Project Description

The East County Special Court Program (ECSC) strives to open the door of justice so low income and homeless people may address the underlying cause of their homelessness, as well as the legal barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.  Cornerstone Transitional Housing plays a critical role in the success of the Special Court program by shepherding clients through the process.

When the Cornerstone Transitional Housing staff challenge and equip participants to resolve the underlying cause of their homelessness prior to appearing before the court, the concerns held by the court and the community are effectively addressed at the outset.


Voluntary Program

The low income and the homeless participants voluntarily sign up for the ECSC through the Cornerstone Transitional Housing program.  If a participant signs up and later decided to challenge his case through a trial or motion, a court date for the case is set in the East County Superior Courthouse.  ECSC participants are entitled to all protections afforded by due process of law.

Addresses a Wide Range of Misdemeanor Offenses.

The ECSC addresses a wide range of misdemeanor offenses from smoking or sleeping on the streets, to being under the influence of a controlled substance, theft, and driving under the influence.  Participants who appear in the East County Special Court with serious misdemeanor cases submit proof of completion of significant recovery program.  In many circumstances, the participant’s program activities voluntarily exceed the demands a court might order for treatment for low term felony cases.

Uses a sentencing based on action prior to Plea Bargain

The ECSC offers a different plea structure from the traditional court proceeding.  The ECSC agreement acknowledges the efforts that participants undertake to change their lives before their appearance in court.  The plea agreement recognizes the participants have completed the court order before the court imposes a sentence.  Participants are able to participate in program activities without threat of custody or a larger fine.

Employs Alternative Sentencing

Low income or homeless persons who want to appear in ECSC must sign up and participate in approved program activities.  While the ECSC “sentences” a participant to activities in the Cornerstone Transitional Housing Program, the sentence is actually completed prior to when the participant stands before the judge.   The ECSC gives “credit for time served” for the participant’s accomplishments in life improvement activities.  These activities include life-skills, chemical dependency or AA/NA meetings, trade and literacy classes, training or searching for employment, medical care (physical and mental), and counseling.

These activities replace the traditional court sentence options of fines, public service work, and custody.  The alternative sentencing structure is not coercive or punitive in nature, but rather designed to address the underlying causes of a person’s position and recognize the person’s efforts to make changes to improve his or her life.

No One Goes into Custody

The ECSC key players (judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and recovery service agencies) agree, No one goes into custody against his or her will.  This does not mean that the prosecution gives up its power to ask for custody, nor does the court relinquish its authority to incarcerate.  Rather, this agreement acknowledges both that the participants have committed offenses and have met court requirements through their work in their programs, and acknowledges that time spent working with these agencies is equivalent to and more constructive than, “time” spent in custody.

Local recovery service agencies like Cornerstone Transitional Housing are the gateway and guide for participants to enter and succeed in the East County Special Court program.  Low income and homeless persons who want to appear in East County Special Court must sign up and participate in approved Cornerstone Transitional Housing program activities.

Your generous donation of any amount will help Cornerstone Transitional Housing further our work to break the cycle of homelessness, restore hope, and help men and women in El Cajon and the East County of San Diego regain control of their  lives.

Your generosity, personal philanthropy, and charitable giving throughout the entire year truly make a positive impact on their lives each and every day.

John Simon, President/CEO