanthropic innovation, artist Shaun Leonardo for community innovation, and retired New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman for a lifetime of innovation,” Executive Director Courtney Bryan said. “It was a chance to reflect on our impacts and achievements, which strike at the core of how justice is delivered.

“Our work encompasses many systems,” Bryan continued. “We work in both criminal and civil settings. We have programs in courthouses and in communities. When developing a new program or response, we bring everyone to the table to get the best ideas and best outcomes. By our nature, we thrive in the middle, bridging gaps and forging new partnerships.”

With a $100 million budget and an 800-person staff, the Center for Justice Innovation has had a significant impact on various aspects of the justice system. Initiatives in 2022 included working towards closing the jails on Rikers Island, preventing evictions, improving housing stability, empowering under-resourced communities, and reducing violence.

Despite the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, the Center announced that it continued to make progress in these areas. It hosted a resource fair in Harlem, helping residents access vital services such as rent relief and legal aid for fighting evictions. In Red Hook, the organization assisted 170 tenants in filing court cases for repairs and quality housing, while in Brownsville, it aided 95 residents with housing needs, and secured over $82,000 in rental arrears.

In October 2022, the Center opened a New York State-supported virtual court access project in Red Hook. This initiative aimed to make the justice system more accessible by allowing individuals to file court papers remotely instead of traveling long distances.

Throughout the year, the Center’s experts shared their knowledge and experiences to improve justice system practices and policies. Lessons learned from courts’ responses to the pandemic were published in a report on the impact of COVID-19 on survivors of domestic violence. The organization also explored the potential of virtual hearings to improve trust and safety for survivors.

Additionally, the Center assessed the Opioid Reduction Teleservices Program, a partnership with the New York State Unified Court System and the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports. The 2022 report offered recommendations for using new technologies to make the legal process more effective for those with substance use disorders.

In the coming year, the Center for Justice Innovation aims to continue its efforts in key areas, such as reducing unnecessary incarceration, preventing violence, fostering housing stability, and expanding opportunities in under-resourced communities. As debates about crime and safety become increasingly contentious, the organization remains committed to achieving a fair, effective and humane justice system.

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