Treatment (Specialty) Court Toolkit
Treatment (also called Specialty) Courts focus on providing treatment for individuals with high treatment needs along with supervision and treatment to address criminogenic risk factors for individuals who also are assessed as possessing a high risk to commit another crime. High risk in this circumstance does not speak to dangerousness, only to an individual’s risk to recidivate. Treatment Courts require intense communication and collaboration from diverse stakeholders within the criminal justice and treatment realms. Participants assessed as high need/high risk in treatment courts, particularly mental health courts, have been found to do better with the combination for treatment and supervision than within traditional supervision alone. Below are links to resources to plan courts and/or get more information about how treatment courts work.
Letter of Support from Thomas C. Peachey, City of The Dalles Municipal Judge (ret.)
It should be no surprise that a justice system derived in large part from a 13th Century experience has failed to keep pace with the complexities and requirements of modern justice. Criminal Courts today are faced with a myriad of issues that are seldom resolvable through the application of traditional processes. Modern criminal courts are commonly presented with mental health and dependency problems that are poorly addressed through the imposition of fines and incarceration.
Specialty courts are proving to be a timely and effective method of engaging criminal defendants in programs and services they might not otherwise be capable of accessing. They have also proven more successful at reducing recidivism rates than traditional approaches to criminal prosecution. Specialty courts include Drug Courts, Family Dependency Courts, DUII Courts, Veterans Courts and Mental Health Courts. The first of these courts occurred in the 1980s and now can be found in most, but not all, jurisdictions in the State of Oregon. These courts are proving to be especially adept at engaging criminal defendants with local counseling resources. These courts always provide more structure and intense supervision of their participants than traditional models of probation. The mental health agencies providing these counseling resources have become vital partners in these efforts.
The most common resistance of Judges and court administrators to these specialty courts is that there are not enough resources available for their implementation. In fact, they cannot afford not to adopt them. Recidivism rates for mental health court defendants alone has been less than 14% and jail sentences have been cut in half.1 My own anecdotal experience in our local court has more than substantiated these statistics. In addition, they also reach what are often the most difficult defendants. The cost savings associated with reduced prosecutions and incarceration is substantial. The benefit to the lives of these individual defendants and the safety and livability of their communities is incalculable.
It is my hope that these materials will assist you in the consideration and adoption of your own specialty court.
Thomas C. Peachey, City of The Dalles Municipal Judge (ret.)
1. Michigan Department of Community Health Statewide Mental Health Court Outcome Evaluation, September 2012
How do I create a mental health court?
The Council of State Governments has created “Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum“, a comprehensive, online resource for individuals or interdisciplinary groups interested in starting, improving, or simply learning about mental health courts. Among its extensive features, the curriculum contains a series of flexible modules with comprehensive presentations, activities, and additional resources, and a companion resource dedicated to facilitators.”
Oregon Specialty Court Standards
The Criminal Justice Commission partnered with the Oregon Judicial Department, NPC Research, & the Oregon Association of Drug Court Professionals (OADCP) to develop Oregon specific standards for adult drug, mental health, family, veterans, juvenile, & DUII courts. These standards are Oregon specific, as well as based on the National standards.
Treatment Court Training
The Center for Court Innovation has a wonderful and free video-based training website that covers adult drug, juvenile, veterans, and healing to wellness courts. The lessons cover a wide range of topics (e.g., the roles of the team members, trauma informed care, incentives and sanctions, maximizing participant interactions, etc) that are helpful for all types of treatment courts, not just those specifically covered. The site also has virtual training sites you can visit & a resource library.
A national organization with many great training resources
An excellent place to find out the trends in Oregon and to network with local professionals