Oct 20, 2010

Justice is About Fairness, Tolerance and Care"

I love the title quote from Kerry Walker, Director of the Neighborhood Justice Center in Yarra, a neighborhood in Melbourne Australia. Begun in 2007, the Yarra Center is one example of how the community court model, started here in New York City, has been adopted around the world. It was one of three community courts highlighted on a panel at the International Conference of Community Courts.

Yarra is a highly diverse community with many of the same urban issues we face in upper Manhattan. Ms. Walker described one public housing facility where over 60 languages are spoken. I had a chance to talk with her about her work afterwards. I was impressed by the Justice Centre's use of restorative justice approaches. In one example, she described working with a local high crime housing facility were they are teaching the staff and residents mediation skills as part of a larger approach to reform the governance structure of the facility initiated by the residents. While the Yarra project is still fairly new, they have already seen drops in crime and some increased evidence of public trust in the justice system.

With the higher incidents of crime and delinquency in some upper Manhattan public housing developments, perhaps there is some inspiration we could draw from the approach in Yarra!

Click here to read an evaluation of the Yarra project.