Jan 18, 2008

Thoughts on the CJC Town Hall

Tuesday night, the CJC held its first Town Hall meeting. Over 100 people were in attendance at the SF Public Library's Koret Auditorium, and many had critical questions for the panel of CJC steering committee members.The CJC panel takes questions from the community. From left to right: Commissioner Ron Albers, Terrance Allen, Starr Terrell (Mayor's Office), Darren Dill (Adult Probation), Captain Jimenez (SFPD Tenderloin Station), Niki Solis (Public Defender's Office), Jo Robinson (Jail Psychiatric Services), Paul Henderson (Deputy District Attorney), and Jim Buick (Human Services Agency)

To begin the evening, Commissioner Albers introduced the project and the steering committee members, and played a 20 minute video about the project in Red Hook, Brooklyn. After the video, the panel quickly jumped to the Q&A portion of the evening. Several people lined up and asked critical questions of the project. Some offered support, others offered concerns, but in general, people were hungry for more information.

Several people wanted to know just how much the project would cost. Others wanted to know how the court would handle specific types of crimes, or what types of social services would be available. Some expressed concern over "criminalization" of the homeless or the poor. Many were supportive of the ideas behind the project, and expressed interest in applying to be a part of the "Community Advisory Board" that would work closely with the CJC steering committee to develop these details.

It seemed that many were frustrated with the lack of concrete information they received about the project on Tuesday night. As a member of the audience, and a court employee involved with some of the planning, I shared some of their frustrations and sympathize with some critical perspectives that others have raised in their bogs, such as this one at Metroblogging San Francisco. But, I think that with such a complicated project with the lofty goals of better uniting city agencies, increasing social services and reducing crime and recidivisim, it makes sense that direct answers to some seemingly-basic questions are not quickly forthcoming - planners are still figuring out just how much this program might cost, they're still working out what specific services will be located at the center, and what types of crimes will be directed to it.

As Commissioner Albers said on Tuesday, "This is a dialogue, and it will be ongoing." The court and CJC steering committee need to keep hearing from the community about their concerns and input to help develop the CJC project. The Center for Court Innovation is quickly finishing their "Needs Assessment" of the CJC for San Francisco, and we hope it will be finalized by the end of the month and available for distribution. The Steering Committee has dedicated extensive time to data collection, community input and analysis, to make sure the CJC project is well thought out. We're all waiting anxiously for the assessment to be complete, and it should answer many of the community's questions. The court is also working out a logistical assessment to find out how quickly cases can be processed (trying to reduce paperwork and cut through bureaucratic hurdles to make operation of the court possible). Basically, planning takes time, but as soon as these documents and answers are available, you can be sure to find them here and on our website!

If you attended the Town Hall on Tuesday (or, even if you didn't!) please share with us your comments on this blog. And - if you missed one of the brochures that were distributed (in English, Spanish & Cantonese) or the application for the CJC advisory board, go to our website link above. You can find them on the CJC section of the website.

We'd like to thank everyone for attending and sharing your thoughts with us on Tuesday - they will all be given serious consideration. We hope to have our next Town Hall in April. If you would like to be notified of the event, send an email to communityjusticecenter@sftc.org.

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