Thursday, August 23, 2012

Newark Community Solutions 101 – So . . . what exactly is Newark Community Solutions?

Newark Community Solutions uses the power of the justice system, positively and proactively, to help solve local problems.  NCS works with traditional justice system players, like judges and prosecutors and defense lawyers; and with outside stakeholders such as residents, shopowners, churches, and schools.  In addition, NCS tests new and preventive approaches to public safety rather than merely responding to crime after it has occurred.  Newark Community Solutions builds its community justice principles into the main Newark Municipal Court, serving the entire city of 285,000. 

Newark Community Solutions first assesses each defendant’s circumstances – drug problems, unemployment, education issues – and based on this assessment, recommends alternative sentence options to the court, so that the judge can mandate the offender to a sentence tailored to his or her risks and needs. 

NCS has created a wide range of social service and community service projects, partnering with a number of community-based agencies.  The idea (and hope) is that if community service or social services are easily available and closely supervised, judges, prosecutors, defenders and defendants will choose those alternative sentences instead of relying on fines or jail.  Very little is gained by sentencing offenders to fines they can’t pay, by locking them away for a few days or by ignoring the underlying social problems that contribute to their offending.  In fact, these typical sentence outcomes can sometimes make things worse.

With Newark Community Solutions, defendants perform community service to repair the harm they’ve caused, while also getting the help needed, through social services and counseling, to get them back onto a productive track.  And NCS wants to make sure defendants finish what they’ve started, so we’ve developed rules and procedures to make sure that offenders complete the sentence they’ve received and don’t end up in jail, picked up on a warrant for noncompliance.

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