May 11, 2009

CJC Update- May 2009

As the CJC continues to engage with the community it serves, several important issues are emerging, such as illegal evictions, supporting probationers, the relationship between the police and the community, as well as the issue of racial disparities in the criminal justice system as a whole. All of us here at the CJC are dedicated to addressing community concerns and to working in partnership for community change and to making positive changes to our justice system.

On April 29, the CJC held a Town Hall meeting to offer updates about CJC progress and solicit input from community stakeholders about how best to serve the community. The Town Hall included a robust discussion about CJC case types and the range of services offered to clients referred to the CJC. One of the highlights of the discussion was a suggestion that the CJC begin to explore how the private SRO landlords are treating tenants with regard to illegal evictions. This was an exciting development as we explore how the CJC can better support the needs of the community. The Court is exploring this issue with some community stakeholders in an effort to actualize this suggestion.

Another component of the CJC that is gaining traction is our work with the probationers in the CJC region. The Adult Probation Department now has staff on-site who are working with probationers living in the CJC region, and utilizing CJC resources to help probationers successfully complete their probation terms. This has been a great addition to the work that we are doing at CJC. The CJC also has a high-risk probation calendar in the afternoons during which Probation Officers can address compliance issues, and work with probationers who are a risk of violating their probation.

As we continue to ramp up our operations at the CJC, we want to make sure that we are being accountable to the clients that come through our doors as well as the broader community that we serve. Recently, community stakeholders asserted that there has been an increase in the number of misdemeanor citations issued by the police department for lodging in the CJC region. The CJC takes this issue very seriously and we are committed to investigating this assertion. We will be inviting Police officers to our next Town Hall to address this issue, and come up with solutions if this indeed happening. The next Town Hall will be held in June 2009. Please stay tuned for more details.

On May 6, I had the privilege of attending the Justice Summit sponsored by the Public Defender’s Office and SF Bar Association. The house was packed with a broad cross-section of the community joined together in conversation about providing quality legal representation to those who can not afford private counsel. It was an inspiring dialogue about how we as a city must ensure that indigent folks have access to quality counsel.

I was especially struck by the remarks of Sheriff Michael Hennessey. Sheriff Hennessey addressed the crowd with a looming problem that speaks to the inherent quandary that those of us involved in the criminal justice community face. He explained that on that very day, 1 in 18 adult black men in San Francisco were in the County Jail . It was at that moment that I experienced a moment of clarity. The criminal justice system is severely failing segments our communities. We have a duty to critically examine this system and commit to meaningful reform efforts. The CJC and our other collaborative courts— Drug Court, Behavioral Health Court, and Proposition 36 Court— represent efforts to provide meaningful interventions that prevent incarceration. To begin such interventions only after incarceration is too late. Please stay tuned for continued progress on the CJC.


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