The Aberdeen Community Court marked its second successful year last late month. A press release from the City’s problem-solving therapeutic court, implemented on February 27, 2017 to reduce crime, recidivism and jail costs, said that over 120 defendants have entered Community Court, all with individualized action plans to address the root causes of their criminal behavior, and 87 participants have graduated. In the 10 years prior to Community Court graduation, the graduates had a total of 381 convictions and community court charges. Since graduation, there have been only 8 new convictions by 6 graduates. This demonstrates that the Community Court program currently reduces recidivism by 90 percent and significantly reduces victimization costs and jail costs. Furthermore, the diversion of these cases to Community Court has saved the City $59,750 in public defender costs. Savings to the City in jail costs and public defender costs alone total over $100,000.
In addition to the considerable cost savings described above and the community benefits that arise from citizens engaged in law-abiding behavior, participants are actively giving back to the City. All participants are required to perform community service or pay the monetary equivalent. To date, participants have performed a total of over 800 community service hours, valued at over $10,000.
Moving forward, we intend to continue to grow the program in its current form. Our biggest challenge is offering the program to the large number of defendants who need our services. Due to this high demand, a second caseworker was added in 2018. It is the intensive case management provided by these caseworkers, along with regular court reviews, which optimizes success for the participants. The lead Judicial Coordinator is Joey Bannish of Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) and is funded by Great Rivers Behavioral Health Organization. In 2018, the position was also supported by a grant from the Grays Harbor Community Foundation.
Aberdeen Community Court is supported by a variety of local social service agencies which gather weekly at the Services Entry Event to offer participants, and any community member who attends, a wide array of services to address hunger, homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, substance use, and other needs. The Services Entry Event is held on Thursdays from 1:30-3:00 at the CCAP building.
Community Court is held on Mondays at 2:30 at the Aberdeen Courthouse.