Right now, if someone is sleeping on an Oak Cliff street, publicly urinating, in possession of drug paraphernalia, dumping illegally, violating codes, or committing other non-violent, "quality of life" crimes, he is cited and fined. People who commit such crimes often don't have money to pay fines, so they opt to serve jail time instead. Then they end up back on the streets, committing the same offenses.
Community leaders are hoping to break these types of cycles through the West Dallas Community Court, which celebrated its grand opening today. The new court — the second community court in the city (the first is in South Dallas) — is housed in the West Dallas Community Center at Hampton and SIngleton. After being cited, offenders from the city's southwest sector have seven days to appear in community court. If they enter a plea of guilty or no contest (most do, the court's social services coordinator Sarah Pahl told me), then Judge Daniel Solis will asses a punishment to fit the crime — some sort of community service activity in the neighborhood in which the defendant committed the offense.