By NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN, age 9

PHOTO: Kait Klipsch
PHOTO: Kait Klipsch

Social workers have many different kinds of jobs working with people who are struggling, often because of inequalities in society. At the Center for Court Innovation, Kait Klipsch works with clients who have been arrested and are therefore involved with the criminal justice system.

Nylu Avery Bernshtayn: What is a social worker?

Kait Klipsch: Social workers do a wide variety of things. Generally, social workers in the United States help people to access systems such as healthcare, education, child welfare or, in my case, criminal justice. Some social workers focus on individuals and families, such as therapy or counseling, while others work on a larger scale, such as community organizing, advocacy or policy change.

NAB: What does the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) do?

KK: CCI begins its work with research, trying to learn what works and what doesn’t in justice reform. We then use that knowledge to create new projects—both court- and community-based—to put these new ideas into practice. CCI then takes what was learned to improve future projects and teach other organizations interested in trying similar projects.

NAB: Can you talk about the Alternatives to Incarceration program?

KK: Our office, Brooklyn Justice Initiatives, runs a few alternatives to incarceration (being sent to prison) programs with different populations. Overall, we try to address the issues in a person’s life that may lead them to being arrested, with the goal of avoiding jail and future involvement with the [criminal justice] system. We provide many services, including individual and group counseling. In counseling, we try to identify and address the individual and communal challenges that affect people’s lives. Going to jail can be traumatizing and life-altering. This is especially important for youth—in New York, people as young as 16 are sent to adult jail and prison.

NAB: What is your favorite part of your job?

KK: Without a doubt, my favorite part is meeting new people every day, hearing their stories and learning more about the world and myself. While it can be sad and frustrating to be confronted with injustice every day, it is so encouraging to hear the ways in which people, families and communities are surviving and overcoming that injustice to create a better world for themselves, their families and their communities.