More than 20 years ago a revolution in the criminal justice system began in the form of a “drug court” in Miami. The concept was simple: rather than sending non-violent, substance abusing offenders to jail or prison, they would be diverted into treatment. And they’ve worked. Research has indicated that drug courts have been successful in lowering rearrest and conviction rates and improving substance abuse treatment outcomes. There are now over 2,000 drug courts, including at least one in every state.
The success of these courts has led to an explosion of other types of “problem-solving courts,” as they’ve come to be known, following the same principles. There are now specialty courts for everything from mental health to truancy to even sex offenders. One of the newest iterations is courts for veterans, which can divert former service members from jail in order to get treatment for mental health issues, including PTSD and TBI, which can be linked to the offense.
Following the Need to Know segment “Uniform Justice,” which explores a veteran court in Harris County, TX, Alison Stewart spoke to Timothy Casey, a visiting professor at California Western School of Law, who is based at Case Western Law School, about problem-solving courts more generally and some of the broader legal questions they pose.