Newberg unveils community court
In order to provide non-criminal resolutions for issues facing the community, the city of Newberg has launched a community court that will provide assistance to low-level offenders who need access to resources for housing, mental health, addiction or other nonprofit resources.
The court is a partnership between the city, its municipal court, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and local nonprofit entities.
"In line with the Newberg City Council's goal to improve customer service and improve access to equitable resources, the new program aims to improve the quality of life of participants as well as the residents of Newberg," a release from the city said. "Participants who successfully complete the program will have their criminal charge dismissed and outstanding fines reduced or waived. Individuals will only be eligible if their offense was non-violent, committed within the city of Newberg, and they do not have a violent criminal history."
Participants in the court must undergo an assessment and will be provided an individualized plan to link them up with local resources best fitting their needs. Providers can assist individuals with issues of drug and alcohol dependency, healthcare, mental health, food and more.
Other services connected to the program include those for veterans, as well as education, gaining proper identification, and transportation.
This system has proven successful in communities like Eugene and Sweet Home, the release added. Municipal Court Judge Larry Blake played a key role in the success of the Sweet Home project.
"I believe the citizens of Newberg would be better served by providing services to some individuals appearing before the court rather than pursuing criminal sanctions," Blake said in the release. "Individuals with mental health issues, drug and alcohol issues, and housing issues will appear in Community Court and have providers in court to assist them in accessing services that will serve them in the future. The goal of Community Court is to dismiss minor criminal charges and waive fees and fines for individuals that are struggling to survive in today's environment."
The program's partners include Love Inc., Helping Hands, Yamhill County Health & Human Services, Yamhill Community Action Partnership (YCAP), Blanchet House, 5Rock Ranch, Providence Hospital, George Fox University Behavioral Health Center, Lutheran Community Service NW, Powerhouse, Veterans Services, Virginia Garcia, FISH, Yamhill County Transit, Provoking Hope, and Portland Community College Newberg Campus.
Mayor Rick Rogers and city councilor Elise Yarnell Hollamon have been outspoken supporters of the program. Rogers added his perspective in the city's press release:
"Newberg Community Court is an exciting way to direct people to some of the services they most need. We feel this diversion from the criminal justice system will be a win for the residents, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, the court and the community. We are particularly pleased that Municipal Court Judge Larry Blake and staff have initiated the effort, that Interim Police Chief Jeff Kosmicki and his department have embraced the concept, and our vast array of social service providers have signed on to offer their services."
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