ARIZONA NEWS

New Phoenix court helps those experiencing homelessness through the legal system

Jan 29, 2024, 4:25 AM | Updated: 7:05 am

PHOENIX — Court is now in session — the Phoenix Community Court that is.

It is a new path through the legal system where people experiencing homelessness who are facing low-level criminal charges can receive support instead of traditional punishment. The Community court is located inside the Phoenix Municipal Court Building in downtown Phoenix. Two judges preside over the court and it operates two days a week.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego spoke at a media event about how this specialty court will help people.

“Each story is unique, and the Community Court recognizes that and puts caring individuals together with a person experiencing homelessness to find solutions,” Gallego said.

Each person is assigned a city prosecutor who assesses whether someone is eligible for the program. It presents a unique dynamic where prosecutors and defense attorneys work together to create personalized plans.

David Ward, director of the public defender’s office spoke at a media availability after a tour of the Community Court.

“This is an opportunity to … get out of a life of crime, get out of a life of homelessness or where you’re marginally homeless and also take care of this case,” he said.

Services can include mental health treatment, workforce development programs and addiction assistance. Those who complete their individualized plan can have their charges dropped, lowered or suspended.

Phoenix District 1 Councilwoman Ann O’Brien clarified this does not mean that those going through the court get off scot-free. She said participants have a choice between getting the services they need or facing the standard consequences.

“Make no mistake one path is not easier than another. Participants going through the Community Court will be held responsible for their actions. If they do not progress through the steps at a reasonable pace, or if whatever time they choose to stop taking services, then they will return to the normal judicial process and be sentenced like everyone else,” O’Brien said.

The Community Court, public defender’s office and the service organization Community Bridges, Inc. are all located on the same floor to make the process as easy as possible and avoid potential pitfalls where participants simply give up.

“When people come to the court for their arraignment, they go to the second floor,” Ward said. “They’re told to go to the fourth floor just to get a public defender. We lose about between 2%-4% of those people who for whatever reason don’t make it two floors.”

He said that’s amplified for those who are homeless who may be told to come back in 30 days or 90 days.

“Now when we realize their eligible for Community Court, we walk them up to the fourth floor, we get them assigned to the public defender’s office, and then we immediately take them right next door to our suite where CBI will help them begin the process of getting them into services,” Ward said.

He said that provides fewer touchpoints and fewer chances to fail.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Andrew Ormsby, 22, was arrested on Wednesday, police said. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office photo)...

KTAR.com

Phoenix police arrest man accused of fatally shooting victim found in West Valley alley

Andrew Ormsby, 22, was arrested on Wednesday for his involvement in the shooting death of Roy Orozco, 24, Phoenix police said.

3 hours ago

Guests mill about at a previous Guild Indian Fair & Market on the grounds of the Heard Museum in Ph...

KTAR.com

Heard Museum in Phoenix holding 66th annual Guild Indian Fair & Market this weekend

The Heard Museum in Phoenix is holding its signature event this weekend, the 66th annual Guild Indian Fair & Market.

4 hours ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

6 hours ago

FILE - A group of migrants walk along the border in a remote part of the Arizona desert as they joi...

Associated Press

Bill in Arizona would punish migrants who enter country illegally

Republicans in Arizona are broadcasting a tough border stance with legislation aimed at punishing migrants who enter the United States illegally.

7 hours ago

Mugshot of Brandie Gotch, who faces multiple charges for an alleged rampage against children at a P...

Kevin Stone

West Valley mom accused of driving through park, injuring a child, while her kids were in truck

A woman was arrested Tuesday for allegedly driving her pickup truck through a West Valley park and hitting a child after she thought her kids were being bullied.

9 hours ago

Three former Arizona Department of Education employees are accused of obtaining funds from the stat...

KTAR.com

Former Arizona education employees accused of stealing money from ESA program

Three former Arizona Department of Education employees are accused of obtaining funds from the state's school voucher program for personal use, authorities announced Thursday.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

New Phoenix court helps those experiencing homelessness through the legal system