Last updated on July 3rd, 2018 at 03:48 pm
For the second consecutive year, Rev. Thomas Hunter opened Nehemiah Missionary Baptist Church to Judge Rachel Bell and Metro Nashville Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry to host the General Sessions Music City Community Court. Nehemiah MBC meets at the Boys & Girls Club in the middle of the Andrew Jackson MDHA Community and serves the community in various ways.
The Music City Community Court is focused on preventive and diversionary justice. The special court gives offenders the opportunity to file a motion on the spot for the court to have records expunged, or declare indigency to have certain fines and fees waived.
Rev. Thomas Hunter, Sr., pastor of Nehemiah Missionary Baptist Church, addressed those in attendance hoping to get their records expunged and trying to get their lives back on track. Rev. Hunter believes that the criminal and arrest records pose a considerable barrier to securing housing and employment, and that a huge step toward bettering your situation is having a good job.
Howard Gentry, Criminal Court Clerk for Davidson County, arrived at the event after speaking at an earlier event in downtown Nashville that for him highlighted the import-ance of what the expungement procss can mean in the community. A Nashville homeless advocacy group recog-nized and honored the known deaths of over 100 homeless persons in the Nashville area during 2017 to date. Gentry noted that a homeless person’s death on the street might be avoided if that person had a job and a home. The expun-gement process could literally mean the diffference between life and death.
Judge Bell let the attendees know exactly what the day’s process entailed. She told them that not everything can be pulled off a criminal record by expungement, but those individuals who were not able to be helped that day at least got a better under-standing of their position. They were also the beneficiaries of free legal assistance provide pro bono by attorneys that morning, while legal services in Nashville generally run $250 per hour.
Attornees providing pro bono services free of charge to the attendees included Billy Leslie, John Baxter, David M. Shearon, Anthony Adewumi, Marcus Shute, Jr., and Shana Berkeley. Also on hand were Frederick Kilpatrick, Judge Bell’s court officer; and Jackie London, Judge Bell’s probation officer; along with several volunteers including Courtney Johnson. Vendors included Stephanie Middlebrook of Express Employment Profess-ionals; Patricia Malone Robinson, Trojan Labor; Marilyn Bell, Kroger; and two ladies from the Metro Juvenile Court.
About Judge Rachel L. Bell’s community outreach.
The General Sessions Music City Community Court, Division VIII (8) was founded by Judge Rachel L. Bell in 2012. Since its inception, the court has piloted several community initiatives focused on preventive justice and diversionary justice focused on the concept, that “Justice does not stop at the courthouse steps” and charged to all it can do to help break the playground (school) to prison pipeline and restore / rehabilitate lives.
DIVERSIONARY JUSTICE (to rehabilitate and restore offenders) – (1) Judge Bell in partnership with the Metropolitan Sheriff’s office speaks to inmates in the women and men pods at the Correctional Development Center (CDC) during the Healing Journeys and New Avenues classes providing uplifting messages focused on putting mistakes behind you and starting a new life with a new mindset upon re-entry back into society. (2) Saturday Dockets were created by Judge Bell to provide access to justice right on the spot every 4-6 weeks in various locations around Nashville, Davidson County. (3) The Community Service Work projects provide access to justice so that after offenders are complete with the work, they are given credit immediately and do not have to come back to court on a return docket to show proof of compliance with an agreed order or guilty under-advisement plea. and (4) The Expungement Clinic and Indigency Dockets assist offenders with the ability to file a motion on the spot to be heard by the court. If declared indigent court cost and fines are waived providing the ability to proceed with filing out expungement applica-tions to clear a criminal record of cases that were dismissed with or without cost.
PREVENTIVE JUSTICE (to break down the playground to prison pipeline) – (1) R.E.A.C.H. — a 6-week summer literacy program offered to MNPS rising 1st – 4th graders. (2) FUTURE — Internships offered to MNPS for rising 5th – 12th graders during school break internships (fall and spring breaks 11th – 12th graders, summer breaks 5th – 12th graders). (3) Alive at 25 — Offered to MNPS 12th grade students to discuss road rules and the reality of being involved in the court system. The students learn about the wide range of sentences that can be imposed for traffic infractions, careless behaviors, and the civil liability of at-fault auto crashes. In 2016, Judge Bell was trained and certified to teach driver safety training programs.