On Wednesday, the Chapel Hill Town Council met to discuss the creation of a criminal justice debt fund, the Greene Tract and the process of rewriting the town's main development regulations.
The meeting began by giving retiring Chapel Hill Fire Chief Matthew Sullivan a key to the city and declaring Jan. 29, 2020 to be Matt Sullivan Day in recognition of his 32 years of service and leadership in the community.
“We send our thanks as well to your family for allowing you to work as hard as you have,” Mayor Pam Hemminger said to Sullivan. “You have put in tireless, tireless amounts of time doing many things and helping so many people, not just in our community, but outside our community in many different ways.”
Criminal Justice Debt Fund
Council Member Karen Stegman said last year there was a realization that the Town of Chapel Hill has been profiting from the town courthouse’s fines and fees for years.
These fines and fees prevent defendants, particularly those who are poor and/or people of color, from successfully reintegrating into their community.
James Williams, a retired public defender, advocated for the implementation of this program.
“I was concerned because I have been, as an attorney, involved in addressing issues related to indigent clients,” Williams said. “In representing client after client, it was clear to me that poverty was a significant factor in the outcome of those clients cases and the likelihood that they would successfully reenter society."
The Fund for Criminal Justice Debt would provide criminal justice-related debt relief for people who are unable to pay their debt to the court. The proposal requested $20,000 to establish a pilot program that would last for at least six months. A committee would give updates to the council throughout the duration of the pilot program.