Problem solving courts or specialized courts are a type of court that focus on specific targeted issues such as drug addiction

Problem solving courts or specialized courts are a type of court that focus on specific targeted issues such as drug addiction, or domestic abuse. The focus behind these courts are to shift from just processing cases in the tradition justice system to result in specialized sentencing that promotes impactful results. The outcomes are the focus not the process.
The Center for Court Innovation has developed a set of principles for specialized courts. Enhanced education is a focus where court staff and judges have specialized knowledge of the issue that they are working with. In traditional approaches it is difficult for the courts to know as much about the issue as those who work solely on this issue. Those who work in specialized courts better understand the psychological issues surrounding issues in specific areas such as addiction, mental health, domestic violence, career criminal courts, teen courts, and veteran’s courts. They typically understand what impact these issues can have on communities and the benefits of the reduction in recidivism rates in the specialized areas. In specialized courts it is the outcomes are the primary concern. The rights of the addicted are just as important as those in their care. In traditional courts the judge is finished with the case once the case has been sentenced. The focus is efficiently working through cases. In specialized courts the judge monitors the progress throughout the program or treatment. Specialized courts are community oriented. This differs from the traditional approach in that these programs actively engage the community to identify the problem whether it is through surveys or other market research methods. There is not as much of a separation between the courts and the community with specialized courts. Collaboration is at the center of how these courts operate. Rather than operating as if the court is independent from criminal justice agencies they work with agencies, law enforcement, and stakeholders in the community to address the issue. Justice is individualized or tailored. The court does not take a one size fits all approach. In the traditional model due to the high volume of cases the defendant for the sake of efficiency is basically treated as a number. That is not the case with specialized courts. The treatment could range between counseling, job training, even community service. Accountability is greater as the judge is involved throughout the entirety of the program. Through monitoring and those involved in the cases the monitoring is more conducive to a positive outcome.
The movement for specialized courts began in Florida in 1989. The goal of these courts was to approach the issue from a different stand point from the traditional criminal justice system. In the traditional court system recidivism rates were high and focused primarily on the adversarial approach. The specialized court system focuses more on therapeutic models that will either defer the penalty providing successful completion of a drug treatment program or will provide counseling along with monitoring. Drug courts are possibly one of the more prevalent specialized courts in the United States today. The impact that drugs can have on individuals, families, and communities have become a common problem. The use of specialized courts to address these issues are focused on reduction in recidivism. Treatment therefore is at the core of this issue along with monitoring.
Most research suggest that some success has been achieved for those that complete treatment successfully. However, most positive research has been criticized for using earlier designs along with random assignment conditions. Still as far as local politics the programs have mostly been viewed as favorable. This could be due to the perception that doing something is preferred rather than the status quo. But there is one factor that was not mentioned. These courts are typically voluntary. That means that the offender needs to agree to selection. This is one of the areas that critics of research point to as skewing in the results. Though this may be true for many of these individuals the alternative is likely incarceration. So, the effect may not be as impactful to the results.
As far as whether they are a good idea or not depends on the viewer. The cost is considerably higher than traditional courts. The results though mostly positive have its share of criticism. For court administrators facing scarce resources with increases in case loads creativity may be difficult if not impossible. However, the goal of improvement in communities, reduced repeat offenders, and public safety would suggest that they are a good idea.

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