Sep 24, 2012

Community Justice Center in the News

On September 23, 2012, the Associated Press published an article featuring San Francisco's Community Justice Center (CJC). The article describes how the the CJC has "helped relieve the caseload clogging traditional courtrooms by handling 4,500 defendants since it opened." Community courts like the CJC aim to "[improve] life in specific neighborhoods or police precincts." In San Francisco, target areas include South of Market, Union Square, Civic Center, and the Tenderloin.

Novel courts handle low-level crimes across US
By Fenit Nirappil, Associated Press

Judge Lilian Sing, San Francisco Superior Court
Photo: Ben Margot / AP
In most courtrooms, spontaneous applause could get you thrown out.

But in this San Francisco court, it's expected — and strongly encouraged for the defendants.

Bowls of hard candy rest in front of the judge's bench, as a reward for the men and women making their weekly court appearances and attending group therapy. Almost daily, the judge awards one standout a $5 grocery store gift card — while the gallery claps and cheers.

These scenes have played out thousands of times at the Community Justice Center, a novel, 4-year-old court system in the city's rough-edged Tenderloin district. It's one of about 40 community courts around the United States that tackle mostly low-level crimes in troubled neighborhoods using judges — not juries — to send defendants to drug treatment, shelter and social services, instead of handing down fines and time in overcrowded jails.

"We go to the root of the problems rather than just throwing them in jail," said the Community Justice Center's lone judge, Lillian Sing.

Click here to read the full article.

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