Homeless/FTA court

A group of people experiencing homelessness walk toward a courtroom at the Ada County Courthouse, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019.

Back in August, a Boise police officer wrote Danny Walton a ticket for trespassing after he allegedly didn’t leave a public area along South Americana Boulevard when he should have. Walton wasn’t arrested, nor was a warrant issued for his arrest — but if he didn’t get the matter resolved, he could have ended up in jail, writes Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons.

For many people, such a citation wouldn’t be a problem. But Walton was experiencing homelessness at the time and is currently staying at Interfaith Sanctuary, an emergency shelter in Boise. On bad days, his medical conditions make it difficult for him to walk, and had he been ordered to pay a fine because of the citation, it’s unlikely he could have afforded it.

That's the type of situation that can be alleviated by "FTA Court," which is short for "failure to appear" court. Ada County now offers those special court sessions daily, but Interfaith Sanctuary worked with prosecutors, public defenders and Ada County Magistrate Court to set up a standing appointment at the court during which the shelter’s guests can resolve legal matters. That happens Fridays at 1:15 p.m., and helps shelter residents avoid getting entangled in the criminal justice system for minor, victimless offenses that are easily cleared up. You can read Simmons' full story here at idahopress.com, or pick up today's Sunday/Monday edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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