Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court
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The Honorable Asra I. Elliott presides over Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court’s Outreach Court Program.
The program is a collaborative effort between the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, the Office of the District Attorney, the Law Offices of the Public Defender, the Private Defense Bar, the Bernalillo County Attorney’s Office and community providers.
Outreach Court follows the American Bar Association’s (ABA) seven guiding principles for Homeless Courts and models itself after the San Diego Homeless Court. This model is based around local community service providers being the gateway for participants to enter into the program voluntarily. Outreach Court is a specialty court program aimed at a segment of the population that has limited means of complying with conditions of the court, and faces challenges in obtaining legal representation. As a result, misdemeanor charges are often ignored until the defendant is incarcerated. Outreach Court is unique from all other specialty courts as it is designed to work with individuals already engaged with treatment providers and give them an opportunity to resolve outstanding misdemeanor cases and warrants. This is accomplished by collaborating with community providers that are already providing services to these individuals.
Outreach Court provides a progressive diversionary program, allowing alternative resolutions in lieu of custody, fines, and fees for most misdemeanor charges. Participants may engage in life skills activities, substance abuse group meetings, literacy classes, and training, or search for employment, counseling, and programming aimed at improving their situations under the guidance of their community provider. The Court acknowledges these endeavors in order to satisfy the Courts’ requirements.
The prospective participants are referred to court staff to determine eligibility by their
community advocate. If approved for participation, court staff will notify all involved parties. The participant will work with their client advocate at their chosen program to design a plan to move towards self-sufficiency prior to appearing in court. This initiative shows a participant’s willingness to seek justice and to reconcile their past by their continued efforts to reclaim their future.
Providers will write letters of advocacy on behalf of the participant and their efforts in the program. This is symbolic of the relationship between the client and the program, and outlines their accomplishments, providing the Court with insight into their efforts. The Court will review the letter of advocacy and determine the graduation time of the participant to be held at a community provider’s location.
Outreach Court enables homeless and precariously housed individuals who are actively engaged in the program to address their outstanding legal obligations, freeing them to reclaim their lives and return to the community as valued members.
“The Outreach Court Program in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court has enabled so many of my clients to address their homelessness and make personal progress in ways they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. One of my clients in particular, though, has taken the opportunity outreach court provides to make substantial gains toward permanent stable housing, substance use recovery, and career success. This client had two misdemeanor warrants in 2020, both of which were cancelled upon her acceptance into outreach court. As connection with a service provider is mandatory to participate in the outreach court program, the two of us were tasked with creating an Individualized Service Plan to meet her needs and goals.
Our first goal was to find her gainful employment. With the warrants cancelled, this participant was able to go into job interviews more confident, and apply for positions at higher skill and responsibility levels. The agency given to this participant through outreach court allowed her to pass a background check and secure a job offer for a well-paying full time position that will become meaningful experience for her career path. This participant will begin her new position the second week of August.
Another of our goals was to find stable housing. As the outreach court program recognizes, housing is a massive barrier to being able to adequately address any other co-occurring obstacles. We collaborated on applications to Albuquerque Housing Authority section 8 programs and referrals to other supportive housing programs. Luckily, the participant was just recently selected for a screening with HopeWorks Rapid Rehousing program, for which she is the ideal candidate. This program is designed for self-sufficiency, to get homeless folks housed and have them employed and ready to take over the lease in 6-9 months. Because this participant already has a job and is connected with a service provider, we are both hopeful that she will be issued a voucher in the near future. Regardless, the two of us have been able to really focus on navigating the housing system in Albuquerque and have a lot of prospects for the future.
Because of the connection forged between the two of us through outreach court, the participant and I started to have dialogue surrounding her history of substance use as well. She has actively engaged in our harm reduction programming here at Casa de Salud. Her substance use history is complicated, but the two of us working together found the ideal program to meet her needs at Lovelace Pain Management Clinic. Her connection with me as a service provider through the outreach court program has facilitated more discussions about substance use and is setting her in the right direction toward recovery.”
Intensive Case Manager
Casa de Salud Family Clinic
Hi Renee! I just wanted to reach out and let you know that the participant’s case was reviewed by the Outreach Court team on Thursday 8/8 and her case has been dismissed. I am mailing you out a copy of her dismissal and a copy of the order showing her bench warrant and bench warrant fee have been taken care of. I am also including some clearance paperwork for license. MVD records indicate she had a couple of suspensions that were holding her license. I have printed the necessary paperwork for her to take to MVD to get that reinstated. I also had them validated so that she does not have to pay the reinstatement fee with MVD. I also included a bus pass for her. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Thanks and have a good week!
Good morning Tiffany,
I was so excited when I read this email. This participant has had some really tough struggles, and this just goes above and beyond our expectations. When I told her about her license and the fees she was without words. She is a single mother of two very young children, recently they towed her car. Since then, she has struggled even more. She is smart, young, and capable. Your team and this program has just removed a huge mountain out of the way moving forward. We at La Plazita “Salute” you. Thank you for all of your efforts to make this happen. We look forward to working with you in the future.
Renee Chavez-Maes, CARS
La Plazita Institute
“Client is a 43 year old Asian man. Client has been on the streets over three years struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. This client was determined to get off the streets but would cause a run-in with law and the client had a warrant due to failure to appear for court. For certain housing programs, this would deny the client for being eligible to even be on the program waiting list but the client was referred to Outreach Court and successfully graduated. They helped clear the client’s name, in which helped him become eligible for such housing programs, received a voucher and is currently housed. Outreach Court is a wonderful program for those who are experiencing homelessness and can help with any questions or needs regarding the court system. Thank you to Outreach Court and Metro Court!”