In Unconventional Courtroom, a Little Respect Goes a Long Way
Brooklyn, N.Y., has one of the most innovative courts in the country — not just for its approach toward defendants but also for its success in reducing recidivism.
It doesn’t feel like a courthouse, or at least not any you’ve ever seen before. At the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, the hallways are wide and welcoming and lined with artful photos of the neighborhood. Defendants’ holding cells are walled in thick glass — not bars — and the entire place is bathed in natural light. Instead of imposing dark paneling, the open-plan rooms have crisp white walls and blond wood. In one meeting room, a wall-sized mural painted by teens in the neighborhood shows a lively streetscape at the intersection of “2nd Chance Street” and “Perseverance Road.” Throughout the facility, instructions on signs go out of their way to be polite, even to criminal suspects. “Questions?” reads a placard near a set of metal detectors. “Our court officers are happy to help.”