This week makes two years since the first court watch training event at Oconee Street United Methodist Church, an event more than 60 people attended.
The training generated what has become the “Athens Area Courtwatch Project,” which has established a regular presence in the ACC courtrooms.
Since early 2019, more than three dozen people have spent hundreds of hours observing over 1,000 individual misdemeanor and felony criminal cases ranging from bond and preliminary hearings, probation revocations, status hearings, plea and sentencing proceedings. (Criminal trials have been suspended for almost one year because of the pandemic.)
In addition to bearing witness to courtroom cases, court-watchers have also been collecting data (mental health, racial dynamics, bail, etc.) and have had numerous interactions with officers of the court, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, bailiffs, sheriff’s deputies and clerks of court.
Volunteers have established relationships with defendants and their families.
John Vodicka and Steve Williams spearhead the project, and John writes a weekly newsletter, “Bearing Witness” about what they see.