Working With AmeriCorps
One of the critical components to the success of Seattle Community Court is appropriate staffing to support and monitor defendants in completing community service hours. We have engaged JustServe AmeriCorps members to accomplish this task. With their idealism and commitment to positive change, this approach has proved to be an effective solution, not only through increased compliance, but also realizing a significant decrease in recidivism.
Beginning Fall 2006
After a national search, beginning in the fall of 2006, we engaged one full time JustServe AmeriCorps member and one Martin Luther King Vista member with a strong commitment to making positive change in the community. Today, we have grown to an outstanding full time team of four JustServe AmeriCorps members and one part time LINKS AmeriCorps member. These idealistic corps members support defendants with a theme of camaraderie and common respect, integrating the team-based neighborhood restoration activities with regard for defendants' various needs and situations.
Defendants respond to being supported by working hard to clean up the neighborhoods. Often released directly from jail and transported to the site, the day begins by clearly identifying the role of the AmeriCorps members as supporters rather than enforcers; they are there to help the defendants complete the requirements of the agreement they made in court. Community volunteers are often present, thanking defendants for their help. The majority of participants return on their own the following days to complete their hours, despite spending the night in a shelter, on the street, or whatever else they encounter in their difficult lives.
|The process of working side by side provides opportunities for defendants to share their difficulties with the AmeriCorps members, who have a menu of resources available, making direct referrals to housing, treatment, and other social service providers.|
|2008-2009 AmeriCorps member Eunice Yang supports defendants to complete community service.|
The community responds by offering positive recognition for their contribution. The nearby Millionair Club Charity has provided a space to meet and store belongings and equipment, additionally giving participants a hot lunch. Recently, a Community Court judge came to share a meal with the defendants. After this encounter, one defendant relayed to an AmeriCorps member that never in all his days had a judge ever sat and broke bread with him.
Community Service as a Team
Placing the focus on doing community service as team in an environment of respect, support, positive recognition and enthusiasm has gained the respect and regard of our participants:
- "It was fun doing community service with other people and the staff from AmeriCorps who are great and friendly people." - Community Court Participant
- "Community Court was wonderful, thanks to the caring & considerate staff members. They made a stressful situation seem like a piece of cake!" - Community Court Participant
Idealistic and Inspired Young People
The ingredients of idealistic and inspired young people working alongside marginalized and struggling individuals has resulted in a very successful model.
|2007-2008 AmeriCorps members Andy Sontag, My-Lan Dodd, and Sonny Thomas with a commitment to helping defendants stay warm during the winter are amazed by the huge pile of clothing donated by Seattle University students.|