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Parole, Desistance from Crime, and Community Integration
in an article titled “Judging for the New Millennium.” Applying a therapeutic jurisprudence perspective in practice, Judge Schma advocates that judges become active “problem-solvers” in their courtrooms.
Therapeutic jurisprudence has been most readily brought into play in judicial proceedings of specialized treatment-oriented courts, or “problem-solving courts.” Therapeutic jurisprudence recognizes the reality that the legal system may not have the expertise to solve social and behavioral problems, but that courts can lead a multidisciplinary team to promote behavioral change.
The most mature example of the judiciary’s involvement in specialized courts the involve offender rehabilitation is the drug court. First implemented in 1989, the growth of drug courts has been unprecedented: there are now more than 1,550 drug courts now operating in the United States (National Institute of Justice, 2006). In a drug court, judges use a case management approach to identify and coordinate local services that help offenders refrain from drug use. When violations of the drug court contract occur, the judge usually administers a predetermined set of graduated, parsimonious sanctions for violations.
Studies suggest that recidivism rates are lower for drug court participants (and have been reported to be as low as 4% for program graduates), although the recidivism statistics vary by the characteristics of the specific drug court and its target population (National Institute of Justice, 2006). Unfortunately, many of these studies are not empirically rigorous; therefore, it is uncertain whether the drug court alone was responsible for the low recidivism rates. Nonetheless, the evidence does show that the best adult drug courts are effective at reducing system costs, crime, and drug use (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2005). Urban Institute researcher John Roman (2005, available: http://www.urban.org/publications/900803.html.) recently summarized the available evidence noting:
There have been more than 100 research studies about adult drug courts and if you look at the best, most rigorous 25 of those, you probably come to the conclusion that drug courts reduce criminal offending by 15 to 20 percent. So this is not a panacea but represents a real reduction in offending levels.
Judge Cindy Lederman of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Florida noted at the workshop that the essential component needed in a reentry court is some sort of motivation for a litigant to change. For example, in dependency courts, where therapeutic jurisprudence concepts have always been used and are even part of the law, people’s children can be taken away, and yet many defendants are not motivated to do what is necessary to get their children back. Providing incentives for releasees to change may require fundamental changes in the law and in judicial and criminal justice