Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Meeting tonight on expanding neighborhood courts

District Attorney George Gascón and Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan

San Francisco District Attorney George  Gascón will meet with community members tonight (Wednesday, August 31) to talk about the expanding neighborhood courts program.

The meeting, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Park Branch Library, 1833 Page Street, will include information on how the courts work and how people can become neighborhood court adjudicators.

Through the program, an assistant district attorney is assigned to a local police station to immediately pre-screen eligible people and swiftly determine whether their offenses are suitable for the neighborhood courts.

Under the supervision of the DA’s office, local residents are trained in restorative justice to adjudicate matters, instead of having cases charged and heard in criminal courts.  The adjudicators include merchants, homeowners, retirees, and students.

Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan, the out lesbian who’s been the lead prosecutor in the neighborhood court program, will join Gascón at tonight’s meeting. The program launched in May in the Mission district, which includes the Castro neighborhood, and the Bayview.

Prozan said the courts are expanding into the Northern and Park police stations, so she’ll start overseeing those courts. Tinnetta Thompson will be taking over the Mission and Bayview courts, at least temporarily.

In interviews with the Bay Area Reporter, DA candidates David Onek and Bill Fazio, who are running against Gascón, have been dismissive of the neighborhood court program.

Onek said all he’s seen of the program are press releases, and Fazio said there’s  no difference between the new program and the community courts the city already has.

But Prozan said the neighborhood program does make a difference.

The courts are “really giving neighbors in the community a voice in how cases are resolved … and that’s how it should be for the lower level cases,” she said.

Cases such as petty theft can typically take up to nine months to resolve. But in the neighborhood courts, resolutions have been reached in an average of 12 days, she said.

About 150 cases have come through the courts so far, and the success rate’s been approximately 75 percent, Prozan said. She said a case is considered successful when the offender fulfills panelists’ directives.

Prozan said that in the Mission, there have been “a lot of prostitutes and johns,” while drinking in public has been typical in the Bayview. There have also been some battery cases where injuries haven’t been significant, she said.

As the program expands, Prozan will be handling matters from diverse parts of the city.

The Northern Police Station oversees the Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Polk Gulch, Civic Center, Marina, and Japantown neighborhoods. Park Police Station includes the Haight and Golden Gate Park areas, and part of the Castro.

The program model, which Gascón hopes will eventually be adopted and employed citywide, is a partnership between the DA’s office, California Community Dispute Services, and Pre-trial Diversion.

Gascón was San Francisco’s police chief when former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him DA in January. Gascón is running against four others in November to hold on to the job.

Fazio has been a prosecutor and a defense attorney,  and Onek is a criminal justice expert and former San Francisco Police Commissioner.

The other candidates are Sharmin Bock, an assistant district attorney for Alameda County; and Vu Vuong Trinh, a former deputy public defender.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 31, 2011 @ 5:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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