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.

Browse criminal justice research papers or view criminal justice research topics.


  1. Acker, J. R., Hendrix, P. N., Hogan, L., & Kordzek, A. (2001). Building a better youth court. Law & Policy, 23, 197–215.
  2. Belenko, S. (2001). Research on drug courts: A critical review: 2001 update. New York: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
  3. Belenko, S., & Dembo, R. (2003). Treating adolescent substance abuse problems in the juvenile drug court. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 26, 87–110.
  4. Berman, G., & Feinblatt, J. (2001). Problem-solving courts: A brief primer. Law & Policy, 23, 125–140.
  5. Berman, G., & Feinblatt, J. (2005). Good courts: The case for problem-solving justice. New York: The New Press.
  6. Berman, G., & Fox, A. (2005). Justice in Red Hook. Justice System Journal, 26, 77–90.
  7. Berman, G., Rempel, M., & Wolf, R. V. (Eds.). (2007). Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice. New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  8. Boothroyd, R. A., Poythress, N. G., McGaha, A., & Petrila, J. (2003). The Broward Mental Health Court: Process, outcomes, and service utilization. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 26, 55–71.
  9. Casey, P. M., & Rottman, D. B. (2005). Problem-solving courts: Models and trends. Justice System Journal, 26, 35–56.
  10. Cissner, A. (2007). Confronting teen dating violence: An evaluation of the Brooklyn Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 175–205). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  11. Cissner, A. B., & Rempel, M. (2007). The state of drug court research: Moving beyond “Do they work?” In G. Berman, M. Rempel,&R.V.Wolf (Eds.),Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 23–50). NewYork: Center for Court Innovation.
  12. Davis, W. N. (2003). Special problems for specialty courts. ABA Journal, 89, 32–37.
  13. Dorf, M. C., & Fagan, J. (2003). Problem-solving courts: From innovation to institutionalization. American Criminal Law Review, 40, 1501–1511.
  14. Farole, D. J., Jr. (2007). The Harlem Parole Reentry Court: Implementation and preliminary impact. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 319–328). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  15. Galloway, A. L., & Drapela, L. A. (2006). Are effective drug courts an urban phenomenon? Considering their impact on recidivism among a nonmetropolitan adult sample in Washington State. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 50, 280–293.
  16. Gavin, C., & Puffett, N. K. (2007). Specialized domestic violence courts in New York City: A comparative study. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 127–161). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  17. Goldkamp, J. S. (2000). The drug court response: Issues and implications for justice change. Albany Law Review, 63, 923–961.
  18. Goldkamp, J. S., White, M. D., & Robinson, J. B. (2001a). Context and change: The evolution of pioneering drug courts in Portland and LasVegas (1991–1998). Law & Policy, 23, 141–170.
  19. Goldkamp, J. S., White, M. D., & Robinson, J. B. (2001b). Do drug courts work? Getting inside the drug court black box. Journal of Drug Issues, 31, 27–72.
  20. Goldstein, H. (1979). Improving policing: A problem-oriented approach. Crime & Delinquency, 25, 236–258.
  21. Gover, A. R., Brank, E. M., & MacDonald, J. M. (2007). A specialized domestic violence court in South Carolina. Violence Against Women, 13, 603–626.
  22. Hora, P. F. (2002). A dozen years of drug treatment courts: Uncovering our theoretical foundation and the construction of a mainstream paradigm. Substance Use & Misuse, 37, 1469–1488.
  23. Jeffries, S. (2005). How justice gets done: Politics, managerialism, consumerism, and therapeutic jurisprudence. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 17, 254–268.
  24. Kralstein, D. (2007). Community court research: A literature review. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 211–218). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  25. Labriola,M., Rempel,M., & Davis, R. C. (2007).Testing the effectiveness of batterer programs and judicial monitoring: Results froma randomized trial in the Bronx. InG. Berman,M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 163–173). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  26. Luskin, M. L. (2001). Who is diverted? Case selection for court-monitored mental health treatment. Law & Policy, 23, 217–236.
  27. MacKenzie, D. L., (2006). Reducing the criminal activities of known offenders and delinquents: Crime prevention in the courts and corrections. In L. W. Sherman, D. P. Farrington, B. C.Welsh,&D. L.MacKenzie (Eds.), Evidence-based crime prevention (Rev. ed., pp. 330–404). London: Routledge.
  28. Malkin, V. (2005). The end of welfare as we know it. Critique of Anthropology, 25, 361–388.
  29. Maruna, S., & LeBel, T. P. (2003). Welcome home? Examining the reentry court concept from a strengths-based perspective. Western Criminology Review, 4, 91–107.
  30. McCoy, C. (2003). The politics of problem-solving: An overview of the origins and development of therapeutic courts. American Criminal Law Review, 40, 1513–1534.
  31. Mirchandani, R. (2005). What’s so special about specialized courts? The state and social change in Salt Lake City’s domestic violence court. Law & Society Review, 39, 379–418.
  32. Mirchandani, R. (2006). Hitting is not manly: Domestic violence court and the re-imagination of the patriarchal state. Gender & Society, 20, 781–804.
  33. O’Keefe, K. (2007). The Brooklyn Mental Health Court: Implementation and outcomes. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R.V.Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problemsolving justice (pp. 281–318). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  34. O’Keefe, K., & Rempel, M. (2007). Evaluation of the Staten Island Treatment Court: Implementation and impacts. In G. Berman, M. Rempel, & R. V. Wolf (Eds.), Documenting results: Research on problem-solving justice (pp. 75–100). New York: Center for Court Innovation.
  35. Olson, D. E., Lurigio, A. J., & Albertson, S. (2001). Implementing the key components of specialized drug treatment courts: Practice and policy considerations. Law & Policy, 23, 171–196.
  36. Roman, J., & Harrell, A. (2001). Assessing the costs and benefits accruing to the public from a graduated sanctions program for drug-using defendants. Law & Policy, 23, 237–268.
  37. Steadman, H. J., Redlich,A. D., Griffin, P., Petrila, J., &Monahan, J. (2005). From referral to disposition: Case processing in seven mental health courts. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 23, 215–226.
  38. Trupin, E., & Richards, H. (2003). Seattle’s mental health courts: Early indicators of effectiveness. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 26, 33–53.
  39. Walker, S. P., & Louw, D. A. (2003). The South African court for sexual offences. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 26, 73–85.
  40. Wilson, D., Mitchell, O., & MacKenzie, D. L. (2002, November). A systematic review of drug court effects on recidivism. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Chicago.
  41. Wilson, J. Q., & Kelling, G. (1982, March). Broken windows: The police and neighborhood safety. Atlantic Monthly, pp. 29–38.
  42. Wolf, R.V. (2007). Expanding the use of problem solving. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from