Frequently Asked Questions - Types of Problem-Solving courts

Frequently Asked Questions - Types of Problem-Solving courts

Modeled after Drug Courts and developed in response to the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, Mental Health Courts divert select defendants with mental illnesses into judicially supervised, community-based treatment. Defendants are invited to participate following a specialized screening and assessment, and they may choose to decline participation. For those who agree to the terms and conditions of communitybased supervision, a team of court and mental health professionals work together to develop treatment plans and supervises participants in the community. Participants appear at regular status hearings during which incentives are offered to reward adherence to court conditions, sanctions for non-adherence are handed down, and treatment plans and other conditions are periodically reviewed for appropriateness
(Council of State Governments, 2005).

Truancy Courts are designed to assist school-aged children to overcome the underlying causes of truancy by reinforcing and combining efforts from
the school, courts, mental health providers, families, and the community. Guidance counselors submit reports on the child’s weekly progress throughout the school year which the court uses to enable special testing, counseling, or other necessary services. Truancy Court is often held on the
school grounds and results in the ultimate dismissal of truancy petitions if the child can be helped to attend school regularly. Many courts have reorganized to form special truancy court dockets within the juvenile or family court. Consolidation of truancy cases results in speedier court dates and more consistent dispositions and makes court personnel more attuned to the needs of truant youths and their families. Community programs bring together the schools, law enforcement, social service providers, mental and physical health care providers and others to help stabilize families and reengage youth in their education (National Center for School Engagement, n.d.; National Truancy Prevention Association, 2005).

Gambling Courts operate under the same protocols and guidelines utilized within the Drug Court model, with individuals who are suffering from a
pathological or compulsive gambling disorder and as a result face criminal charges. Participants enroll in a contractbased, judicially supervised gambling recovery program and are exposed to an array of services including Gamblers Anonymous (GA), extensive psychotherapeutic intervention, debt counseling, group and one-on-one counseling and, if necessary, due to the high rates of co-morbidity, drug or alcohol treatment. Participation by family members or domestic partners is encouraged through direct participation in counseling with offenders and the availability of support programs such as GAM-ANON. Participants are subject to the same reporting and court response components as Drug Court participants (Huddleston, et al., 2005).

Violence Courts are designed to address traditional problems confronted in domestic violence cases (e.g., withdrawn charges by victims, threats to victims, lack of defendant accountability, and high recidivism). They apply intense judicial scrutiny of the defendant and close cooperation between the judiciary and social services. A designated judge works with the prosecution, assigned victim advocates, social services, and the defense to protect victims from all forms of intimidation by the defendant or his or her family or associates throughout the entirety of the judicial process; provide victims with housing and job training, where needed; and continuously monitor defendants in terms of compliance with protective orders, substance abuse treatment and other services. Close collaboration with defense counsel ensures compliance with due process safeguards and protects defendants’ rights. One variant of this model is the Integrated Domestic Operational Descriptions of Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts Violence Court, in which a single judge handles multiple cases relating to one family, which might include criminal actions, protective orders, custody disputes, visitation issues or divorce proceedings (Mazur & Aldrich, 2003).

Community Courts primarily address “quality of life” crimes, such as petty theft, turnstile jumping, vandalism, loitering and prostitution. With community boards and the local police as partners, Community Courts have the bifurcated goal of solving the problems of the defendants appearing before the court, while using the leverage of the court to encourage the offenders to give back to their community in compensation for the damage they and others have caused (Lee, 2000).

Gun Courts are typically designed for youths and young adults who have committed gun offenses that have not resulted in serious physical injury. Gun Court focuses on educating defendants about gun safety and provides an infrastructure for direct and immediate responses to defendants who violate court orders. By consolidating all gun cases into one court docket, the assets needed for a prompt adjudication of these offenses and the coordination of efforts by numerous agencies and non-profit organizations in reducing the number of illegal guns on the streets are improved.

Homeless Courts help homeless people charged with summary or nuisance offenses secure housing and obtain social services needed for stabilization. Participation in services substitutes for fines and custody. These services include substance abuse and mental health treatment, health care, lifeskills, literacy classes, and vocational training.