American Judges Association


Date of this Version

April 2002


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 39:1 (2002), pp. 4-7. Copyright © 2002 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


Five years ago the term “problemsolving courts” was not commonly used or understood in the court community. Today, however, the term describes over a thousand courts around the country. Problem-solving courts generally focus on the underlying chronic behaviors of criminal defendants. Acting on the input of a team of experts from the community, a problem-solving court judge orders the defendant to comply with an individualized plan and then the judge (with the assistance of the community team) exercises intensive supervision over the defendant to ensure compliance with the terms of the plan. Individualized plans may include participating in a treatment program, submitting to periodic substance abuse screenings, and providing restitution. If the defendant successfully complies with the terms of the individualized plan, criminal charges are favorably resolved either by dismissal of charges, reduction of sentence, or the imposition of some lesser penalty. Examples of problem-solving courts in operation in the United States include drug courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts, homeless courts, teen courts, tobacco courts, and some forms of family courts.

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