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Community Court

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NEWS
February 12, 2009 | By Patrick Kerkstra INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Each of the major candidates for Philadelphia district attorney voiced support yesterday for expansion of the city's Community Court, which offers alternative-sentencing options - such as drug-treatment programs and community service - for minor, nonviolent offenders. The candidates made their remarks in testimony at a City Council hearing. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who introduced the resolution authorizing the hearing, stressed the high costs of the city's criminal justice system.
NEWS
October 21, 1997 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
Some Philadelphians want tougher laws and more cops on the street to deal with the petty crime that drives residents away and threatens the city's tourist base. Others look at these offenders and see people with drug habits, no education or hope and massive social service needs. Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District, wants to create a new institution that can bridge those two viewpoints. His solution is a "Community Court," patterned after a New York City court that metes out almost immediate punishment in the form of community service along with social services, all aimed at smashing the notorious revolving door of arrest, wrist-slap and repeat offense.
NEWS
March 10, 2004 | By Linda K. Harris INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Philadelphia Community Court, set up to quickly address quality-of-life crimes in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods, will expand to cover nearly one-third of the city, officials said yesterday. The court, on the second floor of 1401 Arch St., offers people a chance to do community service or enter drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs instead of serving jail time after their arrest for prostitution, drug possession, theft from auto, retail theft, and other misdemeanors or summary offenses.
NEWS
October 1, 1999 | By Laura J. Bruch, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Someone gets in your face, smelling strongly of alcohol, and curses you and your date. Someone urinates on your front steps, or offers sexual favors for money in front of your store. Police nab a suspect. But with so-called quality-of-life crimes, critics often complain, justice is not always speedy, progressive or sure. Change may be on the way. Fortified by a $500,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts announced earlier this week, the Center City District is developing a demonstration community court to reduce those annoying infractions that can chip away at a city's sense of well-being.
NEWS
April 14, 1998 | by Mark McDonald, Daily News Staff Writer
For 10 years, he sat at the side of the powerful judge, ready to provide an expert opinion at her command. U.S. District Judge Norma Shapiro continues to control the long-running city prison case, but after 10 years as her special master in one of the most complicated and costly cases to which the city has been a party, William Babcock, 47, has resigned. His new assignment is to help develop the Community Court, which its supporters assert could dramatically reduce the incidence of petty crime that has disrupted the quality of life in many Philadelphia neighborhoods.
NEWS
July 24, 1986 | By ANN W. O'NEILL, Daily News Staff Writer
Traffic Court's meter should be running out, says City Controller Joseph C. Vignola, who yesterday called on City Council to abolish the beleaguered court. Vignola, speaking at a morning news conference, also called for an end to Municipal Court and the office of Clerk of Quarter Sessions. They should be reorganized along with Traffic Court under the banner of a new Community Court system, he said. The move would require Council legislation to put a question on the ballot for a citywide vote, Vignola said.
NEWS
July 21, 2011 | By JULIE SHAW, shawj@phillynews.com 215-854-2592
Philadelphia's prison population has dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, a report released yesterday said. The number of inmates peaked at 9,787 in January 2009, and fell to below 7,700 this spring, before rising to 8,048 in June, according to the report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The number reached 8,200 this week, prison data show. A "confluence of different policies, most of which required a lot of collaboration" among the courts, prosecutors, defenders and the prison system contributed to the decline, said Claire Shubik-Richards, senior associate at Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative and author of the report "Philadelphia's Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails.
NEWS
July 24, 1986 | By William W. Sutton Jr., Inquirer Staff Writer
City Controller Joseph C. Vignola called yesterday for abolishing Philadelphia's Traffic Court, Municipal Court and the office of the clerk of quarter sessions, a move he said could save taxpayers as much as $5 million a year. Vignola proposed replacing the traffic and municipal court systems with a new Community Court, and placing employees of the clerk of quarter sessions under the direction of Common Pleas Court, for which they now work indirectly. The plan drew fire from one judge.
NEWS
March 30, 2002
Philadelphia's new downtown Community Court makes it look so easy: Book 'em and put 'em on graffiti-scrubbing service. Or get them into drug treatment and counseling. So the court appears the perfect tool to deal with quality-of-life crimes in Center City - aggressive panhandling, shoplifting, vandalism, even prostitution. Opened only a few weeks ago at Broad and Arch Streets, the court's brief is to handle summons and arrest cases within 24 hours or less. On that schedule, it will whittle away the usual months-long delay between arrest and trial.
NEWS
May 1, 2009
ON WEDNESDAY, City Council held hearings on the $99 million budget for the First Judicial District, which includes the Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Court, and Traffic Court. Council members asked some tough questions about the soaring prison population and alternatives to incarceration. It was heartening to see Council raise important issues, but disturbing to hear the same old answers from the officials who run our courts. Perhaps the most disturbing moment came when Councilman Wilson Goode asked Court Administrator David Lawrence what accounted for the high number of people behind bars.
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NEWS
September 16, 2011 | BY JULIE SHAW, shawj@phillynews.com 215-854-2592
HEAR YE! HEAR YE! Philadelphia Community Court is closing. Its last day is today. After nearly a decade, the court will hear its last summary offenses and low-level misdemeanors on the second floor of 1401 Arch St. this afternoon. Why? Lack of funding. But court officials say this doesn't mean you can't be cited for public drunkenness, urination or loitering. Police "will continue issuing appropriate citations," Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield said last month.
NEWS
July 21, 2011 | By JULIE SHAW, shawj@phillynews.com 215-854-2592
Philadelphia's prison population has dropped dramatically in the past couple of years, a report released yesterday said. The number of inmates peaked at 9,787 in January 2009, and fell to below 7,700 this spring, before rising to 8,048 in June, according to the report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The number reached 8,200 this week, prison data show. A "confluence of different policies, most of which required a lot of collaboration" among the courts, prosecutors, defenders and the prison system contributed to the decline, said Claire Shubik-Richards, senior associate at Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative and author of the report "Philadelphia's Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails.
NEWS
July 8, 2009 | By Joseph A. Slobodzian INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
When Philadelphia police shot and killed a homeless man brandishing a utility knife Friday in the concourse near City Hall, it had special meaning for state Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery. Twenty years ago, McCaffery told an audience of Philadelphia court and municipal officials, he was a police sergeant with the subway unit. "I know what those officers are going through down there dealing with the homeless," McCaffery said. "That's the kind of tragedy that we don't want to happen.
NEWS
May 1, 2009
ON WEDNESDAY, City Council held hearings on the $99 million budget for the First Judicial District, which includes the Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Court, and Traffic Court. Council members asked some tough questions about the soaring prison population and alternatives to incarceration. It was heartening to see Council raise important issues, but disturbing to hear the same old answers from the officials who run our courts. Perhaps the most disturbing moment came when Councilman Wilson Goode asked Court Administrator David Lawrence what accounted for the high number of people behind bars.
NEWS
April 24, 2009 | By BOB WARNER, warnerb@phillynews.com 215-854-5885
THE PHILADELPHIA Police Department isn't the only city agency that must answer for the alleged misbehavior of police narcotics officers. After police drug squads conducted more than 20 controversial armed raids on small neighborhood groceries and convenience stores, the District Attorney's Office decided to bring felony charges against many of the immigrant shop owners on charges of selling small plastic bags, which are considered drug paraphernalia....
NEWS
March 18, 2009 | By CURTIS JONES JR
IN RECENT years, municipalities across the country have embarked on an experiment to test the proposition that courts can play a role in solving complex neighborhood problems and building stronger communities. Since the 1993 opening of New York City's Midtown Community Court, the nation's first, dozens of other cities have begun planning community courts. The current population in the Philadelphia prisons is 9,712, with 64 percent awaiting trial. Roughly 1,000 of those are nonviolent offenders facing nominal bail they can't raise.
NEWS
February 12, 2009 | By Patrick Kerkstra INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Each of the major candidates for Philadelphia district attorney voiced support yesterday for expansion of the city's Community Court, which offers alternative-sentencing options - such as drug-treatment programs and community service - for minor, nonviolent offenders. The candidates made their remarks in testimony at a City Council hearing. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who introduced the resolution authorizing the hearing, stressed the high costs of the city's criminal justice system.
NEWS
December 2, 2006 | By Joseph A. Gambardello INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
A judge dismissed charges yesterday against 11 antiwar grandmothers arrested in June for refusing to leave a Center City military recruiting station after trying to enlist to serve in Iraq. The women - including poet Sonia Sanchez and Lillian Willoughby, a 91-year-old wheelchair-bound Quaker from Deptford - faced up to 90 days in jail if convicted of defiant trespass. Municipal Court Judge Deborah Griffin dismissed the charge, saying the women were in a public place and did nothing except refuse a request to leave.
NEWS
March 10, 2004 | By Linda K. Harris INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Philadelphia Community Court, set up to quickly address quality-of-life crimes in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods, will expand to cover nearly one-third of the city, officials said yesterday. The court, on the second floor of 1401 Arch St., offers people a chance to do community service or enter drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs instead of serving jail time after their arrest for prostitution, drug possession, theft from auto, retail theft, and other misdemeanors or summary offenses.
NEWS
March 30, 2002
Philadelphia's new downtown Community Court makes it look so easy: Book 'em and put 'em on graffiti-scrubbing service. Or get them into drug treatment and counseling. So the court appears the perfect tool to deal with quality-of-life crimes in Center City - aggressive panhandling, shoplifting, vandalism, even prostitution. Opened only a few weeks ago at Broad and Arch Streets, the court's brief is to handle summons and arrest cases within 24 hours or less. On that schedule, it will whittle away the usual months-long delay between arrest and trial.
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