Daily Point of Light # 2692 May 31, 2004

Edith Bush is extremely active in the West Palm Beach, Florida community. Her service activities include but are not limited to the following: Chairperson of the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee, President of the Progressive Northwest Neighborhood Association, volunteers annually with the Florida Coalition for peace & Justice PEACE CAMP, provide monthly food distribution to senior citizens through Martin Luther King Caregivers, volunteers with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren as well as being the volunteer Chairperson of the Community Court’s Citizen Advisory Board.

The outskirts of downtown West Palm Beach, also known as the Week and Seed area, has more than 20,000 residents. Demographics for the area reflect a high poverty and unemployment rate. The physical characteristics of the community are striking, with deteriorating houses and businesses, vacant lots and litter. Arrest statistics for the area reflect a high level of quality-of-life victimless crimes; however the neighborhood is the victim of offenses such as prostitution, graffiti and vandalism, gambling, trespassing and open-air drug solicitation and sales.

Residents from this community became frustrated with the epidemic of quality of life offenses and the limited consequences imposed following an arrest. They commonly felt they had no stake in the production of justice. As a result, Community Court was established. Community Court addresses these low-level, non-violent misdemeanor crimes. Community Court and the Citizen Advisory Board are innovative and unique approaches to solving serious social problems in the West Palm Beach Weed and Seed areas. The Citizens Advisory Board was established in 1998 and its mission is to ensure continuous citizen input, provide valuable feedback to the Court about community conditions and assist in providing a continuum of community service sanctions for neighborhood revitalization.

The Court emphasizes community service sanctions rather than fines or incarceration. The goal is for those who harm the community to give back to that same community through service. Defendants are assigned community service to help clean up the neighborhood in which they offended. As Chairperson of the Community Court’s Citizen Advisory Board, Ms. Bush is very active in making the Weed and Seed area a better more inhabitable place to live. These clean up projects help offenders to become more connected to the larger community and lead more productive lives.

Community Court, with the direction of the Citizen’s Advisory Board led by Ms. Bush, has greatly impacted the community in the last five years. Numerous revitalization projects have occurred, neighborhood associations have formed, citizens clean up crews have been created and citizens once offending the community are now vital parts of their neighborhood.