A recent study from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) found that graduates of the City of Eugene’s Community Court program were less likely to be arrested, convicted, or sent to jail than those who did not participate in the program. More than 500 people have participated in Eugene’s Community Court program since it began in 2016.
“By connecting people to services and providing restorative options for court involved individuals, Community Court has reduced costs to the entire community,” said Cheryl Stone, Court Administrator. “This independent study shows that alternative justice options are effective at reducing repeated offenses and reducing costs in the justice and health care systems. Working collaboratively with local providers, law enforcement, and justice system stakeholders helps make our community safer and better at meeting the needs of people in our community.”
The NCSC’s robust evaluation compared two groups of individuals who were cited to the Community Court program. One group included people who participated in Community Court, the comparison group did not participate in the program. These two groups were compared on new arrests, new convictions, and new incarcerations within one year of completing their respective programs.
Key findings of this study included:
- Community Court participants were less likely to be arrested within one year of the program compared to those who did not participate (38% to 66%).
- Only one in 5 (20%) Community Court participants were incarcerated within one year of completing the program compared to more than 2 in 5 (45%) in the comparison group.
- Community Court participants had far fewer arrests within one year of completing the program than the comparison group (an average of 0.4 arrests for Community Court versus 5.5 for comparison group).
- Based on the estimated reduced subsequent convictions, Community Court produces a return on investment to the justice system of approximately $190,000.
- Community Court participants have lower health care costs compared to other groups and use fewer of the highest cost services, such as in patient stays and emergency room visits.
The report’s findings and recommendations help highlight areas where the program is performing well and areas to improve. Based on findings from the report, Community Court will be updating its risk assessment tool to better assess program participants and creating an action plan and trainings focused on serving higher risk participants who oftentimes have chronic substance use and complex mental health challenges.
Community Court is funded by the Community Safety Payroll Tax. With this stable, ongoing funding, Community Court will be able to expand its programs to serve more areas and more people in Eugene.
Learn more about Community Court and see the complete report from NCSC.
- National Center for State Courts, founded in 1971, is a non-profit organization that promotes justice through leadership and service at the state and local levels. For over 40 years, NCSC has fulfilled its mission to improve the administration of justice through leadership and service to state courts. Chaired by the President of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ), NCSC’s Board of Directors consists primarily of state court representatives, including chief justices, state court administrators, and trial court leaders. NCSC’s multidisciplinary staff provides evaluation, education, and direct technical assistance to state and local courts and related programming. The NCSC Court Consulting Division advises state and local agencies on the full continuum of best practice services available for diversion, pretrial, problem-solving courts, and probation services. NCSC has a wealth of experience in analyzing data and providing recommendations based on the information. NCSC’s Court Consulting experts include practitioners and researchers with experience in court diversion and alternatives, pretrial services, probations services, evidence-based decision making, and all problem-solving court models.
- Community Court uses the problem-solving court model to address “nuisance” and quality-of-life cases and take a proactive approach to public safety. Eugene’s Community Court program began in 2016 with a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) grant through the Center for Court Innovation to implement a Community Court. Since that time more than 500 people have participated in the Community Court program. Individuals are eligible if their offense was committed within the designated geographic area, the offense is identified as an eligible offense, and they do not have any violence in their past criminal history. The program’s social services are also available to serve walk-in clients. Representatives of several local social service agencies work with the Community Court team onsite to problem-solve with community members in need of assistance and connect them with services that will address their needs and help them move out of the criminal justice system and toward an improved quality of life.
- During the pandemic Eugene Community Court continues to offer services to eligible participants, however walk in services have not been available due to COVID-19 safety protocols. The court has newly leased space which we hope to renovate and use for an expansion of geographic catchment area, expanded service offerings, and drop in services more than one day a week.