San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced this week that the neighborhood court initiative is expanding to evenings. The program, which Gascón launched in 2011, is an alternative to the traditional criminal justice process.
The Southern Neighborhood Court will hold its first night court at the Eucharist Church, 285 Main Street, from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, August 22.
“The success of Neighborhood Court can be attributed to the volunteer adjudicators who play a principle role in the safety and vitality of their neighborhoods,” said Gascón in a Tuesday, August 20 news release. “Due to an increase in cases, members of San Francisco’s communities requested expanded hours to increase participant and community participation. The expansion to night court ensures Neighborhood Court’s continued success.”
Gascón designed the neighborhood courts initiative to increase efficiency in case resolutions and reduce recidivism, among other goals. As part of the program, neighborhood prosecutors refer certain misdemeanors and infractions to neighborhood courts, where volunteer adjudicators hear the cases. Typical incidents include vandalism and other non-violent offenses.
Neighborhood court participants can have their cases heard within a couple of weeks, while the traditional court process can take several months. Through the neighborhood system, cases cost about $850 to resolve, compared to over $1,500 per case in the traditional process. Last year, $330,000 was saved, according to the DA’s office.
There are 10 neighborhood courts across the city. In 2012, prosecutors referred over 700 cases to the system.
For more information, visit www.sfdistrictattorney.org.