Problem-Solving Courts

C. Mental Health Court Evaluations

Because these courts are relatively new, there have been few evaluations completed (Casey & Rottman, 2005). The evaluations available have mostly focused on characteristics of offenders (Steadman, Redlich, Griffin, Petrila, & Monahan, 2005). One such evaluation of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court showed that the participants were mostly male, African American, single, and had poor work histories and education. A majority of them had previously been hospitalized for psychiatric purposes at least once in their lives. At some point in the year prior to their arrests, 15% of them had been homeless. Most of the participants had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression. Almost half of them were diagnosed with co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders (O’Keefe, 2007).When asked in their 1-year interview, participants of the Brooklyn study indicated high levels of satisfaction with various aspects of their treatment. Outcome measures, done without a comparison group, showed mostly positive impacts of the court on measures of psychosocial functioning, homelessness, substance abuse, hospitalizations, service utilization, and recidivism (O’Keefe, 2007).

D. Community Court Evaluations

A few evaluations have been done of community courts. Kralstein (2007) conducted a review of seven evaluations done of four different community courts. The four courts were the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan, New York; the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York; the Hennepin County Community Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Hartford Community Court in Hartford, Connecticut. Kralstein reported that the evaluations consisted of surveys of community residents, offender interviews or focus groups, and larger-scale quantitative analysis using administrative court data.

Evaluations of both the Midtown and Hennepin courts showed that offenders were held more accountable in the community court compared to traditional courts. Offenders in the Midtown court were much more likely to receive community service or treatment sentences as compared to the more likely “time-served sentence” in the traditional Manhattan centralized court. The compliance rate for offenders was 75% in the Midtown court, which was 50% higher than the Manhattan court. Community surveys in Minneapolis showed that residents gave high marks for offender compliance with community service sentences from the Hennepin court. Community perceptions were high for both the Midtown and Hennepin courts in that majorities of citizens expressed willingness to pay more taxes to support their community courts. A high majority of residents in the Red Hook community reported positive views of their community court. Offender perceptions were mostly positive in studies done for the Midtown, Red Hook, and Hartford courts. Evaluations of the Midtown court found that prostitution arrests decreased 56% when processed through the community court. Midtown also reported a 24% reduction of illegal vending arrests and reduced arrests for offenders who had completed at least 90 days of court-mandated drug treatment.

E. Evaluations of Other Problem-Solving Courts

Many of the emerging problem-solving courts have not been around long enough for many evaluations to be completed. One exception is the evaluation of the Harlem Parole Reentry Court (Farole, 2007). Farole found that the use of caseworkers in the reentry court improved communication between parole and treatment or service providers. Parolees participating in the Harlem reentry court tended to have greater access to various services to assist them in their transition. The reentry court parolees were matched with a comparison group of similar parolees who were not supervised by a reentry court. Regarding recidivism outcome measures, there was only one statistically significant difference between the two groups: The reentry court parolees had a reduced conviction rate on new nondrug offenses. However, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups on new drug convictions or reincarceration rates.

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