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Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative

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BJA Funds Awarded to Implement or Enhance Community Courts

BJA has awarded $2 million to the Center for Court Innovation to fund 10 sites to implement or enhance a community court. Community courts respond to lower level crimes by ordering offenders to pay back the communities they’ve harmed through visible community service projects while also linking offenders to services designed to help them address the underlying issues fueling their criminal behavior.

Related Publications/Information:
A New Way of Doing Business: A Conversation about the Statewide Coordination of Problem-Solving Courts
Over the last few years, a number of states have begun to coordinate or administer problem-solving courts on a statewide basis. What are states trying to achieve by doing this? Is this the logical next step in the development of problem-solving justice? Is it possible to "institutionalize" problem-solving courts without stifling innovation? These were just some of the questions tackled by participants in a daylong roundtable sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Problem-Solving Justice in the United States: Common Principles (Fact Sheet)

Principles of Problem-Solving Justice
By Robert V. Wolf
An examination of the six principles that animate problem-solving justice. The principles are based on the Center for Court Innovation's experience developing problem-solving initiatives, an analysis of problem-solving projects from across the country, and feedback from leading practitioners.

Problem-Solving Justice
This web page offers resources, including publications and interviews, to support practitioners planning or operating problem-solving justice initiatives.

Expanding the Use of Problem Solving: The U.S. Department of Justice's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative
By Robert V. Wolf
An in-depth look at the 10 projects awarded grants under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative. All the grantees are trying something new: expanding problem solving to include new populations, new geographic territory, or new agencies within the criminal justice system.

Overview of the Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative (Published in Government Executive)
By Brittany Ballenstedt
An update on some outcomes achieved by grantees under the original initiative and a look at the Bureau of Justice Assistance's effort to learn from failed criminal justice experiments.

Don't Reinvent the Wheel: Lessons from Problem-Solving Courts
By Robert V. Wolf
A review of nine practical strategis to break down the conceptual and in some cases practical barriers that separate specialized courts from each other and the world of problem-solving from traditional courts.

Fact Sheets and Self-Assessment Tools
The Center for Court Innovation has developed short primers on problem-solving justice:

Problem-Solving Justice in the United States: Common Principles

Using Data to Build Your Program

Engaging Stakeholders in Your Project

Publicizing Your Program and Its Successes

Finding the Resources to Help Your Program Thrive

Planning Checklist

Mapping Community Resources

Using Diversion as Part of a Problem-Solving Strategy

Developing a Community Service Protocol

Evaluating Your Program

Introduction to Problem Solving: Key Issues and Challenges
This curriculum is based on the agendas and participant handbooks created for two workshops held for grantee sites under the Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. Intended to provide practitioners with the tools to initiate their own problem-solving initiative, it includes a number of resources that can be adapted for a variety of purposes. It is intended to assist court managers, judicial trainers, and other in putting on trainings at the local level, creating agendas and participant handbooks based on these materials. The hope is that it will help jurisdictions train their local system players in planning and implementing a community-based problem-solving criminal justice initiative.

Sample Documents
This page offers sample documents-everything from consent forms and intake assessments to program descriptions and brochures-used every day by problem-solving initiatives around the country.

"Bronx Community Solutions: A Video Introduction"
This documentary-style 8 minute video provides an overview of Bronx Community Solutions, an experimental project that brings the principles of problem-solving courts to every courtroom in a busy urban courthouse. By supervising low-level offenders in community restitution projects, linking offenders to on-site social services, and rigorously monitoring compliance, Bronx Community Solutions seeks to make punishments more meaningful and improve public confidence in justice. "Bronx Community Solutions: A Video Introduction" is available for free from the Center for Court Innovation, which operates Bronx Community Solutions with support from BJA's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative. The video was produced and directed by award-winning film maker Meema Spadola. To order a free copy on DVD, visit the publications page on the Center's web site.

Applying Problem-Solving Principles in Mainstream Courts: Lessons for State Courts"
By Donald J. Farole, Jr., Nora K. Puffett, Michael Rempel, and Francine Byrne
A summary of focus groups of judges in New York and California examining which practices of problem-solving courts can be integrated into conventional court operations. Published in The Justice System Journal, Volume 26, No. 1 (2005)

The Hardest Sell? Problem-Solving Justice and the Challenges of Statewide Implementation
By Greg Berman
An overview of the issues faced by states attempting to mainstream problem-solving innovation.

Engaging the Community: A Guide for Community Justice Planners
By Greg Berman and David C. Anderson
Tips for community justice planners about how to build stronger connections between neighborhoods and the criminal justice system.

Defining the Problem: Using Data to Plan a Community Justice Project
By Robert V. Wolf
A look at how community justice initiatives across the county have used concrete data to define local problems. Beyond Big Cities: The Problem-Solving Innovations of Community Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions By Nicole Campbell and Robert V. Wolf

Beyond Big Cities: The Problem-Solving Innovations of Community Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions Examines the challenges and rewards of community prosecution programs in less populated and rural communities.

Surveying Communities: A Resource for Community Justice Planners
By Leslie Paik
Outlines how criminal justice officials can use community surveys to gather data about neighborhood public safety problems.

Learning from Failure
An effort by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation, to learn from failed criminal justice experiments.

Statewide Coordination of Problem-Solving Courts
A roundtable conversation about strategies states are using to support and monitor the development of problem-solving justice initiatives.

Contact information for training and technical assistance guidance:

Julius Lang
Director, National Technical Assistance
Center for Court Innovation
520 Eighth Avenue, 18th Floor
NY NY 10018
Tel: 212-373-8091
Fax: 212-397-0985
Web site:

Kim Ball Norris, J.D
Senior Policy Advisor, Adjudications

Hardest Sell?: Problem-Solving Justice and the Challenges of Statewide Implementation, (NCJ 213475), Bureau of Justice Assistance, Greg Berman, 2004. This article provides an overview of the problem-solving approach to criminal justice and offers strategies for replicating some of the problem-solving practices in conventional criminal courts.

Tale of Three Cities: Drugs, Courts, and Community Justice, (NCJ 232872), BJA and the Center for Court Innovation, December 2010. Inspired by drug courts, the three innovative programs profiled—one in Brooklyn, one in the Bronx, and the other in California—are all tackling the problem of drug addiction. Yet these courts have some important differences from drug court. This monograph highlights how new and innovative community courts are building on the drug court model, expanding the reach of problem-solving principles beyond specialized courtrooms and making a significant contribution to the fight against substance abuse.

Principles of Problem-Solving Justice, (NCJ 234803), Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2007. Principles described in this article emphasize collaboration, engagement with local stakeholders, and individualization of sanctions—strategies that avoid cookie-cutter approaches and encourage justice practitioners to embrace local priorities, resources, and circumstances.

Statewide Coordination of Problem-Solving Courts: A Snapshot of Five States, (NCJ 236476), BJA and the Center for Innovation, October 2011. This fact sheet describes the goals five states—California, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, and New York—are pursuing as they coordinate their problem-solving courts.

What is a Community Court? How the Model Is Being Adapted Across the United States, (NCJ 236850), Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Center for Court Innovation, November 2011. There are dozens of community courts in the U.S. and around the world. This paper explains how they’ve adapted key principles of problem-solving justice—such as enhanced information, community engagement, collaboration, and accountability—to local conditions.

More BJA Publications

In 2005, BJA kicked off the initiative with grants to the following jurisdictions:

Grantee State Contact
Pima County Juvenile Court Center AZ Rik Schmidt
San Diego City Attorney's Office CA
Regan Savalla
619 533-5500
City of Atlanta Community Court Division GA Zeda Sartor
Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians MI
The Sault Tribe returned its grant and is no longer participating.
Unified Court System (Bronx Community Solutions) NY Michael Magnani
Athens County Municipal Court OH Sherri Carsey
Clackamas County OR Bill Stewart
Fourth Circuit SC Safrona Finch
Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney: Lynchburg VA VA Shannon Hadeed
City of Seattle WA Robert Hood


Four Mentor Community Courts Selected

The Center for Court Innovation (CCI), in collaboration with BJA, selected community courts in Dallas (TX), Hartford (CT), Orange County (CA), and San Francisco (CA) to serve as national resources, helping courts around the country to enhance procedural justice and promote the use of alternatives to jail where appropriate. For more information, visit CCI's web site.

Philadelphia Community-Based Prosecution Model

In partnership with BJA, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys has produced Implementing a Geographic Community-Based Prosecution Model in Philadelphia. This document, written by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, details the implementation of geographic prosecution and highlights the benefits, lessons, and results of the criminal justice reform.



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