Alternative Spring Breaks

Restorative Justice Volunteers

Jim Moore on Restorative Justice and Ferguson

I did some research on restorative justice in SL and found that is moving along quite well here. I was trained in the method probably 8–10 years ago and actually served on a few panels before my consulting travel required me to resign this service…but I recommend it to all of you as an extraordinary type of volunteerism. Here’s the concept in brief: It is better for an offender and his victims if they can find a way to meet and discuss the impact of the crime on humans… put a human face on the criminal behavior. It’s akin to Jesus’s teaching: If you have sinned against your brother, go and seek pardon before your bring your sacrifice to the altar. Thus offenders are encouraged to submit to this process as one way to mitigate their sentence/punishment…)… kind of a confessional penance (of course, under supervision and a structured encounter with professional assistance. Now, of course, many victims are unable or unwilling to meet with the offender, so as an alternative and sometimes as a preliminary step, the offender meets with a panel of community members (volunteers). The crime is explained and the offender responds to some questions meant to help them express their thoughts and emotions. The community panel speaks to how they would feel if they have or had been victimized in a similar way…what impact it has /had on them, their views of the community, etc. Sometimes the panel is able to offer suggestions to the offender on how they can find a way to a better life. Sometimes this is in the context of the sentencing conditions, etc.

these are my impressions and memories from several years ago and the process may have evolved since then, so take it with a grain of salt. However, this process is most often used with youthful offenders in the hopes that it will help them realize the impact of their behavior and the communities willingness to forgive…. If there is a change of behavior(s). I have attached the google page which shows many local resources for Restorative Justice, including SLU at the top of the list… (most frequently used?). The woman Michael mentioned, Christi Griffin and her Ethics Project, is listed as a member of the Rest. Justice Collaborative, so she would be a good resource for us…and for vetting any of our project concepts.

I am not sure that the full Restorative Justice concept would make sense at the municipal court level… certainly not for traffic offenses, but perhaps for other municipal offenses like code violations, petty thievery, shop lifting, check bouncing, etc.

Police Use of Force Policy

Video of Tasered In The Back Tallahassee Grandmother

The taser shooting occurred at about 2 minutes 30 seconds into this video.

Is this act something that current “use of force doctrine” would allow in St. Louis?

Would be nice if we develop, over time, an “intelligence” arm that could check into the outcome of this incident, in Tallahassee.

Municipal Courts Dysfunction

“From serve and protect to roust and collect”(Cavato)

ArchCity Defenders on Muny Courts, Cavato Notes

• 1⁄2 of 60 courts reviewed were OK

• Three chronic offenders examined: Ferguson, Florissant, Bel Ridge

• “Disproportionately stopping, charging and fining the poor and minorities, by closing

the Courts to the public, and by incarcerating people for the failure to pay fines, these

policies unintentionally push the poor further into poverty, prevent the homeless
from accessing the housing, treatment, and jobs they so desperately need to regain
stability……and violate the Constitution”

• these practices create animosity in the community, contribute to the fractured nature of the St. Louis region, and cost the individual municipalities and the region financially

• Intend to follow this paper with another which proposes solutions to these issues and sets forth a strategy for implementing

• 81 municipalities have their own court and police force ??to enforce the municipal code

• it is crucial to amend a moving violation to a non-moving violation.8 If you have the money this works.

• if you do not have the ability to hire an attorney or pay fines, you are assessed points, your license risks suspension and you still owe the municipality money

• If you cannot pay the amount in full, you must appear in court ;If you miss court, a warrant will likely be issued for your arrest

• People who are arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in court to pay the fines frequently sit in jail for an extended period

• Many of these municipalities fail to provide lawyers for those who cannot afford counsel.

• As a result, defendants are incarcerated for their poverty.

• Municipal court judges are private part-time attorneys

• Individuals who are judges in one municipality may be the prosecutor or judge in another neighboring city

• Ferguson and Florissant, earned a combined net profit of $3.5million off of their
municipal courts in 2013.22 the amount collected through the municipal courts seems to be inversely proportional to the wealth of the municipality.

• for many of the poorest citizens of the region, the municipal courts and police
departments inflict a kind of low level harassment involving traffic stops, court
appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay

• current policies adopted by the municipal court system lead to the impression of the courts and municipalities as racist institutions that care much more about collecting money—generally from poor, black residents—than about dispensing justice.

• Of the 775 black drivers pulled over in Bel Ridge, 11 were searched and 32 were
arrested. Of the 249 non-black drivers pulled over, none were searched and none were

• impression of the municipal court as little more than a money-collection service

• Ferguson’s fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, a total of $2,635,400.

• In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.

• the average fine in a case resulting in a guilty verdict would be $275

• The Ferguson Municipal Court holds three sessions per month, meaning that a total of $318,300 was spent to fund 36 court sessions, or $8,841.67 per session.

• Florissant issued roughly one warrant for every six residents in the past year.
$695,201.32 was collected from warrants, representing about a quarter of the court’s total revenue of $3,000,000 ( the third largest source of revenue )

Next Steps

• we recommend that courts make a constitutionally required inquiry into a person’s
ability to pay assessed fines prior to incarcerating

• To avoid accusations of deprivation of equal protection and due process rights leading to the creation of a debtor’s prison in St. Louis county.

• ArchCity Defenders is working on a proposed rule requiring that fines be assessed in proportion to income

• ArchCity Defenders proposes the development of a comprehensive community service
plan to allow the indigent an alternative to fines.

• Finally, these violations could be handled in the associate state court of St. Louis County.

School & Training Interventions

Urban Agriculture/Aquaponics

STEAM skills, hands on collaborative pedagogy, ecological spirit

EarthDance Organic Farm School

Couple restorative justice alternatives to fines with “community service” involving
training in how to grow food for family and neighbors?

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on October 02, 2014

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