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Reading rights: New stacks inside Kings County courtroom offer free books for defendants

Book ‘em: Attorneys with the Legal Aid Society installed a bookshelf stocked with free titles inside a Brooklyn courtroom for young-adult defendants.
Brooklyn Paper
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Talk about throwing the book at ‘em!

Do-good attorneys with the Legal Aid Society are stocking a Kings County courtroom with books of all sorts, giving young defendants an opportunity to entertain — and educate — themselves during the sometimes hours-long waits for their cases to be heard, according to a local judge.

“What better way to help stimulate a mind than to provide a book,” said Kings County Supreme Court Justice Craig Walker, who worked with the Society to launch its new reading program.

The legal eagles installed the bookshelf at Brooklyn’s Young Adult Diversion courtroom inside Downtown’s Criminal Court building on Schermerhorn Street, where some defendants between the ages of 16 and 24 are given opportunities to perform community service to avoid criminal convictions.

The new stacks hold some 200 books, whose titles include comedian Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime,” rapper Jay-Z’s “Decoded,” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s award-winning “Between the World and Me,” which picked up the 2015 National Book Award for nonfiction among other honors.

The hundreds of titles came free of charge from generous bookworms at publishing company Penguin Random House, which partnered with the Society on the project.

And defendants who get lost in a good story needn’t worry about finishing it during their time at the courthouse, because the books are free to take and keep, according to an attorney that helped get the effort off the ground, who said Penguin Random House will regularly replenish the stacks’ selection.

“We are excited to partner with Penguin Random House on this important pilot that will help to empower our young clients,” said Society staff lawyer Noor Ahmad.

Getting the books into the courtroom didn’t simply require installing a shelf for them, however. Attorneys with the pro-bono Society spent nearly two years winning support for their scheme from judges, many of whom have strict policies outlawing books — and cellphones, newspapers, and other forms of casual entertainment — within their chambers.

And the jurists weren’t the only ones who needed convincing. Many court officers worried bringing books into a courtroom might result in some unruly defendants using them as a weapons, according to Society spokesman Redmond Haskins, who said the reading program finally got green-lit in October, and that bailiffs were some of the first to recognize its benefits after the stacks arrived.

“A court officer said the books are flying off the shelf,” Haskins said.

The Society is already looking to expand the program to courtrooms across the city following the successful debut of the Brooklyn bookshelf, according to Ahmad.

“We look forward to the day when bookshelves are in every court part across New York City,” he said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, December 31, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Simon says:
Great idea, but I’m afraid they’re just going to use the books as weapons on one another.
Dec. 31, 2018, 11:35 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Who do the court officers sue when a perp takes their eye out with a book? And hard cover too!! The answer is you and me and every other taxpayer will be paying off the inevitable lawsuits and medical bills. Only is debozo land would something this stupid be enacted.
Dec. 31, 2018, 4:01 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 4:03 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 4:18 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 4:56 pm
Mathematician from Brooklyn says:
Multiple copies of "The New Jim Crow" -- to convince the defendants that they are unjustly being persecuted and prosecuted (even though they are probably as guilty as sin.) You can't make it up.
Dec. 31, 2018, 5:38 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 7:14 pm
Rob from PPW says:
Woof! Who let all the ^^racist shiiiitbags^^ into the comment section?
Dec. 31, 2018, 9:01 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 10:30 pm
Rob from PPW says:
Woof! Who let all the ^^racist shiiiitbags^^ into the comment section?
Dec. 31, 2018, 10:31 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Dec. 31, 2018, 11:56 pm
Rob from PPW says:
Woof! Who let all the ^^racist shiiiitbags^^ into the comment section?
Dec. 31, 2018, 11:56 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It's almost midnight, but here I am beating off as usual!!!
Dec. 31, 2018, 11:56 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
It only took me 8 hours to come up with that gem. Winning!
Jan. 1, 2019, 12:23 am
Rob from PPW says:
Woof! Who let all the ^^racist shiiiitbags^^ into the comment section?
Jan. 1, 2019, 12:24 am
Matthew from LES says:
From the looks of the comment section, Brooklyn is filled with a bunch of pathetic racist losers.
Jan. 1, 2019, 12:25 am
Clarence Bowden from Recidivism says:
The news of books being provided to defendants waiting in courtrooms sounds very promising. As the author of "5 Steps to a Successful Re-Entry". I applaud this and hope that those obtaining the books will also include mine. My book is a easy to read, not very lengthy, solution focused, direct and personal approach to addressing the thinking and behavior of individuals involved with criminal activities. It challenges the reader to change their thinking and behavior while offering resources to assist them. Clarence Bowden,CASAC, CRPA Director Center of Treatment Innovation (COTI) Mobile Outreach Program 1665 Pitkin Ave (2nd Flr) Brooklyn NY 11212 P (718) 764-6789 F (718) 764-6791 C (917) 831-6726 cbowden@staynout.org
Jan. 2, 2019, 10:38 am
Mary Jones from Crown Heights says:
The public libraries are full of books and other media.These miscreants could have visited a library instead of doing a crime. I would think that Penguin/Random House is having trouble selling some of the claptrap biased anti white propaganda books mentioned in the article. Do something for the victims of these thugs. Write an article about crime victims and how they handle the trauma associated with it. Will Colin Flaherty's books White Girl Bleed a Lot and Don't Make the Black Kids Angry be on that shelf?
Jan. 2, 2019, 6:51 pm
Mary Jones from Crown Heights says:
www.stuffblackpeopledontlike.com
Jan. 2, 2019, 6:52 pm
No bigots wanted from Brooklyn says:
Mary Jones from Crown Heights,why don't you go crawl back into your toilet.
Jan. 2, 2019, 8:56 pm

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