When I retired last year after a long career in governmental affairs and public healthcare I felt I
still had a lot to offer. The time seemed right to go into public service and I filed to run in
the Democratic primary for Justice of the Peace in Galveston County’s Precinct 3.
I believe some of the best practices that have been developed in the public healthcare system
can have an equally important application in the justice system. There’s an old saying that “a
good doctor treats the disease...a great doctor treats the patient.” The same could apply
to our courts where judges would consider the defendant’s circumstances, as well as the crime.
Much of my healthcare background has been with the Harris County Hospital District. Usually
operating under a deficit, we have had to make sure we get the most out of every dollar. We
discovered early on that the most medically effective (and cost-efficient) treatment lies
in our community health centers and primary care clinics - where we can help patients deal with
problems early on before they become a major medical crisis in our emergency rooms.
The Justice of the Peace court is oftentimes the entry point for many who enter the justice
system and where the vast majority of individuals have any interaction with the justice system at
all. These important courts handle a wide-range of low-level cases —both civil and criminal,
including animal abuse, truant youths, landlord-tenant conflicts, small claims and low-level
misdemeanors. Not unlike primary care clinics, the “People’s Court” is well-positioned in the
community to help many individuals deal with problems while they are relatively minor and hold
a genuine opportunity to make a positive change in a someone’s life.
I think of JP courts as “Community Courts.” These courts are in a unique position to
engage and reflect the community they serve and come up with new and creative strategies to
help minor offenders from becoming major offenders. These courts can combine punishment
and help, requiring offenders to pay back the community by participating in restorative service
projects while also participating in social service sanctions such as drug or mental-health
counseling, as appropriate. In civil cases, such as housing disputes, the JP court could bring
new resources to help create long-lasting solutions.
Our JP courts have always dispensed common-sense justice. Today they have the potential to
assume a problem-solving role in the life of our community through greater collaboration and
cooperation with public and private sector agencies to bring people together and help craft
solutions to the problems that face our community and improve the trust between citizens and
Kitty Allen is a Galveston resident and Democratic candidate for Justice of the Peace, Precinct