Snapshot: Problem-solving courts in Maryland USA

Guest blogger Kathleen Seifert, Center for Families, Children and the Courts, Student Fellow (2016-2017):

This semester, the CFCC Student Fellows learned about the importance of employing therapeutic jurisprudence[1] and preventive law[2] to maximize positive, therapeutic outcomes for people involved in various courts.

Problem-solving courts “address matters that are under the court’s jurisdiction through a multidisciplinary and integrated approach that incorporates collaboration among court, government, and community-based organizations.”[3]

Problem-solving courts embody the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence and preventive law.

In 2002, the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts, Office of Problem-Solving Courts was directed to oversee six drug treatment courts in Maryland. Since then, problem-solving courts have seen significant expansion. As of 2015, Maryland has 37 drug treatment courts, two re-entry courts, three mental health courts, nine truancy reduction courts, and one veteran’s court in Prince George’s County, along with a veteran’s docket in Baltimore City. In 2014-2015, it cost $6.2 million to operate these problem-solving courts.[4]

Drug treatment courts are designed to coordinate treatment among criminal justice, mental health, and social service agencies to encourage the participants to break the cycle of substance abuse and addiction. Drug treatment courts operate in all Maryland counties with the exception of Allegany, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, and Worcester counties. Graduation requirements may vary from court to court. To graduate from a drug treatment court, participants may need to complete a variety of program requirements, such as paying restitution and costs, participating in a support group, working toward gainful employment, completing community service, 90-180 days of clean urinalysis, receiving a positive report from the Drug Treatment Court team (including the judge), and/or creating a plan to maintain sobriety after graduation.[5] In 2014-2015, 885 people participated in drug treatment court programs in Maryland, and 499 graduated from their program — a 50.7% success rate.[6]

Mental health courts are designed to identify and treat individuals whose mental illness contributes to their criminal behavior. Mental health courts create treatment plans which can include assistance with employment, housing, mental health treatment, and other community support services. Maryland operates mental health courts in Baltimore City, Harford County, and Prince George’s County. In 2014-2015, Maryland mental health courts treated 702 people.[7]

Truancy reduction courts are designed to improve school attendance and the student’s attitude about education. Truancy reduction courts operate in Baltimore City, Dorchester, Harford, Kent, Somerset, Prince George’s, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties, although Baltimore City’s Truancy Court Program operates out of the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts and is a voluntary program rather than an official court.[8] Graduation criteria may vary from court to court, but most require some level of demonstrated decreases in absences and/or tardies. In 2014-2015, 341 students participated in truancy reduction court programs, and 254 students graduated from the program — a 74.4% success rate.[9]

What do you think about the success rate of these problem-solving courts?

Do you think that these problem-solving courts should be expanded to serve more Marylanders?

Do you think additional funding should be provided to operate these problem-solving courts?  

Join the conversation …post a comment below…

About this blog:

Kathleen Seifert is a 2016-2017 Student Fellow with the Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC).  Andrew has participated in a three-credit law school course where Associate Professor Barbara Babb teaches about cutting edge family law and family justice system reform, including the theories underlying the work of CFCC. Since Therapeutic Jurisprudence is at the core of all the work of the CFCC, that is the first concept the students read about, discuss, and attempt to apply/incorporate into their thinking, lawyering, and writing.  One of the course requirements is that each student must write a blog related to something they have learned in the course

References:

[1]Therapeutic jurisprudence is the study of the role of the law as a therapeutic agent by serving as a lens that focuses on the law’s impact on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being. Babb, Barbara A. & David B. Wexler, Therapeutic Jurisprudence, 2 (2014), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2360252.

[2] Preventive lawyers assist their clients achieve the client’s goals in a manner that minimizes legal risks, identifies potential future legal dilemmas, and helps the client avoid future legal dilemmas. Winnick, Bruce J., The Expanding Scope of Preventative Law, 3 FLA. COASTAL L. J. 189 (2002).

[3] Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts, Annual Report: Problem-Solving Courts, 4 (2015).

[4] Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts, Annual Report: Problem-Solving Courts, 8-9 (2015).

[5]Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Drug Treatment Court, available at http://www.circuitcourt.org/learn-about/drug-treatment-court. Montgomery County Circuit Court, Drug Court Programs: Frequently Asked Questions, available at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/circuitcourt/court/drugcourt/DrugCourt_FAQ.html#_Graduation_Requirement.

[6]Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts, Annual Report: Problem-Solving Courts, 13-14 (2015).

[7]Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts, Annual Report: Problem-Solving Courts, 14-15 (2015).

[8] Maryland Judiciary Administrative Office of the Courts, Annual Report: Problem-Solving Courts, 16 (2015)

[9]Ibid.

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