The Community Court Model
Community courts are city-focused courts that do not sentence individuals to pay fines/fees or serve time in jail. Instead, community-courts sentence individuals to (1) complete a tailored treatment program and (2) participate in a community service project.
Community courts, working with health and human services partners, will offer treatment in the courthouse (or close by) to address an individual’s unique needs and actually rehabilitate them by addressing the root causes of their behavior. This may include job training, drug rehabilitation, counseling or other quality-of-life programs.
The second component of an individual’s sentence is a term of community service. This will help further integrate the individual into the neighborhood, by pairing them with a project team which will provide accountability and support to the individual. At the same time, such projects help the neighborhood improve and develop.
All community service projects will be designed by local leaders who serve on a community board at the courthouse. The community board will regularly communicate with the court about city issues and will work with the court to develop plans to address and solve these problems. In this way, the community will have direct access to the courthouse, and the court, in turn, will be able to harness its power to more effectively address local problems.
This model will help curb the increase in Arizona’s mass incarceration system by helping individuals address small problems that could destabilize their lives and funnel them into the prison system if left unresolved or punished too harshly at an early stage.