Hartford Community Court
The human services coordinator also expects that the Community Court will build partnerships with other agencies, potentially including: Catholic Family Services; the Department of Mental Retardation; and the Hartford Hospital, which is within walk- ing distance (less than two blocks away). The hospital is willing to provide AIDS counseling at the courthouse.
The Court’s opening in November 1998 marked the culmination of the planning effort. As the Judge put it on the second day of Court operations, “Everything we are doing had to be conceptualized and implemented ad hoc. Today being our second full day has already produced tons of small changes in our procedures.” He went on to say that, in light of all the innovations implemented by the Community Court, the system worked remarkably well from the outset.
The Hartford Community Court succeeded in creating an innovative Court whose operations reflect feedback solicited from neighborhood residents, and City and State criminal justice officials.
Building a Centralized Community Court Before Hartford, community courts had been conceived of as serving a limited geographical area comprised of one neighbor- hood or a few adjacent neighborhoods. Planners in Hartford are attempting to apply the community court model by implementing a centralized court which nonetheless is designed to be responsive to and help to “pay back” every neighborhood in the City. This model was seen as appropriate for Hartford because its relatively small geographic area of 17 square miles and small population of approximately 130,000 (about the same number of residents as is in the Midtown Community Court’s catch- ment area). This centralized community court model may not be feasible in munici- palities with markedly larger populations.
Redefining Behavioral Norms & Expectations The Court is also attempting to influ- ence behavioral norms about low-level nuisance offenses. Court planners were ambi- tious in lobbying for legislation that expanded the menu of sanctions available in municipal ordinance cases, sending the message that certain forms of disorderly behavior will not be tolerated.
Problem-solving Partnerships The idea for the Court emerged as part of a larger Citywide problem-solving initiative. Even in its early stages, it established partner- ships and coordinated with the police, the community, social service providers, the City’s executive branch and a local university. These partnerships help leverage addi- tional resources to enhance the Court’s operations and services.
Expanded Use of Information Expanded use of information, facilitated by the Court’s custom-designed Management Information System, serves three functions. Firstly, it bolsters accountability by making information about compliance with alter- native sanctions readily available. Secondly, it allows neighborhoods to identify prior-