Faster Justice, Closer to Home: The Power of Community Courts (Pacific Standard)
By LAUREN KIRCHNER | October 16, 2014
In the summer of 1993, the New York Times reported on what was, at the time, the start of a three-year experiment in local justice—the opening of the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan. The first of its kind, the court was established to ease the backlog of cases in the city’s court system by addressing minor, “quality of life” offenses, especially in and around Times Square.
The idea was that people arrested for non-violent crimes like prostitution, selling stuff on the street without a permit, graffiti, and drug possession could be processed through the community court quickly, and get access to social services right there, if they needed them—much like in the Miami drug court model. Reducing the time between arrest and court appearance would make it more likely that they would show up and get their cases resolved. If they pleaded guilty, they could often do their “time” in the form of community service and clean-up projects that would be located in the very same neighborhoods where they had committed their crimes.