Before I review the week we just had, I’m extending this invitation to all of you to join us tomorrow at Mansfield Park, 2004 N. 4th Ave, at 9:30 a.m. for the latest fresh food giveaway with Pillars & Bridges of Tucson. The event starts at 10 a.m., but we’ve been asked to be there a little early to find out exactly where we’re needed. Hope to see you all there!
Pima is a big, beautiful County. And when I say big, I mean a million-plus residents and over 9,000 miles of stunning desert, streams and sunsets. This couldn’t be more true than in Ajo, a town it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to from Superior Court in Tucson to the Ajo Justice Court. We arrived early to sit quietly in the back of the courtroom to watch Judge John Peck preside in service to the 2,500 or so residents of the pueblito. We observed traffic citations, misdemeanors, and acts of compassion from the Court. Most defendants appear in court pro se (without an attorney), and it’s critical that judges and prosecutors carry themselves with patience and compassion for people who are facing a courtroom alone. We observed just that. Judge Peck lives in the community, and he reported that Michael Colmenero, our specially-assigned deputy prosecutor, has been commuting out to Ajo from Tucson on and off for years and invoking compassion in the way he treats unassisted defendants, communicates with victims, and represents our Office to the entire town.
Ajo is an adorable, historic town and a haven for environmentalists and artists. It is also, in part, impoverished and lacks sufficient employment opportunities following the closure of the mine and then the smelter in the mid-80s. I met with Michael and Pat Gonzalez, our dedicated legal staff, Judge Peck, court administrator Yvette Montijo, Sheriff’s Lieutenant Olsen and his new group of young recruits (pictured), and Sr. José Castillo, who at 82 years young and born in Ajo, remains the honorary Alcalde, or Mayor of Ajo.
All day, the word “equity” kept ringing in my head. As we continue to build out our restorative justice program, how will we make sure the residents of Ajo benefit from their own program? And perhaps on an even grander scale, how do we create partnerships in the community so that the prosecutor who follows Michael and the new recruits trained by Lt. Olsen are born and bred in Ajo?
Maybe the first small step we can take is another community cleanup. Next stop, Ajo!
To be continued,