‘If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be’: Therapeutic court programs give people new hope

A unique court program has given people more time to make things right without having to do time.

“It gives people the chance to change their lives,” Maygen Hill said.

Hill knows the power Community Court can have. She needed a second chance when she was arrested for theft. She chose the therapeutic court system, instead of following the more traditional court system.

Every Monday for weeks, she has showed up to the downtown library branch where the Spokane Community Court Program is held. Each time she has proved to Judge Mary Logan that she’s staying out of trouble and completing her community service.

Logan said this court program still makes people atone for their wrongs. Every person who chooses to be part of it has been charged with low-level crimes, like vandalism or camping in the city. Instead of facing jail time, they’re creating community connections.

If it’s right for the case, Logan will assign them community service. They’ll also be directed to get help from resources that also visit the library Monday mornings.

“We’re trying to interrupt some negative patterns by infusing these positive patterns that are here,” Logan said.

Bad habits are broken by accountability and access to resources.

The court is celebrating the hard work of a man named Michael today. He’s graduating the program right now–about to put his name on the tree of success. What a cool moment to witness. Photo shows the judge signing his graduation papers. pic.twitter.com/U2oHhV83kU

— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) December 9, 2019

Logan credits organizations that partner with the program for recent successes.

For participants who work hard, it pays off. Tara Saler-Johnson graduated from the program two years ago. She said it took her two tries, but it was worth it.

Saler-Johnson said she has been sober for more than a year and now has her own place. Without the support of community court, it may not have happened when it did.

“Just like the talks that I would get coming here and encouragement, I just had to be willing to take that in,” Saler-Johnson said.

Both Hill and Saler-Johnson have reaped the benefits of this opportunity. On Monday, Hill graduated from the program. She hugged Judge Logan before writing her name on the ‘Tree of Success.’ She said her original charge was dropped, which isn’t just a relief, it clears the way for her to get her job back.

“The more programs we have like this…the better our town will be,” Hill said.

Washington State University released a study that evaluated the effectiveness of this program. Read that here.