Problem solving and specialty courts offer a non-traditional approach to criminal case processing by addressing underlying problems that may result in criminal behavior or to address the needs of specific populations. Problem solving and specialty courts use therapeutic justice to reduce criminal offending through therapeutic and interdisciplinary approaches that address substance use, mental health, and other underlying issues without jeopardizing public safety and due process.
An interdisciplinary team, led by a judge or magistrate, works collaboratively to provide accountability, competency development, and community protection. The team shares information and jointly solves problems, often requiring team members to move outside their traditional role. Participants are held accountable through status hearings, compliance monitoring, and consequences for non-compliance. Graduated rewards and sanctions are used as motivators for positive behavioral change.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Census of Problem Solving Courts in 2012 counted over 3,000 problem solving courts in the United States. Denver County Court currently has four problem solving and specialty courts.