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Criminals, community work together on successful mural project

Oct 22, 2010

From the article by Casey McNerthney: 

Talking Friday about criminals he was asked to work with on a community mural, Lake City resident Chuck Dickey recalled his first reaction.

"I didn't want them here."

Nearly two years ago, the city proposed sending the offenders to the neighborhood as part of the Community Court program. Officials say 50 repeat, non-violent offenders were part of the recent effort -- mostly people convicted of prostitution, theft and criminal trespass. The program gives misdemeanor offenders the chance to get social services and work on projects designed to pay back the community.

Their work changed the minds of people like Dickey.

The offenders spent the first and third Thursdays of each month working at the Lake City Community Center, which had another Community Court mural  completed a year ago. Judge Edsonya Charles, who called the mural a wonderful example of restorative justice, said the project saved $65,000 in jail costs.

Overall, CommunityCourt has provided 38,000 work hours and saved more than $2 million in jail costs.

When Community Court started five years ago, 228 defendants opted in. In 2009, the program had 1,024 who voluntarily participated. This year, the court was named one of three mentor courts in the country by the U.S. Justice Department.

Dickey praised program coordinator Stephanie Tschida, and told how the court participants would be smiling and carrying on by noon each work day. If they didn't want to paint, they pulled blackberry bushes or did other tasks. They weren't afraid to tackle anything, he said.

"This is the guy who bought paint and bought brushes and came with meals,"City Attorney Pete Holmes said of Dickey at the Friday dedication. Holmes said the effort was an inspiration, a model for partnership with the community, and one he would continue. 

Read the full article.


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