NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A courtroom that’s not in a courthouse?
An old school that now serves as a community center is the new home of the Bordeaux-North Nashville Community Justice Center. It’s the first of its kind in the state.
Davidson County General Sessions Judge Rachel L. Bell presides over a docket of redemption and second chances.
"Justice is restoration. It has never meant to be just punishment," Bell said.
One mission of this community court is to help people expunge - get rid of - old charges that have lingered on their records. Another court function helps forgive the court fees defendants never could have afforded anyway.
With a clean record, the odds improve for people to get a driver license, a job or an apartment.
"People make mistakes. We're human, and yes, we're going to enforce the law, and yes, they may serve jail time, and yes there will be court costs, fines and fees. But at the end of the day, a lot of these people can't even pick themselves back up. They can't find shelter. And a lot of these people are homeless,” Bell said.
She chose Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday for the official celebration of the new courtroom, which is in the zip code where she grew up.
Cornelius A. Hill of Ephesians Primitive Baptist Church dedicated the courtroom and offered the prayer.
"Who would have thought that Rachel Bell would have grown up in the community, and left this community, and come back a change-agent," Hill said. “She is redeeming mankind today.”
Bell's mission? Justice does not stop at the courthouse steps. Justice is in the community for the community.