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Red Hook Justice

A Film by Meema Spadola

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Each year, our nation's courts process over 11 million low-level crimes, many of which involve repeat offenders. In 2000, an experimental court opened its doors in Red Hook, Brooklyn-a neighborhood plagued by a cycle of unemployment, poverty and crime. This new court seeks to stop the cycle of crime, and heal the surrounding community. It is at the center of a legal revolution-the community justice movement.

Over the course of nearly two years, the filmmakers were granted unique access to film the daily activities of the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a pilot project in Brooklyn that houses a court and an array of social services. RED HOOK JUSTICE takes an in-depth look at the defendants and staff who are part of this experiment.

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This is a court that wants to give offenders a second chance. Before resorting to jail, the Red Hook judge mandates extensive drug treatment, job training and community service. But it's no easy way out. The Justice Center has an unprecedented involvement in defendants' lives, and cases that would be closed quickly in traditional courts can extend over many months.

RED HOOK JUSTICE focuses on the dramatic stories of three Red Hook defendants and a handful of staffers at the Center. As the cases unfold, we see that the theories behind community justice and the reality of this new court are rarely in synch. The cameras capture intense vérité scenes of intake interviews in the Center's holding cells, arraignments and other court proceedings, heated staff interactions, community meetings, counseling sessions, and other day-to-day workings of the Justice Center.

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Characters include: Anthony and Michael, orphaned teen brothers who fight to resist the pull of the streets; Letitia, a heroin addict who struggles to kick the habit when she gets pregnant; Leroy, a court officer who grew up in the Red Hook housing projects; Brett, a dedicated Legal Aid attorney who wonders if the new court helps or hurts his clients; and Judge Calabrese, who takes a hands-on approach with defendants.

(See Link Below for Additional Info on Characters)

The story of RED HOOK JUSTICE resonates far beyond Brooklyn. Today there are dozens of similar courts opening throughout the United States.

"An inspiring production about an innovative and reasonable community justice program [and] a useful and valuable learning aid."—The Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture Review

"Absolutely outstanding! [It] was able to capture the true essence of what makes a community court tick. One is able to become part of the process, go behind the scenes and get a real sense of the daily lives of all of all of those involved in the court. For anyone interested in learning more about the changing face of the America's courts, this documentary is a must-see!"—David Bookstaver, Communications Director, New York State Court System

"Important, engaging... An essential resource for anyone involved the justice system."—Marty Beyer, Ph.D., Psychologist and Juvenile Justice/Foster Care Consultant

"Very good! RED HOOK JUSTICE offers the promise of addressing complex problems in humane and practical ways. It's a story that needs to be heard in every community."—Marc Mauer, Asst Director, The Sentencing Project

"Should be seen by all Judges, politicians, prosecutors, and the public as it reveals that an alternate form of addressing law-breaking behavior by examining its roots IS possible."—Tanya Krupat, Former Director of the NYC Children of Incarcerated Parents Program

"Highly Recommended! This carefully pieced together program offers a clear explanation of how the Red Hook Community Justice Center works, as well as providing an inside study into actual cases which play out on the screen before us."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Inspiring! Can easily shepherd students and others into discussions on 'the larger question of what we need beyond the Justice Center,' and how the balance between 'personal and societal responsibility' can best be achieved."—Charles S. Lanier, Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany

"Remarkable! A beacon of hope for those of us who care about justice."—New York Sun

"An important contribution to the dialogue on criminal justice and the creation of useful solutions."—Professor Jill Soffiyah Elijah, Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School

"Touching and truthful… It dramatically presents the difficulties and promise of new efforts by American courts to help individuals turn their lives around and solve community problems with sensitivity."—Deborah Botch, Chief of Budget Operations, Office of Court Administration, New York State Unified Court System

"If Steven Bochco is shopping around for new drama material now that "NYPD Blue" is gone, he should catch RED HOOK JUSTICE."—The New York Daily News

2005 American Sociological Association Film Festival

55 minutes / Color
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2004

For individual consumers (home video)

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This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Study guide available

Subject areas:
Adolescence, African-American Studies, American Studies, Closed Captioned, Criminal Justice, Education, Family Relations, Law, Race and Racism, Urban Planning & Design, Urban Studies

Related Links:
More Info on Characters in RED HOOK JUSTICE

Background Info, Filmmaker Bio and More!

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