Community Courts Take a Progressive Approach to Criminal Justice
Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 26, 2012 – A relatively new form of criminal justice is taking hold in the United States.
Approximately 40 “community courts” around the country are handling mostly low-level crimes in a way that shows a more humane, pragmatic approach to the problem of meting out justice for marginal transgressions.
“These community courts are a welcome reform to the criminal justice process” said Polk County criminal defense attorney Thomas Grajek. “Low-level offenders should be helped and encouraged to clean up their act without being thrown in jail.”
Officials at the U.S. Department of Justice say community courts enhance public safety by focusing on low-profile crimes that nevertheless affect the public’s quality of life. They say the courts, in addition to rehabilitative courts with a similar mandate, take a pragmatic focus on outcomes.
Community courts are intended to make the handling of petty criminals quicker and more cost-effective, while improving life in specific communities. They also sometimes show a creative approach to letting the punishment fit, and even rectify, the crime. Defendants may be sentenced to community service in the neighborhoods in which they committed a crime. Graffiti artists repaint walls and buildings they have vandalized. Shoplifters may help hand out clothes to the needy.
A community court in San Francisco has helped relieve the stifling caseload jamming traditional courtrooms while maintaining an impressively efficient judicial process. Defendants’ court dates average just seven days after their arrest or citation, compared with 45 days for nearby traditional courts. A police captain whose district is served by that court said his officers are better able to focus on more serious crime because the court’s focus on getting defendants into social services leaves them less likely to re-offend than if they had received a jail sentence.
Social workers are often on-site at community courts to connect defendants to government services, nonprofits, and therapy groups. Defendants are expected to stick to their assigned treatment plans or risk getting put back in the traditional court system, where jail time is a much more likely outcome.
Thomas C. Grajek
206 Easton Drive, Suite 102
Lakeland, FL 33803
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