Program connects DA’s office with community

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 10, 2003

Children are throwing drink bottles on the lawn of an elderly person’s home.

The children are loud and disruptive. The resident tells them to stop, but they don’t listen. The police are called. Order is restored quickly, but what happens next?

This case doesn’t require the full force of the district attorney’s office, but it’s an example of something the Community Justice program could address.

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The program would work with the resident, and offer the juveniles community service or programs for at risk youth, said Susan Keith, Community Justice Coordinator

This would give them consequences for their actions that are positive.

The Community Justice Program is a method of educating citizens about the services available to them, and helping them through the justice system.

The program also gives people the power to improve the quality of their lives, said Keith.

The process of creating the program began when District Attorney Ed Greene realized that the quality services available to citizens in the area were too fragmented. Keith said that they needed coordination.

Some available services include the Weed and Seed program, the Selma Police Department, the Cahaba Mental Health Center, the Health Department and the Department of Human Resources, among others.

There was a need for community members to take responsibility for safety issues, said Keith, and improve their lives.

One way the program achieves these goals is through Community Advocate Gloria Simmons. Simmons is the link between the district attorney’s office and the community.

Keith said that Simmons helps educate people about the system because many people aren’t aware of their rights.

Mitzi Johnson-Theodoro, an assistant district attorney working with the community justice program, looks over police reports on a daily basis to see if any of them need to be followed up on. If any do, then Simmons makes contact with the victims of each case.

Keith’s office is involved in a number of projects including Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program designed to break the cycle of gun violence by prosecuting people who violate federal gun laws.

Greene’s office recently received a nomination stemming from Project Safe Neighborhoods from David York, United States attorney for the southern district of Alabama, for the most outstanding local prosecutor’s office.

An initiative for the community justice program began in March 2001. Funding was granted from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Keith said, and the implementation of the program began January 2002.