Look what a bunch of lawbreakers bought for you, San Francisco.
District Attorney George Gascón’s neighborhood courts system is putting the fines paid by people who commit low-level crimes in The City toward public safety projects.
Under Gascón, hundreds of small crimes that would have clogged up the misdemeanor court are being transferred to the recently installed neighborhood courts. These courts are 80 percent cheaper to run, Gascón said. Rather than spending taxpayer money on judges, attorneys, sheriff’s deputies and clerks to run them, the DA has volunteer residents, called “panelists,” meting out justice to offenders. The panelists live in the districts where an offense takes place.
The offenders have an incentive to choose neighborhood court over misdemeanor court. While they have to admit to their crime, the offense won’t go on their record unless they re-offend within a year. Their punishments range from apology letters to community service hours or courses aimed at curbing criminal behavior. They also have to pay a fine that goes directly into the Neighborhood Justice Fund.
This year, $35,000 was raised for that fund. On Thursday, 11 nonprofits around The City were awarded a portion of those funds to implement a project or program aimed at making communities safer and more livable. The projects have to be completed between March 1 and Dec. 31.
Projects funded by lawbreakers
- A community garden; Quesada Gardens Initiative
- Movie nights in community parks; Visitacion Valley Business Improvement Group
- Crime prevention education in the Maya community; Asociacion Mayab
- Funding for Sunday Streets events; Livable City
- Farmers market in Fern Alley; Lower Polk Neighbors
- Youth development program in Western Addition; Collective Impact
- Elderly scams outreach; Self Help for the Elderly
- Youth recreation; United Playaz, SoMa
- Stage a play educating teens on domestic violence; Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
- Build security gate; Vietnamese Youth Development Center
- Creation of multilingual public safety document for LGBT seniors; LGBT Aging Policy Task Force