Center for Court Innovation
It also augments communications between the Court and the 17 communities it serves — a unique feature of the Hartford MIS that is appropriate to the Court’s cen- tralized role. Summons information (the specific location and exact nature of the offense) is entered into the system by human services staff. The MIS automatically “geocodes” this information, assisting alternative sanctions staff in making appropri- ate community service assignments. Community members, in turn, are able to pro- vide on-line feedback to the Court on conditions in their neighborhoods.
MIS designers were careful about specifying which case information could be shared among various Court actors, ensuring that privileged information would be available only to those who were authorized to see it. For example, human services staff are not authorized to view most criminal history information. To accomplish this, technology staff incorporated information “fire walls” — security measures, such as passwords — into the MIS. Some files and tables are “read-only” for certain individuals, reducing the chance that data are mistakenly deleted or “corrupted.” By building in these precautions, the MIS designers made it possible for staff to enter sanctioning and compliance data on-line, precluding the chance that information is lost in the shuffle of papers.
Although the community court concept is new to the State of Connecticut, alternative sanctioning has deep roots. The State has a strong tradition of using alternative sanctioning, including community service. The role of the State’s Office of Alternative Sanctions (OAS) is to issue bids for subcontractors to run alternative sanctioning programs.24
In the case of the Community Court, OAS accepted the competitive bid from the Hartford-based Community Partners in Action (CPA) to administer its alternative sanctions, including providing community service supervision. Founded in 1875 and formerly known as the Connecticut Prison Association, the CPA has a long history in the State. It runs a variety of alternative sanction projects, including a day incarcera- tion center, an alternative incarceration program with a community service compo- nent, and a referral process for detoxification.
The neighborhood problem-solving committees have compiled long lists of poten- tial community service projects for defendants to perform. Interviewed before the Court opened, when the Court’s projected caseload was somewhat uncertain, a CPA administrator stated, “I don’t think we’ll be hurting for projects.”
This forecast proved accurate. In the first month of Court operations, defendants were assigned to 129 job sites, logging 834 hours of community service. Those who received the benefits of community service included public entities, private individu- als and businesses who have been victimized.25
CPA staff’s extensive experience with community service projects in the Hartford area facilitates their deep understanding of the problems associated with implement-
24 The OAS was established in 1991, and today has a budget of $40 million.
25 For example, community service crews can be assigned to festivals held by the Spanish-American Merchants' Association, an active participant in community meetings.