Census of Problem-Solving Courts, 2012 (ICPSR 36717)

Version Date: Apr 6, 2017 View help for published

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36717.v1

Version V1

With the creation of the first drug court in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 1989, problem-solving courts emerged as an innovative effort to close the revolving door of recidivism. Designed to target the social and psychological problems underlying certain types of criminal behavior, the problem-solving model boasts a community-based, therapeutic approach. As a result of the anecdotal successes of early drug courts, states expanded the problem-solving court model by developing specialized courts or court dockets to address a number of social problems. Although the number and types of problem-solving courts has been expanding, the formal research and statistical information regarding the operations and models of these programs has not grown at the same rate. Multiple organizations have started mapping the variety of problem-solving courts in the county; however, a national catalogue of problem-solving court infrastructure is lacking. As evidence of this, different counts of problem-solving courts have been offered by different groups, and a likely part of the discrepancy lies in disagreements about how to define and identify a problem-solving court. What is known about problem-solving courts is therefore limited to evaluation or outcome analyses of specific court programs.

In 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics awarded the National Center for State Courts a grant to develop accurate and reliable national statistics regarding problem-solving court operations, staffing, and participant characteristics. The NCSC, with assistance from the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI), produced the resulting Census of Problem-Solving Courts which captures information on over 3,000 problem-solving courts that were operational in 2012.

United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Census of Problem-Solving Courts, 2012. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-04-06. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36717.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

City, county, or court jurisdiction

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
2012

Due to the length of string variables, no Stata and R files are produced for this study.

A standard and accepted definition of problem-solving courts does not exist. Therefore, adopting a working definition for purposes of the Census was the first step for project staff. NCSC convened a group of national experts, the Advisory Council, to discuss and agree upon essential elements or core components that define problem-solving courts and to develop the definition to apply to the Census project. To prepare, NCSC staff reviewed more than 20 published definitions from existing literature and state statutes and presented the most frequently mentioned components of what constitutes a problem-solving court to the Advisory Council as a starting point for discussion. The Council agreed upon nine core components common to problem-solving courts:

1. Court, docket, program.

2. Judicial authority, supervision.

3. Collaboration, team, community.

4. Underlying social problem/issue that defines class of participants.

5. Enhanced information.

6. Individualized, specific needs/ risks.

7. Therapeutic.

8. Alternative sanctions, creative approaches, rehabilitation.

9. Goal to reduce recidivism, stop revolving door.

Given the wide variety of programs and models in existence, the Advisory Council concluded that not all courts would employ each of the nine chosen components. For purposes of the Census, the Council wanted a definition that would be inclusive enough to capture the entire population of specialty dockets. Thus the Census definition would need to balance the competing goals of being inclusive and adhering to some objective set of inclusion criteria by various stakeholders. For the purposes of this Census project, a problem-solving court is a docket, calendar, or program operating within the judicial branch, with a dedicated judicial officer that uses therapeutic justice to reduce recidivism. Specific to the Census, the NCSC required that the court was operational, or matriculating participants, in calendar year 2012.

Based on the Census definition for problem-solving courts, some exclusions were necessary. For instance, the requirement that the program operate within the judiciary and have ongoing case supervision by a judicial officer eliminated many diversion programs where entry into a program (and possibly resolution) occurs prior to judicial involvement. Youth courts that operated as community-based or operated by private non-profits or school-based systems, were also generally excluded from the Census. Additionally, courts that operated under a youth judge or peer jury model were excluded. To be included, youth or teen courts must be justice-involved. In other words, a charge must be brought to the prosecutor before intervention by the program, otherwise, the court was excluded. An example of such an exclusion is if in a program the school resource officer agrees not to charge the youth upon completion of the diversion program.

Exclusions also applied to federal courts, tribal courts (as a general rule, unless they are specialized to address an underlying social issue such as a tribal drug court), and civil programs. Civil programs that have a contractual component (e.g., mortgage foreclosure, business courts, complex litigation programs) are developed for expediency in case processing rather than introducing a therapeutic component and were thus excluded. However, civil courts/programs addressing family, domestic relations, or domestic violence issues were not automatically excluded; instead family and domestic programs were reviewed and, as was the case with the youth/teen programs, if the other definitional requirements were met, they were included in the project. Based on the Census definition for problem-solving courts, some exclusions were necessary. For instance, the requirement that the program operate within the judiciary and have ongoing case supervision by a judicial officer eliminated many diversion programs where entry into a program (and possibly resolution) occurs prior to judicial involvement. Youth courts that operated as community-based or operated by private non-profits or school-based systems, were also generally excluded from the Census. Additionally, courts that operated under a youth judge or peer jury model were excluded. To be included, youth or teen courts must be justice-involved. In other words, a charge must be brought to the prosecutor before intervention by the program, otherwise, the court was excluded. An example of such an exclusion is if in a program the school resource officer agrees not to charge the youth upon completion of the diversion program.

Unknown populations, such as the population of problem-solving courts this project identifies, can be validated through cross-verification and respondent-driven sampling (Heckathorn,1997; Salganik & Heckathorn, 2004). Thus, NCSC used a triangulation approach to compile a comprehensive list of problem-solving courts. Triangulation combines several (preferably 3 or more) research methodologies and sources of information to identify unknown populations. Researchers can be more confident about each particular result if multiple methods identify the same source.

Since the literature emphasizes the importance of maximizing the sources of referral or reference as a means of mitigating any biases associated with respondent-driven or referral sampling, the NCSC employed multiple supplemental approaches and sources of information to further improve the confidence that the project derived a valid and complete census.

Cross-sectional

Problem-solving courts that were operational in 2012 in the United States.

Problem-solving court
survey data

The NCSC took a multi-level, user-driven approach to operationalizing the definition of a problem-solving court. Survey items were designed to align with the nine previously identified components. At the conclusion of the Census survey, the NCSC reviewed the resulting dataset and created six variables to represent key and measurable definitional components.

1. Specialized Court Docket or Program - Court has a dedicated docket or program.

2. Judicial Authority, Ongoing Supervision - Court provides ongoing judicial interactions with participants.

3. Team Collaboration, Community Involvement, Information Sharing - Court fosters partnerships between the court and outside agencies and between members of the problem-solving court team.

4. Specialized Team Expertise - Members of the court team receive training that contributes to the successful implementation and/or operation of the problem-solving court.

5. Individualized Treatment and Responses to Risk/Needs - There is a coordinated strategy in place to respond to participants' compliance or noncompliance and individual needs.

6. Therapeutic, Rehabilitative - Some type of therapeutic treatment service is offered to participants.

Individually or in combination, these variables may serve as filters to select relevant subsamples of programs or courts along a range of stakeholder perspectives and dimensions.

86%

2017-04-06

2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Census of Problem-Solving Courts, 2012. ICPSR36717-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-04-06. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36717.v1

2017-04-06 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

The following weight variable is in the data file: WEIGHT "Weight for Non-Responding in-Scope Courts."

Please note that the weights are non-integer weights. All statistics in the report were produced using SUDAAN. Using other statistical programs (e.g., SPSS, SAS, STATA. R) will likely produce different estimates.

Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

NACJD logo

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.