Tag Archives: problem solving courts

‘Problem Solving’ Courts: America’s Answer to its Law and (Dis) Order?

For a few days at the end of January, I got to go to New York City for the sixth annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America. It was an honor to represent the Kitsap Sun and the good news is it gave me lots of new ideas for how to better cover criminal justice in our area.

This year’s theme was “Law and Disorder: Facing the Legal and Economic Challenges to American Criminal Justice.”

I was among 26 journalists from around the country that submitted a project and was awarded a chance to come to New York to hear from some of the most accomplished judges, prosecutors, police, corrections officials in the nation.

One of the best speakers was the symposium’s first: Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of the New York state court of appeals. Lippman has done much work promoting “problem solving” courts. I immediately thought of Kitsap County’s drug court.

I wonder if Lippman would say we could go further in this arena.

There are more than 180 drug courts in New York and he said 57,000 offenders have gone through them, giving those a chance to “get clean and avoid jail and prison,” he said.

Lippman said problem solving courts, which include domestic violence and veterans courts, have saved the state two million days of incarceration. For more about his discussion, click here.

I’ll blog about other experiences from New York that have stuck with me in the coming weeks and months.

Drug Court Graduate: ‘The Real Test is To Keep Rising’

A new piece of artwork at the Kitsap County Juvenile Department particularly struck me. Its creator is a graduate of the Individualized Treatment Court, which I was at the complex to write about. I wanted to share it, along with its artist’s commentary. The teen behind it shall remain nameless, unless he ever chooses to reveal himself.

Here’s his commentary, which is a powerful portrait of recovery:

“This is Not a drawing.

This is a Representation of how I rose from the ashes. How I walked away from a destructive path I led. I caused pain not only to myself but to my loved ones. A Phoenix rises again as I did and represents my fiery passion to change; to become anew. The Rising flames represent my metamorphosis; my becoming the Phoenix. Of equal importance to becoming the Phoenix is the past I left: the past I look back to learn from is nothing more than ashes in the wake. In the ashes you’ll see a car door and a muffler representing my near-death experience from being negligent while in control of a vehicle. I survived but my truck did not follow the same fate. The razor blade represents my experiences with cocaine as does the pope represent my experiences with pot. The Handcuffs represent the obvious arrests and being incarcerated in and out of jail over a good portion of my life.

Individualized Treatment Court really helped me deal with some serious issues I had in my life. I did not see my problems or how unhealthy I was and had much to learn. Just because I have risen from where I once was does not mean I am done; in reality it has just begun. It took my a long time to get where I am and so easily it can all be taken away due to something of my influence or course of action. The real test is not to rise from the ashes or stay risen. The real test is to keep rising and keep growing and eventually teach others what lessons I have learned. That is the true gift of knowledge.”

Read more about problem solving courts here.

The Rise of ‘Problem Solving’ Courts Continues

As you might have read in our Sunday piece about Kitsap County’s juvenile drug court, the use of similar so-called “problem solving” courts are still gaining momentum around the nation.

Just what is a “problem solving” court? Here’s a great definition, by way of the Minnesota Judicial Branch:

“… The court works closely with prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, social workers, and other justice system partners to develop a strategy that will pressure an offender into completing a treatment program and abstaining from repeating the behaviors that brought them to court.

Problem-solving court strategies include extended probation, frequent appearances before a judge, frequent meetings with probation officers, staggered sentencing that breaks up jail time into segments and allows the participant to “earn” reductions in jail time with good behavior, and regular alcohol and other drug testing.”

You might be surprised to know that there are different kinds of problem solving courts now. In fact, in here in Washington, we have two veteran’s courts (in Thurston and King counties) as well as DUI courts and family drug courts (including here in Kitsap). Kitsap County was also home to the first juvenile mental health court.

Here’s an interesting piece on veteran’s courts, courtesy of Slate.com.

The first drug court debuted in 1989 in Florida. Since then, they’ve been springing up all over the place, backed up by statistics showing they reduce recidivism and save us money. I have long followed the story of John Houston, who graduated from Kitsap County’s adult drug court.

I’ll leave you with a question: What do you think of such courts? Please feel free to answer the poll on the right as well. I’ve also posted Washington state’s report on problem solving courts below for your perusal.

Treatment Courts in Washington