Courts’ load lightened in Bay Area

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO – A drunken 29-year-old man steals a pair of jeans from a discount store in the city’s Mission District. He coerces the clerk into paying him $3 to return the merchandise, then uses the money to buy a 40-ounce beer. Normally, such petty crimes would further clog an overburdened court system and cost taxpayers about $1,200 per case. But in San Francisco’s innovative community court, the man’s case is heard by his peers – literally. The panel is composed of a Mission bar owner, a police officer and two community service advocates. A lawyer acts as an arbitrator. They question the defendant around a conference table at a nonprofit agency that donates space for community court once a month. There is no judge or jury, at least not in the traditional sense. “I was drunk,” the soft-spoken man tells the panelists, shaking his head. “I don’t really do that.” She said Cook County, which includes Chicago, hasn’t yet embraced the concept for adult offenders. “The usual reaction is the adversarial system: Lock `em up, punish `em. This is another type of response that can have the community and the offender looking at what the causes are.” The Mission District panel heard nine cases in about two hours on a recent Thursday. In the jeans case, the panel ordered alcohol awareness classes. Claims against other defendants ranged from prostitution to selling cigarettes to minors.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! San Francisco’s community court program was established in 1998 to divert misdemeanor cases that directly impact residents’ quality of life – prostitution, shoplifting, vandalism – out of the courts and into the neighborhood. More than 100 volunteers now staff panels in 11 neighborhoods. “We’re all regular people, and we’re making decisions,” said attorney Angela Xavier, the Mission District panel’s arbitrator. “It’s the community taking care of the community.” The district attorney’s staff sifts through nonviolent misdemeanors and sends eligible cases to the neighborhood where the crime occurred. If defendants successfully complete the panel’s requirement, no criminal charges are filed, and their records stay clean. Last year 2,976 cases were referred to community courts, saving the criminal justice system and the city an estimated $3.6 million, according to the San Francisco district attorney. People elsewhere have noticed. “It’s a much more positive way to address the problem,” said Sophia H. Hall, a judge with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., who promotes the use of community courts and peer juries among juveniles. last_img
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NEW CASTING AGENCY HOPES TO TAP INTO DONEGAL’S ACTING TALENT

first_imgA new casting agency set up in Co Donegal hopes to tap into acting talent across the county and give aspiring actors a chance to star on stage and screen.Karen Gorman (right).Karen Gorman is already a household name after setting up her Speech and Drama Academy ten years ago with venues in Letterkenny and Stranorlar.But now she is applying her skills in helping students to make the crossover from drama classes to actual roles. Running the business with her husband Garry Gorman B.TECH ED., GRAD. DIP Arts, Karen’s Academy run a programme of acting performances from September to December.The students, from age three right up to adults, also have acting performance exams with the Irish Board of Speech and Drama.Developing from her Academy, Karen B.A., H.DIP.LS, AIB SD was inspired to set up a casting agency when she learned of her students’ struggles to apply their skills to an acting career.“I have found that people who come to my class are quite frustrated at the lack of opportunity to present themselves up here in the North West. So one thing led to another and I’ve spent the last five months really getting to know the proper ins-and-outs of the business within the country, and it’s just grown from there. “I felt that people [here] needed somebody to represent them, to bring them out around the country and to the UK as well – to represent them and bring opportunities their way… we’re trying to bring what’s available in larger cities and make the whole process more convenient.”Karen’s background has given her ample grounding to base her Speech and Drama Academy, as well as her new casting agency, on.She has directed and produced a number of productions for An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny.She is also a national adjudicator and examiner with the Irish Board of Speech and Drama and thus has travelled around the country and seen the talent available:“There’s such a huge array of untapped talent, and I’ve noticed that new faces are very welcome in this business.” One of the agency’s most recent activities was a sign-up day with Katy Moylan from casting agency Fishpond. The event took place on Sunday 23rd February in Letterkenny: “we had our current and new clients attend a sign-up session with information on auditions, castings and how to do best at them. That was only on Sunday and from that Tuesday we had a multitude of opportunity coming in.”Most recently, Karen had students going for auditions for a new feature film set in Dublin.In March, Lisa Cannon from TV3 will be coming to deliver an Acting for Camera course to Karen’s students.The course will cover areas such as autocues, presenting to camera, audition techniques and the softer skills required for camera. Karen enthusiastically considered the current state of her agency, having only been set up from Christmas.“We already have a huge number of clients in our books – we have a TV presenter, a writer from RTE and people who have starred in RTE programs, actors and actresses from TNaG, and involvement with TV3 from Lisa Cannon.”On her hopes for the future, Karen stated: “We just want to keep growing and growing, and my hope and dream really is to bring as many opportunities as possible to people involved in this area, from tiny tots right up to adults. Our clients are from throughout Ireland and abroad and we look forward to constantly expanding and developing links. ”NEW CASTING AGENCY HOPES TO TAP INTO DONEGAL’S ACTING TALENT was last modified: March 9th, 2014 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:donegaldramaKaren GormanletterkennyRTEspeechStageTVlast_img read more

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