Regional Network of Mentor Community Courts
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, in conjunction with the Center for Court Innovation, has chosen community courts in Dallas, Hartford, and Seattle to serve as regional mentors for jurisdictions seeking to improve their handling of low-level criminal cases.
"The mentor courts will serve as a peer network, supporting the Center for Court Innovation in advancing the community court model. By selecting high-quality programs in various parts of the U.S., we hope to make it easier for interested jurisdictions to make site visits and see a community court at work," said Kim Norris, senior policy advisor for adjudication at the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Like the three dozen community courts currently in operation or planning around the U.S., the three mentor courts respond to quality-of-life crime by ordering offenders to pay back the community through visible restitution projects. Typical projects include removing graffiti, cleaning neighborhood parks, and helping maintain public spaces. At the same time, community courts link offenders to drug treatment, mental health services, job training, and other services to help them address the underlying issues that often fuel criminal behavior. Research has shown that the community court model can reduce crime, improve compliance with court orders, and enhance public confidence in justice.
The mentor courts--which were chosen in a peer-reviewed competitive process--will host site visits, answer questions over the phone or internet from practitioners, and participate in conferences and workshops. The Center for Court Innovation, in addition to offering tours of its own demonstration projects in New York, will also work with the Bureau of Justice Assistance to encourage criminal justice reformers to visit the mentor courts and assist in the strengthening of mentor courts programs.