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Limits of "Crash" Programs

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 74 Issue: 2 Dated: (August-September 1990) Pages: 73-76
Date Published
4 pages
The experience of New York City demonstrates that crash programs to eliminate court backlogs are not likely to have a long-term positive impact on case processing time unless efforts are also made to change attitudes and priorities in the court system.
In 1983, New York City faced a Federal court order mandating an immediate decrease in the number of inmates housed in overcrowded jails. The order resulted in the release of scores of incarcerated defendants awaiting trial in the city's backlogged courts. New York City initiated the Speedy Disposition Program, an $8.25-million effort to reduce the backlog of old cases. Crash programs in Brooklyn and Queens did not succeed in achieving a significant reduction in the number of old cases. Instead, most categories of old cases increased in both boroughs. The failure in Brooklyn and Queens is attributed to their reliance on a crash program. Almost by definition, crash delay-reduction programs are temporary. In addition, the mentality generated by what is recognized as a short-term solution can work against long-term changes necessary to permanently accelerate case processing time. In contrast, Manhattan's response to the Speedy Disposition Program embodied a successful attempt to alter attitudes and priorities rather than procedures in the processing of felony cases. Manhattan's efforts were successful in reducing the number of old cases without the major redeployment of resources required by crash programs in Brooklyn and Queens. 9 footnotes and 1 table

Date Published: January 1, 1990