The Million Dollar Blocks initiative began in 2004 with a grant from the Open Society Institute, the JEHT Foundation and expanded to include several interrelated projects dealing with questions of architecture and justice.

 
"New York and the Vanguard of Digital Design" - The New York Times
Feb 22, 2008 — The New York Times, City Room

Sewell Chan reviews "Design and the Elastic Mind," a new MoMA exhibition which features Architecture and Justice

"Several works in “Design and the Elastic Mind,” an exhibition that opens at the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday, offer intriguing and unexpected perspectives on New York. A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has mapped the international phone calls and Internet traffic that connect the city with countries around the world, showing, for example, just how often Queens immigrants are on the phone back home with India. A design lab at Columbia University has traced the costs of incarceration in poor minority neighborhoods, demonstrating that taxpayers in some cases pay $1 million a year to imprison inmates from a single Brooklyn block.

In a review published today in The Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that the exhibition “makes the case that through the mechanism of design, scientific advances of the last decade have at least opened the way to unexpected visual pleasures.” Several of the works are of particular interest to people who care about the future of cities."

Read more at: 

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/new-york-and-the-vanguard-of-digital-design/?hp

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Criminal Justice Dept.: Rap Map
Jan 08, 2007 — The New Yorker, Lauren Macintyre

"From water pipes to porn shops, cartographers have charted almost every aspect of local urban life, giving rise to a sort of cottage industry: the New York City specialty map. The latest—and one you are not likely to see unless you run in criminal-justice circles—is a rendering of the city that breaks down, block by block, the home addresses of all New Yorkers incarcerated in a given year. This map won’t get you from Century 21 to the Met. But it does reveal that more prison-bound Bronx residents lived in walkups than in any other type of building, that Staten Island is the most law-abiding borough, and that Brooklyn—nicknamed “the borough of churches”—ran up the state’s highest bill in prison costs.

Eric Cadora and Charles Swartz, co-founders of the Brooklyn-based Justice Mapping Center, collaborated on the project with an architect named Laura Kurgan, at Columbia’s Spatial Information Design Lab. “What started out as a scholarly inquiry has turned into a national initiative,” said Cadora, whose team has mapped twelve cities so far. Their New York is a digital crazy quilt of “bright-against-black”: the areas least touched by incarceration in 2003, the year they chose to study (Riverdale, Bay Ridge, the West Village), appear black and gray; those more so (Coney Island, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Hell’s Kitchen) neon orange."

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/01/08/criminal-justice-dept-rap-map

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Design and the Elastic Mind, MoMA
Aug 08, 2008 — Spatial Information Design Lab

Architecture and Justice featured in MoMA's Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition, on view from February 24-May 12, 2008: 

"Over the past twenty-five years, people have weathered dramatic changes in their experience of time, space, matter, and identity. Individuals cope daily with a multitude of changes in scale and pace—working across several time zones, traveling with relative ease between satellite maps and nanoscale images, and being inundated with information. Adaptability is an ancestral distinction of intelligence, but today’s instant variations in rhythm call for something stronger: elasticity, the product of adaptability plus acceleration. Design and the Elastic Mind explores the reciprocal relationship between science and design in the contemporary world by bringing together design objects and concepts that marry the most advanced scientific research with attentive consideration of human limitations, habits, and aspirations. The exhibition highlights designers’ ability to grasp momentous changes in technology, science, and history—changes that demand or reflect major adjustments in human behavior—and translate them into objects that people can actually understand and use. This Web site presents over three hundred of these works, including fifty projects that are not featured in the gallery exhibition. " 

Read more. 

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"The Dot Matrix: Some maps show us where to go. But the ones created at Columbia's Spatial Information Design Lab may show us where we're headed." - Columbia Magazine
Aug 01, 2012 — David J. Craig

SIDL's work and research ethos was featured with an article in Columbia Magazine: "More data, more maps, more stories. More voices participating in a conversation about how to view our cities, address their problems, and serve their residents. That’s the goal of Kurgan and her colleagues at SIDL, who, for the past eight years, have been training civic organizations, nonprofit groups, and ordinary citizens to tell their own stories through thematic cartography"

Read more.

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"Columbia's Spatial Information Design Lab Helps Map the Future" - Smart Planet
Aug 04, 2012 — Smart Planet, Reena Jana

Smart Planet's Reena Jana write about Here Now: Social Media And The Psychological City:

""Big Data" and "social media" are today's biggest buzzwords. But beyond their trendiness as topics, Big Data and social media also allow everyday people to share their voices and stories, to participate in ways to possibly improve their lives. Someone, however, needs to make sense of all of the information floating around--by organizing neatly and efficiently to help communities analyze patterns, discover problems, and act to find solutions.

This is one of the roles of the Spatial Information Design Lab (SIDL) at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), which translates data into beautiful and compelling maps to communicate statistical information."

Read more: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/decoding-design/columbias-spatial-information-design-lab-helps-map-the-future/

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From Waiting Rooms to Resource Hubs: Designing Change at the Department of Probation
Oct 10, 2012 — Urban Omnibus

"Local governments have more than one way of enforcing law and order and providing for public safety. Incarcerating individuals convicted of crimes is of course the most familiar form of criminal justice. But alternatives do exist. One of the largest alternative-to-incarceration programs in the country is New York City’s Department of Probation (DOP), which provides services and investigations for more than 30,000 adults and 15,000 juveniles per year, and supervises approximately 24,000 adults and 2,000 juveniles on any given day. Until recently, this large population of New Yorkers — who might be turnstile jumpers, first-time offenders, or otherwise considered to be good candidates for non-incarcerated supervision — faced long commutes to DOP waiting rooms in central courthouses, where they would sit and wait, often for hours, in uninviting spaces. In many cases, the system was doing more harm than good."

Read more: http://urbanomnibus.net/2012/10/from-waiting-rooms-to-resource-hubs-designing-change-at-the-department-of-probation/

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Million Dollar Blocks
Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, we have created maps of “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities.
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The United States currently has more than 2 million people locked up in jails and prisons. A disproportionate number of them come from a very few neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In many places the concentration is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks. When these people are released and reenter their communities, roughly forty percent do not stay more than three years before they are reincarcerated. 

Using rarely accessible data from the criminal justice system, the Spatial Information Design Lab and the Justice Mapping Center have created maps of these “million dollar blocks” and of the city-prison-city-prison migration flow for five of the nation’s cities. The maps suggest that the criminal justice system has become the predominant government institution in these communities and that public investment in this system has resulted in significant costs to other elements of our civic infrastructure — education, housing, health, and family. Prisons and jails form the distant exostructure of many American cities today. 

The project continues to present ongoing work on criminal justice statistics to make visible the geography of incarceration and return in New York, Phoenix, New Orleans, and Wichita, prompting new ways of understanding the spatial dimension of an area of public policy with profound implications for American cities.

Million Dollar Blocks is the first of a series of projects to be undertaken by SIDL, as part of a two year research and development project on Graphical Innovation in Justice Mapping. The project, generously supported by the JEHT Foundation and by the Open Society Institute activates a partnership between the Justice Mapping Center (JMC), the JFA Institute (JFA), and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP).

This unique partnership enables the Justice Mapping Center to refine analytical and graphical techniques within the research and teaching environment of the Spatial Information Design Lab, which can then be applied to real life policy initiatives through work with the JFA Institute. Reciprocally, input from state and local leaders is then brought back to the Design Lab for further development. This feedback loop is a valuable tool resulting in new methods of spatial analyses and ways of visually presenting them that reveal previously unseen dimensions of criminal justice and related government policies in states across the United States.

The results of this collaboration have transformed the project into multiple formats and forums for exhibition.

Data in geographic context shows people in prision are highly concentrated in specific neighborhoods.

Added up block by block, it cost $359 Million Dollars to imprision people from Brooklyn that year.

From a demographic point of view the spending facilitates a mass migration of people to prision, 95% of whom eventually return home.

Community District 16 has 3.5% of Brooklyn's population but 8.5% of its prision admissions.

It cost $11,839,665 to incarcerate people from these 11 blocks in 2003. We call these Million Dollar Blocks. 

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Justice Reinvestment: New Orleans
A vision plan for justice reinvestment in post-Katrina New Orleans.
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In the summer of 2006 SIDL received a grant to further their work in Justice Mapping into a real world application at an architectural scale. A group of five graduate students received fellowships to travel to New Orleans with Professor Kurgan to come up with a vision plan for a high incarceration neighborhood in New Orleans from the perspective of Justice Reinvestment.

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Architecture and Justice
Exhibition and Scenario Planning workshop held at the Architectural League of New York.
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SIDL won a competition in the Spring of 2005 run by the Architectural League of New York to mount and exhibition and run a scenario planning workshop within its gallery space. The League put out a call for Architecture and … . The three dots stood in for something extraneous to architecture which pushed beyond its own limits to transform its very definition. The Lab proposed “Architecture and Justice “ which was on view from September 15—October 28, 2006 at The Urban Center.

The exhibition focused on the first year of work completed by the lab around the “Million Dollar Blocks” project. We presented “Million Dollar Block” maps of New York, New Orleans, Wichita and Phoenix. The United States currently has more than 2 million people locked up in jails and prisons. A disproportionate number of them come from a very few neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In many places the concentration is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks. 

Half way through the exhibition, SIDL hosted a Justice Reinvestment Scenario Planning Workshop which was facilitated by the Global Business Network that brought together local government agency leaders, technical assistance specialists, community developers, architects, and urban planners to explore the possibilities of policy and design, highlighted by our maps, in a single neighborhood. It was our hope that the experts we had gathered around the tables in the space of the exhibit would contribute to taking the project from analysis into suggestions and proposals of possible futures for these places. 

The form of intervention most commonly accepted by a range of people working on reentry, is "Justice Reinvestment." This is understood as an effort to reorient criminal justice and related government agency operations and resources around specific places in the city. More simply put, how might we save state money spent on prisons, and redirect that money where it is most needed, in the poorest urban areas of our cities? 

The Workshop itself took place over the course of one day. It was structured around the presentation of a variety of data—criminal justice, homelessness, health and human services, socio-economic, land-use, and architectural—which workshop participants used to explore possible scenarios for a particular series of “million dollar blocks”. The results of the workshop are documented in a publication. 

Brownsville in Brooklyn was the focus of the workshop, both because it is one of the highest prison and jail migration areas in the City and because it is the focus of current efforts by local housing developers (Common Ground) and technical assistance specialists (Family Justice) to establish more successful ways of resettling homeless and reentering populations. We took into consideration as well, that Brownsville, is part of a larger urban initiative – the Jail Discharge Planning Initiative that the Department Of Corrections(DOC) has been undertaking in partnership with the Department of Homeless Services(DHS) over the last three years.

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Justice Atlas of Sentencing and Corrections
An online tool for mapping the residential distribution of people involved in the U.S. criminal justice system.
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The Justice Atlas of Sentencing and Corrections is an online tool for mapping the residential distribution of people involved in the criminal justice system. It uses aggregated address data to map the flow of people being removed to prison, reentering communities from prison, and the standing population concentrations of people under parole or probation supervision. 

The Justice Atlas of Sentencing and Corrections is an online tool for mapping the residential distribution of people involved in the criminal justice system. It uses aggregated address data to map the flow of people being removed to prison, reentering communities from prison, and the standing population concentrations of people under parole or probation supervision.

Thematic Maps
Thematic maps reveal the spatial patterns and disproportionate distribution of people under criminal justice custody or supervision at the state, county, municipal, zip code, and census tract levels.

Analytical Data Tables
For each map a series of supporting tables is available which provide additional data variables, such as number of men and number of women under parole supervision.

Supporting Census Charts
And for further context, the Justice Atlas also provides charts of U.S. Census Bureau data about local conditions, such as median household income or percent single parent households.

The Justice Atlas is designed to be updated each year and expanded to include more states, more data, and more analytical themes.

Justice Mapping Center

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