Homeless courts help people on streets navigate the legal system

Mesa’s Community Court would possibly appear as if every other at first look, with defendants showing one after the other earlier than a choose wearing a black gown. 

But a more in-depth take a look at their sentences reveals a key distinction. 

On one Wednesday afternoon, Judge John Tatz directs a lady to get a brand new delivery certificates, Social Security card and ID, to attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous conferences and to remain in common contact along with her “navigator,” or case supervisor. He tells the subsequent individual to enroll in meals stamps and to remain in housing. 

Tatz asks everybody who seems in the chamber to think about doing one thing to help the neighborhood earlier than their subsequent court docket date. But nobody leaves right here with a sentence to jail time or a requirement that they pay a price as recompense for crimes that may vary from trespassing and possession of drug paraphernalia to public intoxication.

“They’ll be told by the judge directly, ‘This is not a punitive court,’” stated Stacey Good, an assistant metropolis prosecutor in Mesa. “You’re not here to get in trouble. We’re not trying to punish you. What we want to do is help. We want to provide services and we want to help change your situation.’” 

Mesa Municipal Court Judge John Tatz presides over Community Court on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

As Arizona’s homeless inhabitants has expanded lately, Mesa’s court docket is one among a rising quantity in the state that’s geared towards rehabilitation quite than punishment, with the final aim of serving to people on the streets transfer extra successfully by the legal justice system.

Each court docket approaches that goal in another way. Some permit people experiencing homelessness to work off fines and costs that accumulate after they’ve been sentenced for against the law, whereas others — like Mesa’s — can dismiss circumstances altogether in trade for participation in the program. 

Back to top button