Street Outreach Court marks first anniversary

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD) is hosting a "One-Year Anniversary Celebration" on Tuesday, June 25, at 2 p.m. at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, 1264 Meldrum in Detroit.

Wayne County 36th District Court Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller was one of the founders of the program and is proud of what it has accomplished.

"We lead folks to the resources, and we hope they'll drink and get their fill," she says. "Those who do, come out and do well. We've had zero recidivism so far, and that's a great record for a year."

SOCD Co-chair Mary Jones stresses that it took a commitment from many groups and individuals to make the effort succeed.

"We have a wonderful team on the coalition," she says. "It took us 14 months of working and planning and then we had to present it to the chief judge. He had to give us permission for his people to come offsite to a soup kitchen."

SOCD was created jointly by the 36th District Court and Detroit Action Commonwealth. It relies on the cooperative efforts of numerous public and private agencies and organizations. Government entities include the City of Detroit Law Department, the Wayne County Prosecutor, the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, and the City of Detroit Municipal Parking Department.

Some of the private participants include the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Neighborhood Legal Services of Michigan, St. Leo's Soup Kitchen, Street Democracy, Bodman PLC, and Robert J. McClellan PC.

"Homeless courts" as they are often called, have gained popularity around the country. They are intended to give homeless and nearly homeless people an opportunity to get out from under legal impediments in order to get back on their feet and have a fresh start.

Individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness have an opportunity to resolve many civil infractions and misdemeanors, including warrants. They are required to create and complete an "action plan" of measurable efforts to address the causes of their problems. These actions often include job training, education, such as a GED, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

Once the action plan is completed, judges and prosecutors review the participant's file to ensure that they are entitled to relief. A final hearing at a session of court held at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, where relief is granted, is the last step.

"The whole point of Street Outreach Court Detroit was to bring the court to the people," Jones says. "They don't feel the stigma or fear of arrest that they feel in the regular court. And it let's people know that the legal system cares about them."

To learn more about SOCD, visit http://socd.streetdemocracy.org/.

Published: Mon, Jun 24, 2013