Philadelphia’s Nuisance Court, established in 1996, is described by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller as “a movable feast of questionable comportment, rotating through [police] districts to address the various and sundry crimes that debase a neighborhood’s overall quality of life, such as drinking, loitering, and the ever-popular doing both on a stoop other than your own.” Says Judge Dan Anders, one of a dozen judges who serve voluntarily, “If they plead guilty, I give them community service, seeing as most individuals can’t pay the fines.”
“Given that the community organizations are right in the area, individuals are more likely to comply” with the sentence, said Police Sgt. John Massi. “And you see the results while they give back to the neighborhood.” Heller calls it “inspired logic: Do time with service in precisely the place where offenders originally disturbed the peace. Instead of jail, offenders will pick up parks, rec centers and churches.” On Good Friday, everyone pled guilty and justice was swift: 31 cases decided and sentenced in 90 minutes.