Is There a Problem with Problem-Solving Courts?
Date:  01-08-2020

Critics claim alternatives to incarceration are a better reform method
From The Appeal:

When New York State created a network of 12 Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, criminal justice professionals hailed it as an innovation,” writes Christina Goldbaum for the New York Times. “The courts send people into counseling sessions to help them leave the multibillion-dollar sex trade while dismissing their charges and sealing their records.” New York’s court isn’t alone. Courts like these, which address specific issues and try to offer a more understanding, less punitive experience than ordinary criminal court, have proliferated nationwide. But New York’s “have come under increasing criticism, six years into their operation, that they are not living up to their promise.”

“The creation of a specialized, ‘problem-solving’ court is a ubiquitous response to the issues that plague our criminal legal system,” writes law professor Erin Collins in the forthcoming academic article “The Problem of Problem-Solving Courts.” “The courts promise to address the factors believed to lead to repeated interactions with the system, such as addiction or mental illness, thereby reducing recidivism and saving money.”

The drug court, which Collins calls the “prototypical problem-solving court,” opened 30 years ago and since then, various courts have modeled themselves on it. “Treatment courts, such as mental health courts, drug courts, and homelessness courts, attempt to address an issue that is believed to be criminogenic. Accountability courts, such as domestic violence courts and community courts, stress the need to enhance accountability for certain kinds of offenses. And status courts, such as veterans courts and girls courts, aim to address the purportedly ‘unique needs’ of certain populations.” All of them claim to “solve a problem that would otherwise lead to repeated interaction with the criminal legal system.” Proponents say they do so effectively. “But the actual data on their efficacy is underwhelming, inconclusive, or altogether lacking.” Despite that, these courts continue to operate, and their numbers continue to increase. Continue reading >>>