Problem-Solving Courts

VI. Future Directions

The types and number of problem-solving courts will continue to increase. Officials are concerned with backlogs of court cases in the traditional criminal courts. This concern, combined with the generally accepted view that problem-solving courts are successful, will fuel the growth of problem-solving courts. Although relatively new in their appearance on the scene, problem-solving courts are now located in all 50 states (Berman & Feinblatt, 2005). The types of problem-solving courts will also continue to increase. If specialized courts can be created for drug, domestic violence, and mentally ill offenders, then they can also be created for the many other types of offenders. Victims’ rights organizations, like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), are sure to call for the creation of specialized DWI or DUI courts. If society believes that specialized sex offender courts will be successful at improving public safety and increasing offender accountability, they will surely come to be created and operating in most states. Continuing good research on problem-solving courts is needed. Drug courts have been around the longest and are the most numerous of the problem-solving courts. They are also the courts that have been researched the most. Evaluations conducted in the first decade of their existence rarely used control conditions. However, more recent evaluation research has included comparison or control groups. Because of this better research, a general consensus has formed that drug courts are successful crime prevention tools. This focus on good research needs to expand to the other established and emerging problem-solving courts. Domestic violence, mental health, and community courts need to be subject to repeated evaluations using rigorous methodologies, testing whether their objectives are being met. Decisions as to the continuation of these problem-solving courts should be primarily based on the effectiveness of these courts in actually accomplishing what they were intended to.

VII. Conclusion

The last 20 years have seen the creation and proliferation of problem-solving courts. These courts are different from the traditional criminal court in that they have specialized dockets, create a collaborative relationship between traditional court actors and outside organizations, and attempt to solve social problems rather than focus only on adjudicating cases. Evaluations of these courts are mostly positive, showing reduced recidivism among some types of offenders. Continued research is needed to justify the existence and growth of problem-solving courts.

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