Community courts are problem-solving courts that use a community-focused approach in response to crime. They use a form of restorative justice where the emphasis is on repairing the harm done to the community by the offender, which is accomplished through stakeholder cooperation. Community courts strive to engage community members and organizations in the administration of justice. Court sessions are often held outside the traditional courthouse and in a centrally located neighborhood building that offers more visibility and accessibility to the public.
Community courts primarily address "quality of life" crimes such as homelessness, vandalism, loitering, petty theft, disorderly conduct, and prostitution. Essential elements of community courts include restoring the community through compensation to the community. Offenders pay back the neighborhood in which their offense was committed by performing extensive community services, such as ridding areas of litter, cleaning up areas of disorder, and participating in volunteer organizations and other community-restorative projects.
Another essential component to community courts is that they address any underlying problems the offender may have such as substance abuse, mental health disorders, and involvement in prostitution. Often, treatment and social services are offered at the community court for participants. Sentencing offenders to complete the services that will assist in addressing these underlying issues may reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
Stakeholders in community courts can include non-profit organizations that are vested in the revitalization of their community. Law enforcement can play an essential role by referring potential participants into community courts and monitoring their actions while in the community. The community's involvement may include assisting in the development of the court, expressing concerns and recommendations regarding the crimes in their area, and sanctioning options for the participants in community court.