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Beyond the squabble: Putting the Tenderloin Community Justice Center in context.

Cobden, Michael
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal. 7: 53-70.

The Tenderloin Community Justice Center (“CJC”) is not new,
experimental or revolutionary. Rather, it is one of many courts
around the country that make use of a variety of tools besides
incarceration to try and solve the underlying causes of a person’s
criminal acts. The CJC is modeled directly on very successful courts already in existence throughout the country and the world. The CJC,
which opened its doors in March of 2009, is still fighting for survival
in the midst of a violent political climate and a fiscal drought, but it
deserves our honest and thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, the
depth of misconception surrounding the whole project threatens to
make the necessary debate over theory and fact little more than a make the necessary debate over theory and fact little more than a
political skirmish of hyperbole and puffery. Ultimately, I will argue
that the CJC warrants our best efforts so that we may realize
potential fiscal savings for the government, as well as the true
rehabilitation and systemic change that the community justice model
offers. This paper aims to frame the debate more clearly, explaining the
theory and models that the CJC is built upon. I will summarize the
growth of similar projects around the country and in California, and
relate it to some of the data that has been collected about these
projects. I will further explain the shortcomings of the traditional criminal justice system, which the CJC aims to address, and the
reasons why proponents of the CJC regard it as the best solution to
some of San Francisco’s problems. Finally, I will address two key
criticisms of the CJC that recur throughout the current debate. I
should note that this paper is not attempting to give a complete or
even fully accurate account of the history and implementation of the
community court concept. Rather, it aims to provide a brief synopsis
of what these courts entail and how they fundamentally differ from
what most people would consider a “normal” criminal court. (Author’s introduction).


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