The Homeless Court in Salt Lake City, Utah: Access to Justice and Mercy for a Disenfranchised Population

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Social Work
Department Social Work
Author Hennick, Emogene Elizabeth
Title The Homeless Court in Salt Lake City, Utah: Access to Justice and Mercy for a Disenfranchised Population
Date 2017
Description Homeless individuals gain entry into the criminal justice system when they are cited for misdemeanor offenses and/or infractions, fail to appear in court, and are booked into jail based on warrants issued from the court. Dependence on the criminal justice system to minimize the visibility of homeless persons contributes to the costly revolving door of justice. Out of frustration and despair for the criminalization of homelessness, in 1989, the San Diego Superior Court established the first homeless court program. In 2004, Salt Lake City, Utah established a homeless court to process cases near the homeless shelter in downtown Salt Lake City. This descriptive study examines the process of Salt Lake City's homeless court, which has never been researched. This study describes a court session in August 2012 using descriptive statistics and interviews from defendants, court staff, and key stakeholders, collected from August 2012 to December 2012. The study employs ethnography, a grounded theory approach, and descriptive statistics to make an initial contribution to the literature. The criminalization of homelessness and Maslow's Motivational Hierarchical Theory are used to guide study findings. At the August 2012 court session, 35 defendants made an appearance and 99 cases were processed. The four most prominent charges were open container (26.3%), criminal trespass (25.3%), possession of drug paraphernalia (9.1%), and public intoxication (7.1%) with community service as the most frequently ordered sanction (49.5%). Additionally, themes generated from the research findings were (a) Power Dynamic and Equality in the Criminal Justice System, (b) Court Accessibility, (c) Due Process and Accountability, and (d) Need for Community Resources. The court provides defendants with better access to basic needs and promotes community reintegration, improved quality of life, self-sufficiency, and access to resources to exit homelessness. It is hoped this study can serve as a pathway to institutionalize the court, as well as provide jurisdictions outside of Salt Lake City opportunities to evaluate their homeless populations and court systems and assess whether the development and implementation of homeless courts would be advantageous in their communities.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Law enforcement; Social work; Criminology; Ethnic studies
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management (c) Emogene Elizabeth Hennick
Format Medium application/pdf
ARK ark:/87278/s6ps2fhh
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2019-08-16
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 1440269
Reference URL
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