Five years ago, an experimental court opened its door in Red Hook, Brooklyn; a neighborhood plagued by poverty, unemployment, drugs and crime.
The Red Hook Community Justice Center was an attempt to link the courtroom with the community. Judges offer those accused of minor crimes a range of life-skills and rehab options, as an alternative to jail time. But it’s no easy way out. Once people agree, they are expected to stick with the program or face even stiffer penalties.
At a time when American courts are clogged with 11 million low-level cases each year, Red Hook has become something of a model for communities across the country; though skeptics are still doubtful and wonder if all the extra effort is worth the trouble.
Meema Spadola, Independent filmmaker and director of “Red Hook Justice”
Todd Clear, Professor of Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “What is Community Justice?”