Articles and Essays
I have written for numerous publications. Highlights from episodes of New Books in Science Fiction appear regularly on LitHub. My writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Vegetarian Times, Time Out New York and other publications. My articles and essays about efforts to reform the justice system have appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including the National Black Law Journal, the Government, Policy and Law Journal, and the International Review of Law, Computers & Technology. My essay “Mary Lee” was first runner up in The Missouri Review’s Creative Nonfiction Contest. Early in my career, I wrote several non-fiction books for middle schoolers, including The Jury System, which was selected by the New York Public Library as a “Best Book for the Teen Age.”
In addition to working as a writer, journalist, and podcast host, I’ve directed numerous videos for the Center for Court Innovation, where I work as Director of Communications.
Helping Tenants Help Themselves
For many, losing a job or falling ill can lead to eviction and homelessness. That vulnerability is compounded in many low-income and Black and brown communities by systemic racism, disinvestment, and a scarcity of affordable and secure housing. Housing resource centers maintain and build secure and safe housing by empowering tenants to advocate for their rights. Staff help residents navigate Housing Court, get critical repairs, and provide them with the tools and information to prevent evictions and homelessness. This video shines a spotlight on the Center’s work at one Housing Help Center in Harlem, which provided extensive outreach to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many tenants were more vulnerable than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact surges across our country, now is the time to prevent evictions and keep families safely housed. With your support, we work side-by-side with communities to connect tenants facing eviction with needed services. Your donation will ensure people have access to the tools they need to keep their homes.
From Defendant to Survivor: How Courts are Responding to Human Trafficking
Survivors of sex trafficking are usually treated as criminals—who are arrested and prosecuted—rather than victims. But some courts are changing their approach, recognizing that those arrested on prostitution charges are often victims of coercion, violence, and trauma. Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Human Trafficking Awareness Film Festival and a finalist for the annual Media for a Just Society Awards, this video profiles some of the innovative ways courts are responding to the needs of human trafficking victims. While each court is unique, they share a set of common principles including: responding to defendants’ trauma, connecting them to services, fostering collaboration across the agencies that support victims, and taking a flexible approach to how success is defined in light of the complex and unique challenges facing these victims. (Watch the trailer).
Transforming Lives: The Brooklyn Mental Health Court
The Brooklyn Mental Health Court offers community-based treatment in lieu of incarceration to defendants with serious mental health diagnoses. It has contributed to a significant drop in recidivism and improved the lives of participants, their families, and communities. In 2019, the court commemorated the graduation of its thousandth successful participant.
Judging Violence: The Miami-Dade County Domestic Violence Court
The 14 judges of the Domestic Violence Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida, handle both civil and criminal cases involving domestic violence. This video looks at the work week of the court, highlighting efforts to keep victims safe, hold offenders accountable and coordinate an effective community response to domestic violence. The court was selected by the Office on Violence Against Women as a domestic violence mentor court. Contact the Center for Court Innovation’s Gender Justice team at email@example.com to learn more about mentor courts and how they are providing support to communities interested in implementing a specialized domestic violence court or enhancing their current responses to domestic violence cases.
Dallas County Criminal Court 10 and the Response to Family Violence
Recognizing Dallas County Criminal Court 10 as a national leader, the federal Office on Violence Against Women designated it a Domestic Violence Mentor Court to serve as a model for jurisdictions seeking to strengthen the judicial response to family violence. Presided over by Judge Roberto Cañas, the court places a special focus on victim safety by providing links to community-based services, advocates, and protocols to ensure offenders surrender firearms. The court also promotes accountability through a specialized probation unit and close monitoring of defendants’ compliance with court orders. This video provides an overview of the court and features interviews with the judge, lawyers, probation staff, batterer intervention program staff, and victim advocate associated with the court, as well as with a victim and defendant.
Winnebago County Domestic Violence Courts: Working with the Community to Address Family Violence
Based in Rockford, Illinois, the Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Courts set a national example for responding to domestic violence. Intimate-partner criminal cases are heard in one courtroom, civil cases (including all domestic violence-related divorce cases and intimate partner orders of protection) in another. On-site victim advocacy, advanced clerical practices, open communication among the court and community agencies, and other innovative practices are key to the success of the court.
Ada County Domestic Violence Court: Lessons from Boise, Idaho
The Ada County Domestic Violence Court in Boise, Idaho, was created to improve the handling of some of the justice system’s most challenging cases: those involving violence among intimate partners. The court was designated a national Domestic Violence Mentor Court by the federal Office on Violence Against Women for its groundbreaking innovations, which include services to improve victim safety and defendant monitoring. This video provides an overview of how the court functions and features interviews with the judges, lawyers, victim advocates, and probation staff associated with the court, as well as the Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court.
What Does Reintegration Mean to You?
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program provides intensive case management and reentry services to tribal members returning to the community from incarceration. The program provides financial assistance for basic needs such as housing, clothing, and groceries, and offers long-term support through educational, vocational, and legal services. This video introduces viewers to the program through interviews with clients, staff and the numerous partners—like prison and court officials—that have allowed the program to help hundreds of clients make successful transitions from prison to home. The American Indian Film Institute selected What Does Reintegration Mean to You? for inclusion in the for the 42nd annual American Indian Film Festival. The film was nominated for the festival’s Public Service Award.
Building a Culture of Justice
For a justice system to be truly just, it must be accessible to all individuals. However, litigants may face challenges when courts are not responsive to their cultural identity. For survivors of domestic violence, these challenges present additional barriers towards accessing justice and obtaining fair outcomes. Watch Building a Culture of Justice and read the viewers’ guide to learn how justice-system staff and stakeholders can serve litigant needs by implementing culturally responsive practices in courts handling domestic violence cases.
A Day at Puyallup G.R.E.A.T. Camp
The Puyallup Tribe of Indians created the G.R.E.A.T. Program to intervene with gang-involved youth, create a safer school climate, and provide pro-social gang prevention activities to community youth. In addition to the in-class curriculum, the program provides camp opportunities for youth to participate in throughout the year. This video follows youth, teachers, officers, staff and elders through their summer camp experience, where they share stories on how the program has impacted their lives.
They Treated Me Like a Person: Inside the Red Hook Community Justice Center
The Red Hook Community Justice Center has become an international model of justice reform by implementing innovative strategies that have reduced the use of jail, lowered recidivism and strengthened public confidence in justice. This short film about the Justice Center produced by the Center for Court Innovation was selected as a 2016 finalist in the TV/Video category of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s “Media For A Just Society” award.
An Integrated Approach: A Court’s Innovative Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence
Domestic violence can involve physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse and require litigants to participant in multiple cases in many courtrooms before many judges. The Manhattan Integrated Domestic Violence Court simplifies the process by combining a family’s cases in one courtroom before a single judge. By doing so, the court promotes greater victim safety and makes it easier to link litigants to services and monitor compliance with court orders.
Testing New Ideas: Evidence, Innovation and Community Courts
This film tells the story of community justice, which seeks to reduce incarceration and strengthen public confidence in justice by transforming the relationship between justice agencies and the neighborhoods they serve. The film includes interviews with judges, lawyers, police officers and others from initiatives across the U.S., including the Midtown Community Court in New York, the South Dallas Community Court in Texas, and Newark Community Solutions in New Jersey.
Justice That Works: The Midtown Community Court
The Midtown Community Court is a public/private partnership created in 1993 to apply innovative responses to quality-of-life offenses in and around Times Square. This video shows how the first community court in the country continues to adapt and thrive.
Family Voices in Juvenile Justice
The juvenile justice system can be stressful and confusing for litigants and their families. This video gives voice to their concerns and provides answers to some common questions: Who are the key people I may meet? Am I expected to appear in court with my child? What’s going to happen to my child? What can I do as a family member to help? Answers are provided by parents, grandparents, litigants, and justice practitioners from the judiciary, probation, Legal Aid Society and New York City Law Department.
The Red Hook Peacemaking Program
Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice that focuses on healing and restoration rather than punishment. This video shares the experiences of those involved in an experiment at the Red Hook Community Justice Center to adapt peacemaking to a community in Brooklyn, N.Y. The video includes impressions from the Justice Center’s presiding judge, volunteer peacemakers, and those who have resolved their conflicts through the program.
Reclaiming the Streets, Healing the Community: The High Point Drug Market Initiative
The Drug Market Initiative, which was piloted in High Point, N.C., seeks to stop open air drug dealing. This 10-minute video explains how it works. The video was directed and produced by the Center for Court Innovation, with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice.