Community Focus and Community Input
Hartford Community Court
fairness to all neighborhoods while maximizing the ability to respond to 17 different priority problems.
Given that the Hartford Community Court serves the entire City, it is designed to maintain close contact with representatives of each of the City’s 17 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has a problem-solving committee that determines priorities for their communities, including crime and non-crime issues to be dealt with by the police, the Community Court, and other appropriate City departments (e.g., public works). A representative from each of the 17 problem-solving committees serves on the citywide Community Planning and Mobilization Committee — the advisory board to the Court. Every month, the committee meets with representatives of the Court — including the Judge and the Director of the Comprehensive Communities Partnership — as part of an ongoing assessment of community conditions.
At the time of this writing, the Court anticipates having technological links to each of the 17 communities. Each neighborhood is developing an “on-line” connec- tion to the Court’s MIS via community-based computer terminals, housed at conven- ient locations such as centers for the elderly and libraries. This technology will enable members of problem-solving committee to provide regular, tangible feedback about community conditions to Court actors.
To coordinate service to the community, the Court employs a community service supervisor as well as four community service project supervisors (who oversee work crews), each of whom is responsible for one quadrant of the City (four or five of its neighborhoods). These supervisors maintain contact with designated community representatives, in order to be responsive to communities’ improvement priorities such as: abandoned property/vacant lot clean-up, trash pick-up, clean-up/set-up for special cultural events, landscaping around senior centers and snow removal. Defendants are typically required to perform community service in the same neigh- borhood in which they committed their offense.
In many cities, community court planners face financial obstacles, particularly if their plans involve construction costs to build or renovate a courthouse building. By con- trast, planners of the Hartford Community Court began with strong support from the City. They then used the City’s financial backing to leverage State commitment and resources to the project.
The planning and operations of the Hartford Community Court were originally supported with a combination of federal and City funds. “Seed” money for the devel- opment of the Court came from $700,000 remaining from the 1993 Comprehensive Communities Partnership federal grant that was awarded to the City. Additionally, one half of a $700,000 federal Local Law Enforcement Block Grant was designated to the Court. This federal money was also used for Court staffing — including the salaries of the prosecutor, public defenders, bail clerks, and sheriff’s deputies — for the first nine months of its operation. And the City of Hartford contributed roughly $300,000 from its general fund for equipment, including computers and furniture.