Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $600,000)
The City of Paterson, New Jersey requests a $600,000 Planning and Implementation grant through the BJA FY 2022 Community Court Initiative grant program to establish and operate a community court program within the Paterson Municipal Court. Paterson is the third-largest city in New Jersey, home to nearly 160,000 residents. Approximately one in four residents live in poverty, and all are impacted by blighted neighborhoods, violent crime, street-level narcotics distribution and use, open-air drug markets, gang activity, crumbling infrastructure, and a host of additional socioeconomic challenges that influence quality of life. In line with other efforts to utilize rehabilitative approaches to quality-of-life issues in Paterson, the City seeks to introduce a community court program, serving residents and other offenders citywide who have been charged with low-level, non-violent crimes may receive alternative sanctions tailored to their individual needs, whether that be mental and primary health care, health education, job training and placement, substance abuse treatment, community services, or benefits/housing assistance. The City plans to utilize a hybrid approach to connecting defendants to substance abuse treatment and other social services by hiring dedicated, in-house case managers who can provide direct support as well as referrals to contracting community-based organizations and treatment providers. During the six-month planning phase, our project team will review a formal needs assessment and feasibility study conducted by the Center for Court Innovation to inform final project design. Further, we will assemble a diverse Community Advisory Board (CAB) to uplift the voices of residents and ensure the community court is accountable to those who are impacted by crime in our jurisdiction. In the long-term, we expect to see improved health, educational, safety, and employment outcomes in our community as a result of this program and reduced recidivism rates for low-level, non-violent offenses. Based on preliminary data review and discussion with existing community court programs in New Jersey, we anticipate serving 125 defendants per quarter for a total of 1,750 throughout the implementation phase of this grant. The City will conduct a more in-depth data review during our planning phase, with consideration of factors such as exclusions for individuals with prior criminal history and domestic violence charges, to determine our final target number of individuals to be served. Regarding priority consideration, the City of Paterson’s community court will support Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. See page 2 of the attached Proposal Narrative for our justification for seeking such priority consideration.