Common Justice

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Common Justice is an innovative victim service and alternative-to-incarceration program based on restorative justice principles. Located in Brooklyn, New York, the program works with young people, 16 to 24 years old, who commit violent felonies, and those they harm. Common Justice aims to reduce violence, facilitate the well-being of those harmed, and transform the criminal justice system’s response to serious crime. The program provides participants with a respectful and effective means of accountability, an equitable and dignified avenue to healing, and the tools to break cycles of violence.

New Solutions to Violent Crime

  • Supporting those harmed: Common Justice offers harmed parties the opportunity to have their needs validated and addressed, to participate in shaping the consequences of the crime, and to develop strategies to cope with and come through the trauma they experienced. In addition to offering a dialogue process and direct support, the program connects harmed parties with appropriate services in the community, including cultural- and age-appropriate options not offered by other victim-serving agencies.
  • Holding young people accountable: If—and only if—the harmed parties consent, Common Justice diverts cases such as assault and robbery into a dialogue process designed to recognize the harm done, identify the needs and interests of those harmed, and develop appropriate sanctions to hold the responsible party accountable. Program staff rigorously monitors responsible parties’ compliance with the resultant agreements—which may include restitution, extensive community service, and commitments to attend school and work, among other sanctions—while supervising their completion of the 15-month intensive violence intervention program. Responsible parties who complete both their assigned sanctions and the violence intervention program successfully do not serve the jail or prison sentences they would otherwise have served.
  • Healing Communities: For cases in which incarceration does not serve the public interest, Common Justice provides a safe and effective option that seeks to repair rather than sever communal ties in the aftermath of serious crime. The program aims to address the underlying causes of violence and help foster a long-term process of transformation for individuals and communities.

Why We Need This Project
The traditional court process is poorly equipped to address the material, emotional, and social needs associated with some serious crime. It relies heavily on incarceration, which is costly and often perpetuates a cycle of violence and re-offending, and fails to meet the needs of people who have been harmed by criminal acts. Those who are statistically at greatest risk of being harmed by violent crime, young men of color, are particularly unlikely to receive services to address their experience. Common Justice works closely with this population and offers a new culturally responsive and equitable model for responding to harm.

National Recognition
In 2012, Common Justice was recognized with the Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services from the United States Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). Every year, OVC recognizes individuals and organizations that demonstrate outstanding service in supporting victims and victim services. The Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services is given to one organization in the country that has demonstrated leadership in expanding the reach of victims' rights and services.

For more information, contact project director Danielle Sered.

Watch a video about Common Justice from 2009.


Common Justice operates with the generous support of the Blue Ridge Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the F.V. Burden Foundation, the Herb Block Foundation, the Langeloth Foundation, the New York City Office of the Criminal Justice coordinator,  the New York Foundation, New York State Legislature and Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Pinkerton Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, the Sills Family Foundation, the Stoneleigh Foundation, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Viola Bernard Foundation.

03/14/2014
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09/11/2013
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05/26/2010
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For victims of violent crime, what are the routes to emotional and mental health? At Vera, where we have long been involved in improving the outcomes for crime victims, a recent review of the research evidence has shown that a guilty verdict against the perpetrator is no cure-all for the harmed...
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Danielle Sered
Director, Common Justice
Sergia Andrade
Case Coordinator, Common Justice
Bryan Braswell
Project Coordinator, Common Justice
Shameeka Mattis
Assistant Director, Common Justice
Donnell Penny
Assistant Coordinator
Ed Burnette
Ed Burnette is the Vice President of Defender Legal Services for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Mr. Burnette is responsible for the overall vision and leadership of the Defender Legal Services department of NLADA, and for steering the national policy in the area of defender legal services. Immediately before joining NLADA he consulted on organizational development and strategic leadership. Mr. Burnette completed his term as Chief Executive and Chief Attorney of the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender in March of 2009. Prior to his appointment, while serving as First Assistant Public Defender, he was responsible for the management and day-to-day operations of the Office. He served as an Assistant Public Defender from June 1987 and as a supervising attorney for the First Municipal Division. Mr. Burnette also served 15 years with the United States Marine Corps. During that time he served 10 years as a lawyer, practicing in prosecution and defense. He received his J.D. from DePaul University of Law and his B.S. from the United States Naval Academy.
   
Todd Clear photo Todd Clear
Todd Clear is Distinguished Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He has authored 11 books and over 100 articles and book chapters. His most recent book is Imprisoning Communities, by Oxford University Press (May 2007). Other books focus on the topic of community justice, including What is Community Justice? (Sage, 2002), The Community Justice Ideal, (Westview, 2000), and Community Justice(Wadsworth 2003). Dr. Clear has also written on community-based correctional methods, intermediate sanctions, and sentencing policy. He is currently involved in studies of religion/spirituality and crime, the economics of justice reinvestment, and the concept of “community justice.” Dr. Clear has served as president of The American Society of Criminology, The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and The Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice. His work has been recognized through several awards, including those of the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, The Rockefeller School of Public Policy, the American Probation and Parole Association, the American Correctional Association, and the International Community Corrections Association. Dr. Clear was the founding editor of the journal Criminology & Public Policy, published by the American Society of Criminology. He received his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from The University at Albany.
 
Richard Dudley photo Richard Dudley
Dr. Dudley is a leading clinical and forensic psychiatrist based in New York. His work is divided between a clinical practice focused primarily on the evaluation and treatment of African-American adolescents, and a forensic practice. As a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Dudley is frequently called upon to provide expert opinion and testimony in connection with both criminal and civil matters throughout the United States. In both practices, he focuses on the mental health of young men of color in the criminal justice system. Earlier in his career, Dr. Dudley was Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services. In that role, he was instrumental in developing new clinical programs in mental health services. Subsequently, he became Medical Director of the Washington Heights-West Harlem Community Mental Health Center. He has held teaching appointments at New York University School of Law and at the City University of New York Medical School at City College, and currently serves on the board of the Vera Institute of Justice and Housing Works, Inc. He is a graduate of Temple University School of Medicine.
 
Dean Esserman photo Dean Esserman
Colonel Esserman is Chief of Police of the City of Providence and has spent virtually his entire career in public service as a law enforcement practitioner. Colonel Esserman served as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York from 1983 to 1987 and then as General Counsel to Chief William Bratton of the New York City Transit Police from 1987 to 1991. He began his career in law enforcement as Assistant Chief of Police in New Haven, Connecticut from 1991 to 1993, where he put into effect a community-policing plan, the state's first federally funded drug gang task force, and cut crime city-wide. He then became Chief of Police for the M.T.A. Metro North Police Department and served from 1993 to 1998. Colonel Esserman was appointed in 1998 as Chief of Police in Stamford, Connecticut, where he brought his nationally renowned philosophy of community oriented policing and cut crime by 50%. While in Stamford, he introduced many innovations and developed a national reputation as a police leader. Dean Esserman is a graduate of Dartmouth College (B.A.), and New York University School of Law (J.D.), and holds a faculty appointment at the Yale University Child Study Center. He is a member of the New York and Massachusetts Bar. He is currently serving as the Senior Law Enforcement Executive-in-Residence at the Roger Williams University Justice System Training and Research Institute and also serves as a member of the Board of the Police Executive Research Forum.
   
Saul A. Green
Saul A. Green (2006) is the former deputy mayor of Detroit and is senior counsel at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone in Detroit. Formerly, Mr. Green was a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 1994 to 2001. He served as Wayne County corporation counsel from 1989 to 1993; chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Detroit Field Office from 1976 to 1989; and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1973 to 1976. A significant component of his private practice is civil rights cases. Through his work with the Innocence Project, he helped secure the exoneration of Eddie Lloyd, who had served 17 years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted of murder.
 
Priscilla Hall photo Priscilla Hall
The Honorable L. Priscilla Hall was appointed Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department by New York State Governor David Patterson in March 2009. Prior to this, Justice Hall was the Administrative Judge of the Criminal Division of the Kings County Supreme Court, a position she has held since February 2008. She has also served as Judge of the New York State Court of Claims; Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of Kings County; a Judge of the Criminal Court of New York City, and as Inspector General of the New York City Human Resources Administration. Justice Hall believes that the courts must work to maintain the public confidence in our judicial system and has worked to achieve this objective. She has served as president of the New York State Association of Women Justices, vice-president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, chair of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and president of the Association of Black Women Attorneys. After graduating magna cum laude from Howard University with the distinction of being a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Justice Hall pursued a Master of Science degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, graduating in 1969. She received her Juris Doctor from Columbia University School of Law in 1973.
 
Henderson Hill photo Henderson Hill
Mr. Hill is a partner with Ferguson, Stein, Chambers, Gresham & Sumter, P.A. His areas of practice are criminal defense, medical negligence, civil rights, death penalty defense, and general civil trials. Mr. Hill received his B.A. degree from Lehman College at the City University of New York and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School. In 1991 he became the director of the North Carolina Death Penalty Resource Center, in Raleigh. In 1995 he founded and served as director of the non-profit organization, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Durham, North Carolina. Henderson is a Commissioner of the Indigent Defense Services Commission, in North Carolina. He is a frequent presenter and lecturer for many programs and professional organizations on Trial Advocacy and Death Penalty Defense and has served as a Lecturer at Duke University School of Law and as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mr. Hill is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers where he formerly served on the board of Governors. In 1999, Mr. Hill was a founding member of The Charlotte Coalition for Moratorium Now, a grass roots organization that led the successful drive for a resolution supporting a Moratorium on executions by the Charlotte City Council and is a leading organization in the statewide effort to enact a Moratorium in North Carolina.
 

Michael Jacobson

Michael Jacobson is the director of the City University of New York's (CUNY) Institute for State and Local Governance and a professor of sociology at CUNY’s Graduate Center. Prior to joining CUNY in May 2013 he was the director of the Vera Institute of Justice for almost nine years.  He is the author of Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration (New York University Press 2005). A PhD in sociology, he has an ongoing academic career as well as more than twenty five years of government service. From 1998 to 2005, he was a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and CUNY’s Graduate Center. He was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction from 1995 to 1998. From 1992 to 1996, he was the commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. He also worked in the New York City Office of Management and Budget from 1984 to 1992 where he was the deputy budget director.  In October 2010 he was appointed to the New York State Permanent Sentencing Commission by Jonathan Lippmann, chief judge of the State of New York.

   
Wayne McKenzie photo Wayne S. McKenzie
Wayne S. McKenzie is currently General Counsel at the New York City Department of Probation where he is the primary advisor to the Commissioner and the Chief of Staff on all legal matters; ensures that the Department is operating within the law at all times and provides direction and administrative review to all Deputy, Associate and Assistant General Counsels and attorneys. Prior to working at Probation, he served as the director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program. Prior to joining Vera he was a prosecutor in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office where he held several supervisory positions, the last being deputy bureau chief of the Crimes Against Children Bureau. He is a past president of the National Black Prosecutors Association and the current co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Committee on Racial & Ethnic Justice & Diversity. Additionally, he is a member of the ABA Council on Racial & Ethnic Justice. Wayne is also a trial advocacy faculty instructor at the Ernest Hollings National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. He has also appeared as a legal analyst on Court TV and Fox TV’s cable news and has presented on criminal justice issues in the United States and the United Kingdom. Wayne graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from The City College of New York and was in the master’s program in microbiology. He received his JD from George Washington University School of Law in Washington, DC.
 
John A. Rich photo John A. Rich, MD, MPH
John A. Rich, MD, MPH, is Professor and Chair of Health Management and Policy at the Drexel University School of Public Health. He has been a leader in the field of public health, and his work has focused on serving one of the nation’s most ignored and underserved populations—African-American men in urban settings. In 2006, Dr. Rich was granted a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. In awarding this distinction, the Foundation cited his work to design “new models of health care that stretch across the boundaries of public health, education, social service, and justice systems to engage young men in caring for themselves and their peers.”Prior to Drexel University, Rich served as the medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission. As a primary care doctor at Boston Medical Center, Rich created the Young Men’s Health Clinic and initiated the Boston HealthCREW, a program to train inner city young men to become peer health educators who focus on the health of men and boys in their communities.He earned his Dartmouth A.B. degree in English, his M.D. from Duke University Medical School, and his Master’s from the Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his internship and residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and was a fellow in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Dartmouth in 2007 and now serves on its Board of Trustees. In 2009, Dr. Rich was inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. His recently published book about urban violence Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men has drawn critical acclaim.
 
Jonathan S. Sack

Jonathan S. Sack is a litigator in New York City with extensive experience as a prosecutor and defense lawyer. He has been a principal at Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, P.C. since 2003, where he represents individuals and companies in a wide variety of civil and criminal matters. Before that, he was a federal prosecutor for more than 12 years in the Eastern District of New York, where he handled many federal criminal prosecutions and served as a supervisor, including Chief of the Criminal Division. Jonathan received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his A.B. from Harvard University. Following law school, Jonathan was law clerk to the Honorable W. Arthur Garrity, Jr., U.S. District Judge, District of Massachusetts, and then an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. While at the Morvillo Abramowitz firm, Jonathan has been an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University School of Law, where he taught a course in white collar crime, and regularly publishes articles and speaks on issues relating to the representation of companies and individuals in criminal and civil cases.

   
Meryl Schwartz photo Meryl Schwartz
Meryl Schwartz is currently the Deputy Executive Director of the Innocence Project. Previously roles include Portfolio Manager at the Blue Ridge Foundation New York, non-profit strategy consultant, Director of Strategic Planning at the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services and Director of Planning at the Vera Institute of Justice. Meryl began her legal career as a staff attorney in the Civil Division of the Legal Aid Society and the HIV Law Project at South Brooklyn Legal Services. She holds a BA from SUNY Binghamton and a JD from CUNY Law School at Queens College.
 
Ray Tebout photo Ray Tebout
Ray Tebout is an experienced criminal justice transitions specialist who provides a wide range of technical assistance, and training to organizations working with forensic and substance abuse populations. He is currently the Director of Counseling and Mentoring at The College Initiative, an organization that facilitates pathways from the criminal justice involvement to higher education and beyond. Prior to working with CI he managed the Volunteer and Work Readiness programs at The Fortune Society (a prisoner reentry organization). Ray’s practice areas include college access counseling, HR management, program planning, professional development, volunteer management and performance improvement planning. Ray holds a BA in Counseling Psychology and Economics from the City University of New York, and is credentialed in strategic human resources, addiction counseling, and strength based human service practices.
 
Eric Woods photo Eric Woods
Eric Woods has more than 10 years of Wall Street experience, first at JPMorgan as a trader in the Tax Free Bond group and then at Goldman Sachs trading European Equities. Sensing a need for a more fulfilling experience, he leveraged the exceptional training and knowledge received at these prestigious firms to embark on the path of an entrepreneur. As the CFO of Nu America Agency, a multicultural marketing and advertising firm, he helped steward five-fold growth in the business. Mr. Woods is founding COO of UPTOWN Magazine , the first upscale lifestyle magazine directed towards African Americans, and co-owner of Harlem Vintage, a wine boutique, and Nectar Wine Bar in Harlem. Mr. Woods also cofounded the Urban Capital Group, a private equity fund focused on small- to medium-sized inner city businesses. Recently, he was named the inaugural executive director of the Pipeline Crisis, a broad-based collaborative committed to closing the stark divide between America's promise and the social, economic, and political realities of young black men. As the first executive director, Mr. Woods was charged with relating his vast entrepreneurial experience to building the organization's infrastructure. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and is currently on the Board of Directors of Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, National Urban Technology Center, and the Friends of Children’s National Obesity Institute.
   
Alfonso Wyatt
Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt is an Elder on the ministerial staff of The Greater Allen Cathedral A.M.E. Cathedral of New York. He provides vital leadership to youth, young adults and professionals in both the sacred and secular communities in New York and around the country. He recently retired as vice president of The Fund for the City of New York after serving over two decades. Dr. Wyatt is founder of Strategic Destiny: Designing Futures Through Faith and Facts. He has mentored thousands ranging from young people in foster care and juvenile detention facilities as well as adults in prison or receiving their PhD. He serves as an advisor and consultant to government, colleges, civic groups, community based organizations, public schools, education intermediaries, foundations and the faith community. Dr. Wyatt, married 38 years to Ouida Wyatt, co-published their first book Soul Be Free, Poems Prose Prayers. His second book is titled Mentoring From The Inside Out: Healing Boys, Transforming Men. He is a sought after speaker in his role as youth development expert and public theologian. He attended Howard University, Columbia Teacher’s College, The Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy, Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management and New York Theological Seminary where he earned his D.Min. Rev. Dr. Wyatt recently joined the Board of Trustees of New York Theological Seminary; and he is a founding Board member of The Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy. 

 

  • Blue Ridge Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • F.V. Burden Foundation
  • Herb Block Foundation
  • Langeloth Foundation
  • The New York City Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator
  • New York Foundation
  • New York State Legislature and Dept. of Criminal Justice Services
  • Pinkerton Foundation
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation
  • The Sills Family Foundation
  • Stoneleigh Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • Viola Bernard Foundation.

OVC Award

OVC Award photo
Common Justice receives Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services from the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC).

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Director, Common Justice