Twelfth Judicial Circuit Creates Problem-Solving Court Division

The Twelfth Judicial Circuit is a leader in the state in providing “therapeutic justice,” creating and implementing problem-solving courts that use multidisciplinary teams and case management to address the root causes of people becoming involved in the criminal justice system: diseases of addiction, mental illness, and co-occurring disorders.

Judges and court leaders have witnessed reduced numbers of re-offenses and increased confidence and satisfaction with the court process in programs that combine treatment and rehabilitation with judicial supervision and accountability.

The pandemic caused us to look at the way the court provides services to citizens, including the way we provide services to our problem-solving court clients.

Currently in our circuit, senior judges or judges assigned to other full-time divisions staff the problem-solving courts.

We discovered we needed to create uniform procedures and oversight between all the problem-solving courts as they relate to criminal matters. We also discovered we needed to maintain open communication with partner agencies and community leaders to help our problem-solving court clients achieve maximum success.

Based on those needs, we are making changes that will improve the processes and treatment programs for the clients in our problem-solving courts.

Therefore, Chief Judge Kimberly C. Bonner has entered Administrative Order 2020-19.3 that will merge all treatment/specialty courts into one new super division that we are calling the Problem-Solving Court and Criminal Administrative Division “P,” effective January 4, 2021. The Problem-Solving Court Division judge will be dedicated full-time to the administration of problem-solving courts in the circuit as well as the felony divisions within the circuit.

Securing ongoing funding for problem-solving courts is a time-consuming task due to the lack of monies for treatment/rehabilitation; the process to maintain current funding is complex. Having one judge dedicated to the administration of all the problem-solving court programs will allow for improved community outreach/education, and allow the division judge to work more closely with Court Administration to monitor existing funding or seek additional funding sources as needed.

In addition, the Division P judge will meet regularly with the State Attorney, the Public Defender, the Office of Regional Counsel, the private criminal defense bar, and other justice stakeholders in all three counties to implement circuit-wide procedures to improve the management and efficiency of each problem-solving court and felony court.

Our problem-solving courts have proven effective in rehabilitating their participants and have many other positive outcomes not only for the clients, but for the communities we serve. These changes are necessary to promote consistency, efficiency and oversight of all our problem-solving courts.

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