American Judges Association


Date of this Version

May 2005


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 42:1 (2005), pp. 22-25. Copyright © 2005 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


Problem-solving court s — m o re accurately, specialized dockets—are established to deal with problems that may benefit from focused and sustained attention. These courts include a treatment component in an effort to reduce recidivism, which in turn reduces the number of future arrests, prosecutions, and court cases.

Specialized drug courts appeared in the late 1980s in response to the dramatic increase in drug offenses. Some drug courts, often referred to as “drug-treatment courts,” emphasize treatment as the way to reduce recidivism. Essential elements of drug courts include: (1) immediate intervention; (2) nonadversarial adjudication; (3) hands-on judicial involvement; (4) treatment programs with clear rules and structured goals; and (5) a team approach that brings together the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, and correctional staff. Although there are variations, the drug-treatment courts usually include judicial supervision of community-based treatment, timely referral to treatment, regular status hearings to monitor treatment progress, mandatory and periodic drug testing, and a system of graduated sanctions and rewards.

The success of drug courts has renewed interest in other types of problem-solving courts, such as community courts, domestic-violence courts, and mental-health courts.4 The newest such court to gain acceptance in many communities handles alcohol-impaired drivers.

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