OPD Spearheads Pilot Program Bringing Municipal Court to the New Orleans Mission

New Orleans – On Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 10 a.m., the Orleans Public Defenders, in collaboration with Orleans Parish Municipal Court, the City Attorney’s office and the New Orleans Mission, will launch the Municipal Court at the Mission pilot program. Judge Sean Early will hold court at the New Orleans Mission in the hopes of clearing the nearly 34,000 open attachments in Municipal Court, as well as address the issue of incarcerating the homeless head on.

Of the tens of thousands of attachments outstanding, the vast majority are issued to homeless, mentally-ill or those battling substance abuse issues whose living environments are usually unstable. Once someone misses a court date, a warrant is issued and upon arrest, most spend weeks in jail simply because they can’t pay the associated fine.

“We see countless individuals incarcerated in Municipal Court on simple misdemeanor attachments. This was a way we could get reach so many of our clients that aren’t able to come to court, may not know they have attachments or are quite simply, afraid to come because of the potential of jail,” said OPD staff attorney Lauren Anderson, who has been instrumental in gathering support from all stakeholders to get the program off the ground.

Thursday’s program will hopefully be the launch a reoccurring offering and a positive way to combat New Orleans’ extensive jail population, reduce recidivism and connect the homeless, mentally ill and substance-addicted to much-needed services. As the vast number of misdemeanor attachments indicates, it will take create initiatives such as this program, to make meaningful change in our criminal justice system and successfully remove people from the system all together.

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