The Arizona Judicial Branch Awards Committee recognizes all 2017 Strategic Agenda Awards nominations. Please see below to learn about the efforts and current innovative projects going on in the Arizona courts and start planning your nominations for next year.
Dependency Alternative Program (DAP)
Pima County created a unified case management approach to prevent dependency actions when an alternative legal arrangement can provide safety and stability for the children and family. It protects children while safely diverting cases from dependency. A collaboration led to accelerated access by parents or families to legal alternatives such as Title 14 minor guardianship, in loco parentis orders, and establishment or modification of parenting-time orders. Families will have an opportunity to make informed decisions, have input on what is in the best interest of the child, and to communicate and reach consensus on the child’s safety needs. The major goal is to keep these families out of the dependency system for at least one year.
AzCourtHelp.org is a virtual resource center that was developed to address the growing number of self-represented litigants throughout Arizona’s rural counties by connecting Arizona court users and prospective litigants to a virtual court resource center. The website contains one-on-one services such as, speaking live with a law librarian about court procedures, or locating the right courthouse for court matters, as well as access to various legal forms complete with instructions on how to fill them out and where to file them. The website is available in over 40 languages. The technology provides even more one-on-one education to the public through the use of 'Legal Talks,' which are legal aid webinars that take place in the Coconino County Law Library and is guided by volunteer professionals that include private and legal aid attorneys, law librarians, and mediators.
Yuma County Fine Reduction Program
In the spring of 2017, those with unpaid or balance-due traffic tickets from Yuma County's seven municipal and justice courts had a one-time opportunity to close their case(s) through a limited-duration fine reduction program. The Fine Reduction Program (FRP) offered a 50% reduction in fines, penalties, and surcharges in eligible delinquent civil traffic cases during the program's limited duration. Defendants could choose to pay the reduced amount in full or request a payment plan. During this time, 820 cases entered the program. Of those cases, 560 had their reduced balance paid in full and 260 cases were placed on payment plans.
Maricopa County Justice Courts Video Appearance Center (VAC)
In June 2016, the Maricopa County Justice Courts opened a Video Appearance Center (VAC) in the East Courts building. Maricopa County JPs are seeing inmates faster than ever, vastly reducing the need to transport prisoners from the jails to courthouses as far out as Gilbert or Gila Bend. Approximately 6,000 in-custody appearances occur in the Maricopa County Justice Courts each year. While some arraignments had previously been conducted remotely, logistics and subsequent transports to the 26 justice courts spread across the county posed challenges that precluded expeditious resolution of criminal matters for in-custody individuals. The VAC now provides courts with daily access to in-custody defendants. The result has been a 53% reduction in pre-trial confinement time, virtual elimination of prisoner transport, reduced security and liability risks, and significant cost avoidance.
Night Warrant Resolution Court
Night Warrant Resolution Court is part of Pima County’s Consolidated Justice Court’s plan to execute recommendations from the Justice for All report by expanding access to justice for people with work or personal obligations during normal court operating hours. A judge presides over monthly sessions during which the court is open until 7:00 pm. Individuals can resolve outstanding warrants or other pending matters, and customer service window clerks are available during evening hours. They assist with payment plans, extensions, and other common civil traffic issues. A civil traffic hearing officer is also available for more complex matters.
The Court Assisted Recovery (CARe) Court works to encourage and assist misdemeanor offenders to participate in a treatment plan and to champion their own recovery. As an incentive, offenders who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed. The court is structured to address the challenges and opportunities of the local community. Offenders are placed in appropriate treatment programs based upon individualized assessments. Only persons with serious problems are referred to CARe. Most have been before the court many times and in the past jail was the inevitable outcome. The program coordinator estimates that approximately 45 days of incarceration is avoided for every successful participant.
The Nursery Rhymes Video
This project was born out of a song that was written by Scott Mabery, the Director of Juvenile Court Services for Yavapai County. After the kids in the Yavapai County Juvenile Justice Center sang the song in a music therapy session with Scott, staff members of the Juvenile Justice Center felt that it could be used to raise awareness about human trafficking. The video was produced through the efforts of local professional musicians and film makers who were compelled by the cause. To date, the video is being used by agencies nationwide. The Nursery Rhymes video was selected as a featured music video in the 2016 Jerome lndie Film; was used as a preview to the human trafficking feature film, "Sold", in the Sedona Film Festival; and has been named an Official Selection by the GO Independent International Film Festival in Washington DC in September, 2016. Click this link to access video.
Girl's Day Out
Girl's Day Out brought together girls from around Mohave County to participate in the 3rd annual Girl's Day Out. The theme, "Dream, Believe, and Succeed" provided an uplifting message on overcoming childhood obstacles. Participants detailed their own troubled home life. Arizona Youth Partnership (AZYP) presented a Dove Self-Esteem Program to help the girls gain insight into how others see them. Girl's Day Out was designed to provide a safe environment for girls in the juvenile justice system to learn and explore topics specific to females. In addition, the girls are provided snacks, lunch, t-shirt and a gift bag with donated items. This past year, Legacy Foundation donated tennis shoes for each girl as well as bottled water and cookies. AZYP provided numerous items for the bags ranging from Chap Stick and sunscreen to promotional novelty items. The girls who attend not only gained valuable information, but are provided real life examples of others overcoming dysfunctional childhoods and negative life choices.
Dale Herren and Terra Sears
In 2016, Deputy Probation Officers Dale Herren and Terra Sears were selected as new members of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), Fellows Network based on the approval of their Capstone Project. Mohave County's Capstone Project, titled Diversions, is focused on diverting youth from the formal court process. It focuses on improving outcomes for youth by updating the current diversion program using evidence-based practices and educating community partners on the purpose, process and value of a diversion program in the community. The Center works to focus the nation's juvenile justice and related systems of care on the key principles embodied in an evidence-based juvenile justice reform agenda and identify and highlight the research on policies and practices that work best to reduce delinquency and achieve better outcomes for the nation's children.
Coconino County Juvenile Court Services
During the past 10 years Coconino County Juvenile Court Services has been working diligently to build youths' prosocial skills while empowering their parents to take more effective parenting actions. This is accomplished through utilization of the Step Up Juvenile Justice Model. A core belief and strategy is to positively engage and involve Youth and their parents by two major goals: developing the youths' Prosocial Life Success Skills, Motivations, & Beliefs and empowering parents to take effective parenting actions to aid in the success of the child.
Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department
The adoption of TechCare, along with adolescent informed practices supports the long term direct protection of children, and indirect protection of families and communities. The Department's strategic vision incorporates the adoption of evidence-based practices, and the implementation of programs and services demonstrated to improve youth outcomes. Additionally, data is used to evaluate system performance and guide system improvements. This philosophy is evidenced in its practices around the health care of detained youth. The Maricopa juvenile detention facilities provide health services which conform to professional position statements, like the American Academy of Family Physicians by focusing on collaboration between the community and detention health services, and provide linkages to mental health support.
Child Support Arrest Warrant Workshop
In 2015, the courts, along with the Attorney General's Office, community partners, and various court stakeholders addressed the outstanding child support arrest warrants within Maricopa County and resulted in the Child Support Arrest Warrant Workshop (CSAW), a collaborative effort to encourage parents to re-engage in fulfilling their support orders. Their first step would be to make one full month’s child support payment and participate in the department's Support Enforcement Courts. In exchange, the Court would quash their existing child support warrant. In addition, community providers would be on-site at the event to provide resume building, career placement, parenting skills, and other services to help parents reconnect with their children. With the success of this project, the Family Department will continue to provide this workshop every August to promote Child Support Awareness Month.
Tucson City Court Facility and Security Improvements
The Tucson City Courthouse was originally designed as an office building over sixty years ago. It was modified in the 90’s for use as the Tucson City Court. In 2014, the City Court was provided funding for building improvements; the focus of these improvements was to extend the life of the building for 10 to 15 years, improve functionality, address life/safety issues and improve security. The building improvement project was scheduled over three years; one year for assessment and design and two years for demolition and construction. Life/safety was the priority, followed by security issues. Renovations were made to the security screening station to improve public access and eliminate waiting lines outside the building that often extended down the sidewalk, exceeding the length of the building. Prisoner circulation flow is now restricted to the first floor in an area segregated from the public. This was accomplished by creating a transport courtroom that allows prisoners to be brought into the courtroom directly from the holding cells without intermixing with staff or the public.
Defensive Driving School Online Payment Portal
The Pima County Consolidated Justice Court (PCCJC) launched an online payment portal for defensive driving schools in May 2017. Defensive driving schools can now login on a secure website and make payments to the Court for defendants that have successfully completed their class. This option removes the need for defensive driving schools to send a paper check and removes the need for a payment clerk to process the payment. Once logged in, the defensive driving school can easily identify which cases are pending payments by using their school identification number. The online payment transaction is immediate compared to the lengthy process of mailing paper checks. Typically, the only pending item keeping a case from closing is the payment from the defensive driving school. Cases are being closed much faster when the payment portal is utilized by defensive driving schools. When PCCJC achieves full participation from all defensive driving schools, over 9,000 payments per year will be made online.
Glendale City Court
Glendale City Court deployed a digital check in system that allows for a more efficient court experience for all involved. Litigants enter the courtroom and search for their name on a touchscreen display. During this process, they can also request an interpreter for any language. Once checked in they will receive instructions. The litigant's name will display on a large digital screen in the courtroom for the judge, clerks, prosecutors, attorneys and public defenders to view, which allows for better order and communication for the entire courtroom. After the litigant checks into the system, the back-end of the check in system begins with the Record Room. Another feature in the back-end is if the litigant updated their address or phone number in the digital check in process, the system notifies the changes to the Record Room Clerk. Having accurate phone numbers for defendants also aids the digital notification system to call and text defendants of upcoming court dates, missed court dates, upcoming fine payment dates and missed payments.
City of Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program
In 2015, the US Department of Justice released a report on the Ferguson Police Department that became a catalyst for courts to examine their collection and enforcement actions. The Phoenix Municipal Court responded by developing a program that helps residents with qualifying cases to make affordable payments, reduce outstanding collection fees, and potentially restore their driving privileges. The Compliance Assistance Program (CAP) allows people with delinquent balances on civil traffic and parking charges to make a down payment and begin monthly installments based on their specific financial situation— without having to see a judge. After entering a payment program, Arizona MVD is notified that the person is in compliance with their unpaid civil traffic fines and fees. The resident can then contact MVD to pursue reinstatement of driving privileges. An ASU study revealed increased mobility to care for family, increased job opportunities as a result of license reinstatement, and estimated an overall increase in GDP of $149.6 million.
Maricopa County Justice Courts Video Appearance Center
In June 2016, the Maricopa County Justice Courts opened Video Appearance Center (VAC) in the East Courts building. Maricopa County JPs are seeing inmates faster than ever, vastly reducing the need to transport prisoners from the jails to courthouses as far out as Gilbert or Gila Bend. Approximately 6,000 in-custody appearances occur in the Maricopa County Justice Courts each year. While some arraignments had previously been conducted remotely, logistics and subsequent transports to the 26 justice courts spread across the county posed challenges that precluded expeditious resolution of criminal matters for in-custody individuals. The VAC now provides courts with daily access to in-custody defendants. The result has been a 53% reduction in pre-trial confinement time, virtual elimination of prisoner transport, reduced security and liability risks, and significant cost avoidance.
Maricopa County Superior Court enhanced its case management system with eSentencing for adult probation and the Criminal Bench by eliminating numerous redundant business processes. With a click of a button, a request for a pre-sentence report (PSR) is sent through an electronic work queue. As part of the PSR work queue, the probation officer makes recommendations regarding probation terms and conditions or incarceration in the eSentencing application. This eliminated thousands of hand written paper forms such as terms and conditions of probation, fines, fees and restitution ledgers, Orders of Confinement and bond exoneration forms. Once the probation officer has completed and submitted the PSR, it is electronically delivered real time to the Judge and Attorneys so all parties have simultaneous access to the PSR report. Adult Probation also receives the signed orders real time and this has significantly reduced the time it takes to collect sentencing data and create services for probationers who have been ordered to complete probation terms.
Surprise City Court Explorers Program
The Surprise City Court, in coordination with the City Manager's Office, partnered local area schools to offer youth an opportunity to participate in a unique interactive worksite-based career education exploring program, with a focus on the field of Law and Government. The Surprise City Court Explorers Inaugural Program year commenced in November 2015 with a curriculum adapted to provide structured real-world experiences to help young people develop into mature, responsible and productive members of their community while expanding their knowledge and understanding of the judicial system. Surprise City Court Explorer goals are to: Gain practical experience in career interests, engage in program activities developed to increase awareness and participation in the justice system, experience positive leadership from adult and youth leaders and could take on leadership roles, and have a chance to learn and grow in a supportive, caring, and fun environment. After the Program concludes, the Explorers nominate one of their peers to speak before the Surprise City Council to highlight what they have learned about the judicial system because of their participation in this program.
Community Advisory Boards in Mohave County
Mohave County created CABs to represent its three main populations centers in Kingman, Lake Havasu City, and Bullhead City. Community volunteers serve to promote and foster greater dialogue, education and understanding between the community and the juvenile court. Each CAB is provided with funding to support organizations engaged in prosocial activities for youth. In Kingman, different youth organizations were asked to apply for the funds and explain to the board how they would allocate the funds if their organization were chosen. Multiple worthy organizations applied for the funds. Those chosen included Kamp Girl Power through Soroptimist International of Kingman, the Junior Police Academy through Kingman Police Department, and Kingman High School's Lego Robotics Club. The money allocated to these groups provided new equipment for the Junior Police Academy, enabled girls in grades 3-7 to participate in a day-long event of inspiration and education called Kamp Girl Power. The Lego Robotics Team could pay for competitions with their award-winning robotics throughout the state.
Celebration of Success
To recognize excellence in community supervision, Yavapai County’s Adult Probation Department launched a Celebration of Success. Each probation office nominated a client who had done exceptionally well on probation. Officers gave the client a “golden ticket” to the celebration event, which honored the work they did together to facilitate a change in the client’s life. Community stakeholders, judges, elected officials, AOC staff, law enforcement, and treatment providers were invited to participate. Nearly 100 people attended this outdoor event. Chief Probation Officer Morris, Senior Probation Officer Ventura and Judge Bluff gave heartfelt speeches and then each officer spoke about their probationer’s progress and brought the individual up to receive a congratulatory certificate.
Juvenile Accecss eXchange (JAX)
For the first time, parents involved in Juvenile Court Dependency matters will be able to log into the JAX website to have electronic access to hearing dates, case history, and documents so they can quickly understand the status of their case and what is required of them. The ability for parents to have access to their case will assist greatly by allowing the parents a better understanding of court processes and legal procedures, thus parents will participate more actively in the case plan and that will ultimately result in a better outcome for the family. In addition to providing the parents with timely access to information, the JAX website is designed to provide professionals with similar access so that information is easily accessible to the professionals on the case. One of the features of JAX will be the ability for the Department of Child Safety (DCS) case managers to upload their reports so that all involved parties will have immediate access to the information contained within the reports. The DCS reports will be distributed to all professionals that are a party to the case in real-time; as soon as the DCS case manager submits the report through the JAX website.