Problem-solving courts are the most successful form of intervention for people with substance use and mental health disorders. They focus on specific types of crime that can be intertwined with things such as social problems such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and untreated mental health illness. They focus on these types of crimes and areas because they have a major impact on the courts and prisons and are often neglected and undermined groups. Problem-solving courts take a holistic approach and aim to facilitate rehabilitation for individuals who are open to receiving help and or changing their behavior. Instead of receiving a jail sentence, problem-solving courts come up with alternative means such as providing defendants with counseling, treatment for those with addictions or mental health disorders, and other forms of assistance such as healthcare support and educational assistance. Furthermore, when individuals slip up they are not penalized but inquired on ways in which they should adjust their treatment so that they can minimize any forms of regression. Moreover, the progress of each individual who is working in these rehab programs is monitored by a judge through one of the problem-solving courts. As mentioned earlier these judges are understanding that every individual is not perfect and is going to have setbacks, providing individuals and their families other chances.
But how do problem-solving courts benefit the public? They benefit the public by reducing rates of crimes by focusing on the crux of the issue which is treating illnesses and substance abuse the reduce the chance of repeat offenders. Additionally, this minimizes the issue of overcrowding in prisons and looks towards a way of reform and rehabilitation. Most importantly, they transform the lives of individuals by stopping self-destructive and harmful patterns and turning them into productive citizens who are able to contribute to society.
What other types of problem-solving courts are there? There is a plethora of problem- solving courts that take different forms depending on the type of problems that they are set up to address. For example, drug and mental health courts focus on things such as treatment and rehabilitation. While community courts combine treatment with components such as accountability, community responsibility, and aid both litigants and victims. Human trafficking courts focus on victims and sex offense courts utilize judicial monitoring and use mandated programs and probation in order to ensure that individuals comply and have access to services. Additionally, Adolescent Diversion addresses the special needs of adolescent individuals in the criminal justice system and aids them to get back on track.
How were problem-solving courts created? Problem-solving courts utilize therapeutic jurisprudence which is an interdisciplinary method of legal scholarship that looks to reform the law so that it can positively impact the psychological well-being of the defendant. The founder of therapeutic jurisprudence is David B. Wexler who first became interested in the idea of law as therapy or therapy through law from his work in the area of law and mental health. In 1987, he wrote a paper for the National Institute of Mental Health workshop and referred to this idea of “judicial psychotherapy”. While it did not survive the meeting Wexler began using the term “therapeutic jurisprudence” and went on to work with the late Bruce Winnick on this approach and publishing multiple books together.