Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Community Justice Center: Alive and Kicking!

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Community Justice Center Commissioner Ron Albers, and the CJC coordinator Tomiquia Moss, held a town hall meeting yesterday at the Tenderloin police station, in which they discussed the findings of the baseline survey conducted by the Department of Public Health as a phone and street survey (multilingual, and involving a cross-section of the Tenderloin population). The findings are a pleasant surprise to those who thought that the objecting supervisors accurately represented community concerns. Despite a rather low level of trust in courts in general, 59 percent of those surveyed expressed “positive” or “very positive” attitudes toward the opening of the CJC. Just 8 percent reported a negative opinion about the CJC.

A few other findings of interest: respondents identified drug dealing and homelessness as the main problems in the area. They reported feeling very safe during the day, and confident that people would come to their aid, but unsafe during the night. As opposed to the mistrust in the court system, respondents expressed faith in the police.

It seems that the rumors on the CJC's death were premature. Despite the Board of Supervisors' vote on the one-time construction fund, the CJC is determined to proceed on its regular yearly budget, albeit with less resources then it hoped for.

Many issues, which were up in the air in previous town hall meetings, appear to have been more carefully thought of, such as the court's jurisdiction over drug dealers arriving to the community from the East Bay. It seems that the court would exercise authority on a case-by-case basis, deciding in which cases it makes sense for the person who offended the community to provide community service in it.

Another interesting issue that came up involved the relationship between the community justice center and other specialized courts, such as drug courts and mental health courts. With respect to those follow-up programs, the CJC would act more as a referring agency; the CJC itself would have the capacity and the budget to intervene only in short-term, acute crisis situations, and chronic care would have to be handled by other services. The CJC would ideally hope to preserve the status of its clientele vis-a-vis their existing aid situation, and work on creative solutions to long-term problems.

An audience member mentioned the issue of representation. According to Commissioner Albers, the CJC is to be staffed by two full-time DAs and two full-time PDs. His belief is that, as time goes by and the Hall of Justice caseload is diverted to the more productive CJC, this presence will increase. One can hope that this is in the realm of the possible in light of the cuts to the PD budget.

A spirit of hope was in the air. The police and probation seemed to be much more on board with the program than they were at the meeting a year ago. And, President Obama's job creation plan was mentioned as a possible ray of hope for CJC defendants in search of a long-term betterment plan; his acquaintance with community organization and collaborative justice efforts might be helpful in creating a regime hospitable to these programs.

FYI: the CJC Advisory Board, comprised of members of the involved agencies and community representatives, meets every 2nd Wednesday of every month, between 4-5, at the Civic Center Courthouse (400 McAllister Street, Room #617). The meetings are open to the public.

Commissioner Albers will also be among our speakers at the California Corrections Crisis conference.


Frank Courser said...

Although I have read many editorials suggesting a change to California’s Three Strikes Law. I have yet to hear any remarks about a change to the law. Even though ¼ of the prison population is made up of strikers 2nd and 3rd?

Hadar Aviram said...

I'd really like to see a serious dataset providing us with a good breakdown of prisoners by some classification that makes sense, including how many people are two- and three-strikers on minimal subsequent charges, Frank. And one would hope that this would play some part in the post-Plata decisions who to release.