We probably don’t need to restate or debate the obvious: our justice system has huge problems. Institutional racism, lack of support for reintegrating ex-offenders into their communities, misguided priorities, I mean how much time do we have to talk?
Turns out, not much. The proverbial stuff is hitting the fan with failures of the system made all the more clear by recent high-profile shootings in communities throughout Puget Sound.
So, let’s stop talking. Here is something you can do: Seattle’s Community Court is an alternative to incarceration through participation in community service and connection to social service resources. To quote from their website:
Rather than go to jail, non-violent misdemeanor offenders who enter the program can help themselves in overcoming their own problems as they complete community service to improve the neighborhood and make a variety of comprehensive social service linkages to help address the root and underlying issues of repeated criminal behavior.”
One of the cool things is that defendants who enter the program give back to the community where their offenses occurred. In addition to their service work they attend classes for skills enhancement and positive change, complete referrals to agencies that help them with benefits, housing, employment, education and alternatives to prostitution and substance abuse.
Turns out Community Court is always looking for more service project sites throughout Seattle–especially projects that can be done indoors when the weather is ugly. They are also looking for community members who would like to sponsor (lead) defendants in service at various sites.
Here’s where we all come in: figure out how your favorite non-profit community agency could utilize Community Court participants. Volunteer to help lead the project. If that sounds like more than you want to commit to, talk to the folks who run your favorite community groups and help them brainstorm how to use this incredible resource.
Solid Ground’s JustServe AmeriCorps has been a proud partner of Community Court for a number of years. In fact, team member Stan Kehl recently completed work on the spiffy new Community Court website. (Nice work, Stan!) We invest in this incredible program because it works. You should, too!