Tag Archives: legal

Community Court

 

IMG_0179I was walking in downtown Spokane on my way to the library headed to Community Court. It is where all the cool kids hang out on Mondays mid-morning to early afternoon. Why do we hang out there, you may ask. Because we care about our community, because we want to help people, we want to make an impact.

Who are these cool kids and what do they do at the downtown library? We are a ragtag group of community organizations that collaborates with the courts to get disadvantaged (and usually impoverished) people the services they need.

Community Court is open to everyone but many start through the courts, as low level, non-violent offenders that would otherwise be jailed for minor offences that are often related their homelessness, drug or alcohol dependency or mental illness. Putting them in jail for minor offenses is expensive for the city and doesn’t help these folks. So the prosecutors, public defenders and the judge collaborate with community organizations to get them services instead.

There are a variety of organizations there to help people get signed up for mental health services, housing, public benefits and oh so much more. I go to represent the Center for Justice and to help people sign up for Medicaid or Washington Apple Health as it’s known in these parts.

Back to my story. I continued my stroll through downtown. IMG_0166The sun was shining, the air was crisp and not many people were out. I always enjoy the walk when the weather is nice. It’s only about a half a mile from my office and the stretch runs along beautiful Riverfront Park with its artwork, fountain and the river running right through the middle of it.

As I got close to crossing the street near the library, a bicyclist sped by and made eye contact. I gave a little nod and he nodded back. He was long and lean and a stocking cap covered much of his head but I could make out some short dreads underneath. He was holding a large piece of cardboard in one hand as he raced by.

I got to the library and settled in at my table with all the other service providers. Said my hellos to friends and set up my computer and my vast array of pamphlets. It got busy.

The tall cyclist came wandering in and sat at my table. He introduced himself. He had the name of a little town in California not too far from where I used to live in my youth. Hearing it brought a smile to my face.

He was soft spoken and polite. He looked like a guy who had just fallen on hard times and was trying to get himself back on track. I signed him up for healthcare without a hitch. He thanked me and left my table. I distractedly went on about my work and finished up for the day.

As I was walking out in a slew of others leaving, he came running up to me from behind. He was out of breath as he handed me the folded piece of cardboard. I opened it up and thanked him. He was gone in a flash. This is what he left behind. I think sharing his artwork was his way of extending a little gratitude for the help I had given him.

 

Comm Court pic

click the links below for more about community court

http://www.inlander.com/spokane/a-new-approach/Content?oid=2243257

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2016/apr/19/spokanes-community-court-gets-200000-boost/

http://www.spokanelibrary.org/community-court/

Fair Chance Hiring

By Julie Schaffer

March 2016

“Fair Chance Hiring,” also known as “Ban the Box,” is finally getting some much deserved airtime in Spokane. This is welcome news to the 1 in 4 individuals who have a criminal record and who desperately want to tell potential employers why they are the best pick for the job, an opportunity many of them do not get because of the box on the application that asks about criminal history.  Research shows that people who check the box rarely move forward in the hiring process, regardless of whether or not they qualify for the job, how long ago their conviction was, what it was for, or what they’ve done since that time.  To prevent this arbitrary rejection, and to ensure that employers are not missing out on undiscovered talent, 21 states and over 100 jurisdictions have mandated that employers delay asking about criminal history until later in the hiring process – ideally until after the applicant pool has been narrowed based on qualifications and after face-to-face interviews.  Under such policies, employers can still do background checks, they can still ask applicants about their criminal history, and they can still hire the best fit for the job.

Most policies apply to public employers (like City of Spokane’s current policy), but more and more jurisdictions are mandating that private employers comply as well. Why?  Because it’s the right thing to do (we used to allow businesses to disqualify people of color and women), it increases public safety by dramatically reducing the chance that someone will commit another crime, reduces reliance on public benefits, increases the tax base and helps the local economy, ensures that employers aren’t missing out on highly qualified employees, reduces costs related to incarceration, reduces racial disparity in hiring (people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and therefore suffer more from “the box,” and it allows people who have served their time to return to our community and help us make it thrive.

We are pleased that our city councilmembers are currently exploring whether to require private employers in Spokane to delay background checks until after the initial application stage, something the City has been doing (without incident) for the past year. City Council hosted a Fair Chance Hiring Forum on March 8 to educate themselves and the community more about this issue.  Councilmembers Stuckart and Beggs organized the forum, along with Smart Justice Spokane member orgs CFJ, PJALs and I Did the Time.  District Court Judge Richard Leland graciously moderated with humor and a genuine interest in how this relates to the cycle of crime he sees every day on the bench.  Approximately 100 people showed up (during the Gonzaga WCC championship game!), and it played live on City Cable 5 (Forum Video).  A WSU PhD student presented research showing that employment dramatically reduces crime, CFJ presented the common elements of fair chance hiring laws, and formerly incarcerated individuals courageously shared their personal stories of healing, change, education, and then heartbreaking rejection by ‘the box.”  The evening ended with a diverse panel of business people who have voluntarily removed the box with great results, the City’s Chief Civil Service Examiner who is implementing the City’s Fair Chance Hiring policy, GSI’s new CEO Todd Mielke, and the leader of I Did the Time Layne Pavey.  The discussion was rich and honest, and I believe it demonstrated that there is enough common ground and shared love for this community to create fair hiring in Spokane.

To learn more, visit www.nelp.org/campaign/ensuring-fair-chance-to-work, and watch the Forum Video.  And please spread the word and tell council members what you think (their emails are below).  Our leaders need to hear that the people in this community support Fair Chance Hiring!

Ben Stuckart bstuckart@spokanecity.org

Amber Waldref awaldref@spokanecity.org

Mike Fagan  mfagan@spokanecity.org

Candace Mumm cmumm@spokanecity.org

Karen Stratton   kstratton@spokanecity.org

Lori Kinnear   lkinnear@spokanecity.org

Breean Beggs   bbeggs@spokanecity.org

Partnership Supports Health of Poor

Barry Pfundt, Barry Pfundt, attorney for the Center for Justice.

SPOKANE, Washington – Unmet legal problems adversely impact the health of approximately 1 in 6 Americans, most especially the poor, according to National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. A 2012 Spokane Regional Health District study demonstrated how Spokane’s poor have significantly reduced life expectancy. On Jan. 12, a new six-member community collaborative began providing free in-clinic legal services to address the legal needs compromising the health of low-income individuals in our community.

The partners include the Gonzaga University School of Law’s Center for Law and Justice, Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation, Washington State University Spokane, the Center for Justice, and faculty and residents at the Providence Residency Clinics. This one-year pilot program – funded by Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation, and WSU Spokane – will involve law students and medical residents working together to identify clients with health-compromising legal needs and use a team approach to address them. Faculty from GU Law and Providence Residency Clinics will supervise the students. The plan calls for 12 GU law students to work with 51 medical residents.

The students will work together to address issues such as safe housing – including unlawful evictions and landlord-tenant issues – and income maintenance concerns, such as obtaining and maintaining disability benefits. The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership identified these concerns as among the most frequent challenges not being addressed. The partners’ first-year goal is to provide assistance to at least 100 clients with medical-legal concerns.

“If a child is getting sick because he lives in substandard housing, you could give him an inhaler to treat the asthma or you could help move him to a safe house where he isn’t being exposed to mold or other hazards,” explained Center for Justice Attorney Barry Pfundt, who will be supervising the new legal clinic. “We are not just treating symptoms, we are eliminating the root cause of the illness. And that’s something a doctor can’t always do by herself.”

In 2013, Pfundt helped launch the Center for Justice’s Health & Justice Initiative to increase collaboration between health care and legal service providers for the benefit of the community.

While serving patients is the core purpose of the new Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Clinic, it will also provide unique opportunities for medical residents and law students. For law students, clinical programs provide an opportunity to work directly with clients, manage caseloads, and hone skills necessary as they begin a professional career. For medical residents, the program creates an opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary care setting that prepares them for the future. Studies have shown that the MLP model can improve health care job satisfaction by enabling health care providers to be more involved in discovering and addressing the root causes of poor health.

“The Medical-Legal Partnership gives WSU Spokane’s health sciences campus additional opportunities to invest in this community and to work, in a unique way, to improve health care in our city,” said Lisa Brown, chancellor of WSU Spokane.

“Spokane is a regional center for health services, and we also have some of our state’s highest rates of poverty,” said Pfundt. “The MLP addresses both of these facts – continuing our region’s leadership and innovation in health care, while addressing the health harming legal problems of those in need.”

Gonzaga University School of Law Center for Law and Justice

Established in 1974 as one of the first law school legal services clinics in the nation, the GU Law Center for Law and Justice is staffed by GU Law students and faculty that provide legal assistance to low-income, elderly, and nonprofit community members while providing law students with practical career training. On the web: www.law.gonzaga.edu.

Providence Health Care

In Eastern Washington, the Providence Health Care regional network consists of 11 health care organizations working together to provide quality health and human services for Inland Northwest residents. Providence Health Care is a part of the not-for-profit, faith based Providence Health & Services organization. On the web: www.phc.org.

Empire Health Foundation

An independent, nonprofit grant-making foundation that serves seven counties in Eastern Washington, Empire Health Foundation focuses on health access, education, research, and public policy. The Foundation is the largest private health foundation in the region. On the web: www.empirehealthfoundation.org

Washington State University, Spokane

Washington State University Spokane is WSU’s urban health sciences campus. Located in the heart of the University District near downtown Spokane, WSU Spokane prepares the state’s future generations of health professionals, and houses world-class research that leads to healthier people and communities. On the web: http://spokane.wsu.edu.

Center for Justice

The Center is a legal advocacy organization that helps thousands of local people with basic needs such as getting a driver’s license back or dealing with landlord abuses. The Center’s programs work to overcome barriers to employment, assist with getting families back on their feet, and keep governments accountable to those they are meant to serve. On the web: www.cforjustice.org.

For more information, contact Andrea Parrish, communications specialist at GU Law, at (509) 313-3771 or via email: aparrish@lawschool.gonzaga.edu.

Posted on January 8, 2015 on Gonzaga News online.