Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Homeless Veteran's Court proposed

[NEWS] The homeless may be overwhelmed by comparatively insignificant charges. An article by Amy Roe in the current issue of the homeless paper Real Change explains:

It doesn’t snow much in Seattle, but even in the heat of summer many of this city’s homeless are all too familiar with the snowball effect: A homeless person is fined for a misdemeanor offense, like urinating in public, but fails to pay it because he doesn’t have the money. Eventually the double-digit ticket becomes an outstanding warrant.

In 1989 San Diego set up a homeless court, bringing together legal services and social services. When people are in the program, they may be able to enter into plea agreements that give them credit for actions such as participating in substance abuse or anger management programs. Other cities have also tried these special courts, and now some advocates want to set one up in Seattle.

Yesterday a Seattle Veteran's Court forum was hosted by the Seattle Municipal Court, Columbia Legal Services, the Seattle City Attorney, and the Associated Counsel for the Accused. City of Seattle news release. The Seattle PI reports on the forum, and explains that focusing on veterans is "mainly just a way to start the program on a small scale." Tracy Johnson, Veterans Court May Be Created. Presiding Judge Fred Bonner of Seattle Municipal Court said: We're trying to marshal all the resources that exist to help them overcome the reasons that they live on the street."

Another advocate of the proposal (interviewed in the Real Change) is Columbia Legal Services attorney Ishbel Dickens. (By the way, she was president of the Student Bar Association when she was at the UW).

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