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PRESS ADVISORY: U.S. Department of Justice Selects Community Court in Hartford as Model For Other Community Courts Nationwide

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance has selected the Community Court in Hartford as one of three sites nationwide to form a “Community Court Mentor Site Network.”

As a member of the network, the Community Court in Hartford will serve as a role model to other jurisdictions seeking effective ways to combat such crimes as prostitution, public drinking and drug use, vandalism and other low-level crimes that affect the quality of life in city neighborhoods.

“We know that what we have in Hartford makes a huge difference in the lives of the people who live and work in the city,” Chief Court Administrator Barbara M. Quinn said. “So it is a tremendous honor to be chosen as a positive example of what can happen when courts, municipal officials, merchants, and community organizations put their heads together. To have effective solutions, we need effective partnerships, and that’s what occurred here.”

The non-profit Center for Court Innovation will oversee the Community Court Mentor Site Network, which also includes community courts from Dallas and Seattle. “The mentor courts will serve as a peer network, supporting the Center for Court Innovation in advancing the community court model,” said Kim Norris, a senior policy advisor for adjudication at the Bureau of Justice Assistance. “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.”

The Community Court in Hartford opened in November 1998 and handles cases from Hartford, West Hartford, Bloomfield and Farmington. It responds to quality-of-life crimes by ordering offenders to “pay back” the communities they’ve damaged through service projects – for example, removing graffiti, cleaning up neighborhood parks, or delivering food to the needy. At the same time, the court links offenders to drug treatment, mental health services, job training and other services. This type of assistance is made possible by on-site staff from various agencies, including the City of Hartford Department of Health and Human Services; the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; social services departments from the towns of West Hartford, Bloomfield and Farmington; Community Partners in Action; Community Health Services Inc.; the Hispanic Health Council’s Project Connect; and the Foodshare Food Stamp Outreach Program.

During its first 10 years, the Community Court in Hartford handled more than 78,200 cases, its defendant work crews performed more than 285,000 hours of community service and the court made more than 20,500 social service referrals. In addition, the court has developed programs designed to help both women charged with prostitution and men charged with soliciting prostitutes. It also requires defendants charged with possession of marijuana to pass a drug test before the court will make an offer to resolve the case through community service.

“We are trying to put a foot in the revolving door by addressing the underlying issues that are often the root of a person’s involvement in the criminal justice system” said the Honorable Raymond Norko, presiding judge of the Community Court in Hartford. “Accountability through community service and a helping hand through social services is the most productive manner I know of to deal with these low-level crimes.”

For further information, please contact Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, manager of communications, at 860-757-2270.


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