On Friday March 18th, Eric and Pastor Joe Ellison visited Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor of Henrico County to discuss the value of creating an innovative solution to criminal justice. Six states have implemented Fatherhood Courts in certain jurisdictions, where judges are given the discretion of sentencing men to a diversion program rather than jail.
Like Drug Courts, which address the particular needs of lawbreaking addicts, fathers who have failed to pay child support, or who have committed petty crimes, have the opportunity to avoid incarceration as they commit to working with a program such as ours. As long as these men meet certain standards, they are eligible to become “clients” of non-profits such as ours. It sure beats jail!
Ms. Taylor was enthused by the idea, inviting us to meet with Gary Hughes, Henrico’s Director of the Community Corrections Program. She also will ask the judges of the County to meet with us at one of their Friday lunch events to hear our cause.
Civic leaders are more open today to creative ideas than ever before. They are out of money to test new criminal justice theories, and they are constrained by existing laws which require certain sentences even though punishment is not always the answer. To her credit, Ms. Taylor is eager to learn of fresh solutions coming through the non-profit sector.