Center for Court Innovation
school, a week of school attendance could become the condition of the youth’s alter- native sanction. Moreover, if the human services staff feels that a given defendant is unfit to perform community service, they inform the Judge, who will waive the defendant’s community service obligation.
When the Court opened, few social service sanctioning options were firmly in place. As the human services coordinator stated, “we don’t know who’s coming through the door. ... It’s like shooting in the dark.” Yet, over the first month of Court operations, the human service staff demonstrated a flexible response to pro- grammatic needs. For example, they established substance abuse education groups, conducted in both Spanish and English. They also have made numerous job and housing placement referrals.
As of this writing, several other groups and services have been implemented or are planned in response to the complex problems of the defendant population, including:
A “Good Citizenship” Class Hartford’s Human Services Department and its public access television channel put together a film designed to make those who commit quality-of-life offenses aware of how their behavior affects the community. It is designed to educate viewers as to how to be good citizens. A Court-based social worker will use this video in mandated pro-social behavior class (e.g., for defendants brought in on noise violations).
A Parenting Group In its first month of operations, the Court has seen a significant number of 16- and 17-year olds appearing on disorderly charges. As many of these youths are parents, human services staff are discussing the prospects of developing a “responsible parenting” class to serve them.
An Employment Orientation Group Soon, a representative from the Hartford Department of Human Services will conduct a weekly seminar on resume-writing and building interview skills at the Court (followed by one-on-one training sessions).
An HIV/AIDS Education Group and HIV Testing Beginning soon, the City’s Department of Health will test for HIV in the Courthouse building. Testing for other sexually transmitted diseases may follow.
GED Classes/Distance Learning Using a grant from the Department of Defense, the State armory has made distance learning (receiving instruction from faculty at a remote location via computer) available to the public. In the future, Community Court defendants could be referred to GED classes that are conducted there. An enhancement grant would allow for hardwiring of the computer links to the armory. Alternatively, distance learning could be conducted at a classroom at the armory.
A Nutritional Education Group