“We don’t want going to court to feel like this Kafkaesque experience,” Mr. Berman said. “Little things like making eye contact, like saying ‘thank you,’ like saying ‘excuse me’ can go a very long way in affecting how people perceive the courts and government in general.”
Mr. Berman said he believed the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn exemplified the impact that effective communication can have on the justice system. In addition to emphasizing alternative sentencing options, the court has made logistical changes that distinguish it from other courts. The courtrooms are better lighted, Mr. Berman said, and the judge’s bench is not elevated, so the judges do not have to literally talk down to the defendants. A greeter posted at the entrance to the courthouse helps answer people’s questions as they come in, Mr. Berman said.
Mr. Berman said that 86 percent of defendants who have been through Red Hook said they believed that their cases were handled fairly.