Specialized Courts

The scope of criminal court research and evaluation has grown with the advent of specialized or problem-solving courts. Examples of specialized courts include drug courts, mental health courts, domestic violence courts and reentry courts.

Specialized courts differ from traditional courts in that they focus on one type of offense or offender. Usually the judge plays an intensive supervisory role. Other criminal justice components (e.g., probation) and social services agencies (e.g., drug treatment) are involved and collaborate closely in case processing.

Most specialized court programs are motivated by two sets of goals:

  • Case management to expedite case processing and reduce caseload and time to disposition, thus increasing trial capacity for more serious crimes.
  • Therapeutic jurisprudence to reduce criminal offending through therapeutic and interdisciplinary approaches that address addiction and other underlying issues without jeopardizing public safety and due process.

The most common specialized courts are drug courts, but other types of specialized courts are being established around the country as jurisdictions apply similar approaches to address violent and repeat offending. [Note: Repeat offending is often referred to as "recidivism" in criminal justice research.]

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Date Modified: March 14, 2013