Drug courts. Mental health courts. Juvenile courts.
All are part of a quiet movement of "problem-solving justice" that is sweeping the country, its aim to stop the revolving-door cycle of the criminal justice system.
In the latest development, San Francisco's new "Community Court" is set to start trial operations as early as next month. The court's goal is to consider the problems that led defendants into crime and provide services that can help lead them out. It is modeled on a similar court in downtown New York.
The Community Justice Center will focus on misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, such as drug crimes, car break-ins, shoplifting, and check kiting. In response to initial opposition from homeless advocates who were concerned that the new court might inadvertently criminalize people just for being poor, the court will not handle public nuisance infractions such as public urination and public drunkenness.
Journalist Bernice Yeung's opinion piece on the new Community Justice Center is available online. Ongoing news coverage is online at the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site.