OverviewSince the early 1990s, problem-solving courts have evolved from a lone drug court in Miami-Dade County and a single community court in midtown Manhattan to thousands of initiatives. Research has demonstrated that, if implemented properly, the problem-solving approach can decrease recidivism, reduce crime, improve coordination among justice agencies, enhance services to victims, and increase trust in the justice system. Results like these have led to problem-solving justice being endorsed by national organizations such as the American Bar Association and the Conference of Chief Justices. BJA has been a central player in making all of this happen, providing seed money to new experiments, offering technical assistance, and encouraging research efforts.
BJA convened a focus group in 2003 to discuss the problem-solving court movement. The focus group, which included key representatives of the various justice system agencies, discussed the potential of system-wide screening, assessment, and referrals to social services to reduce recidivism and system costs. Based on the feedback from the focus group, BJA created the Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative in 2005, naming the Center for Court Innovation as technical assistance provider. The Center continues to aid justice reformers around the country with BJA’s support under the Problem-Solving Justice Initiative, offering training and technical assistance to judges, court administrators, lawyers and others who wish to experiment with the community court model and test problem-solving solutions in a variety of contexts, including both diversion and court-based approaches.
BJA Funds Awarded to Implement or Enhance Community Courts
BJA has awarded $2 million to the Center for Court Innovation to fund 10 sites to implement or enhance a community court. Community courts respond to lower level crimes by ordering offenders to pay back the communities they’ve harmed through visible community service projects while also linking offenders to services designed to help them address the underlying issues fueling their criminal behavior.
Related Publications/Information:A New Way of Doing Business: A Conversation about the Statewide Coordination of Problem-Solving CourtsOver the last few years, a number of states have begun to coordinate or administer problem-solving courts on a statewide basis. What are states trying to achieve by doing this? Is this the logical next step in the development of problem-solving justice? Is it possible to "institutionalize" problem-solving courts without stifling innovation? These were just some of the questions tackled by participants in a daylong roundtable sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Problem-Solving Justice in the United States: Common Principles (Fact Sheet)
Principles of Problem-Solving Justice By Robert V. Wolf An examination of the six principles that animate problem-solving justice. The principles are based on the Center for Court Innovation's experience developing problem-solving initiatives, an analysis of problem-solving projects from across the country, and feedback from leading practitioners.
Problem-Solving JusticeThis web page offers resources, including publications and interviews, to support practitioners planning or operating problem-solving justice initiatives.
Expanding the Use of Problem Solving: The U.S. Department of Justice's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice InitiativeBy Robert V. WolfAn in-depth look at the 10 projects awarded grants under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative. All the grantees are trying something new: expanding problem solving to include new populations, new geographic territory, or new agencies within the criminal justice system.
Overview of the Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative (Published in Government Executive)By Brittany Ballenstedt An update on some outcomes achieved by grantees under the original initiative and a look at the Bureau of Justice Assistance's effort to learn from failed criminal justice experiments.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel: Lessons from Problem-Solving Courts By Robert V. Wolf A review of nine practical strategis to break down the conceptual and in some cases practical barriers that separate specialized courts from each other and the world of problem-solving from traditional courts.
Fact Sheets and Self-Assessment ToolsThe Center for Court Innovation has developed short primers on problem-solving justice:
Problem-Solving Justice in the United States: Common Principles
Using Data to Build Your Program
Engaging Stakeholders in Your Project
Publicizing Your Program and Its Successes
Finding the Resources to Help Your Program Thrive
Mapping Community Resources
Using Diversion as Part of a Problem-Solving Strategy
Developing a Community Service Protocol
Evaluating Your Program
Introduction to Problem Solving: Key Issues and Challenges This curriculum is based on the agendas and participant handbooks created for two workshops held for grantee sites under the Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. Intended to provide practitioners with the tools to initiate their own problem-solving initiative, it includes a number of resources that can be adapted for a variety of purposes. It is intended to assist court managers, judicial trainers, and other in putting on trainings at the local level, creating agendas and participant handbooks based on these materials. The hope is that it will help jurisdictions train their local system players in planning and implementing a community-based problem-solving criminal justice initiative.
Sample Documents This page offers sample documents-everything from consent forms and intake assessments to program descriptions and brochures-used every day by problem-solving initiatives around the country.
"Bronx Community Solutions: A Video Introduction" This documentary-style 8 minute video provides an overview of Bronx Community Solutions, an experimental project that brings the principles of problem-solving courts to every courtroom in a busy urban courthouse. By supervising low-level offenders in community restitution projects, linking offenders to on-site social services, and rigorously monitoring compliance, Bronx Community Solutions seeks to make punishments more meaningful and improve public confidence in justice. "Bronx Community Solutions: A Video Introduction" is available for free from the Center for Court Innovation, which operates Bronx Community Solutions with support from BJA's Community-Based Problem-Solving Criminal Justice Initiative. The video was produced and directed by award-winning film maker Meema Spadola. To order a free copy on DVD, visit the publications page on the Center's web site.
Applying Problem-Solving Principles in Mainstream Courts: Lessons for State Courts"By Donald J. Farole, Jr., Nora K. Puffett, Michael Rempel, and Francine Byrne A summary of focus groups of judges in New York and California examining which practices of problem-solving courts can be integrated into conventional court operations. Published in The Justice System Journal, Volume 26, No. 1 (2005)
The Hardest Sell? Problem-Solving Justice and the Challenges of Statewide Implementation By Greg BermanAn overview of the issues faced by states attempting to mainstream problem-solving innovation.
Engaging the Community: A Guide for Community Justice Planners By Greg Berman and David C. AndersonTips for community justice planners about how to build stronger connections between neighborhoods and the criminal justice system.
Defining the Problem: Using Data to Plan a Community Justice ProjectBy Robert V. WolfA look at how community justice initiatives across the county have used concrete data to define local problems. Beyond Big Cities: The Problem-Solving Innovations of Community Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions By Nicole Campbell and Robert V. Wolf
Beyond Big Cities: The Problem-Solving Innovations of Community Prosecutors in Smaller Jurisdictions Examines the challenges and rewards of community prosecution programs in less populated and rural communities.
Surveying Communities: A Resource for Community Justice Planners By Leslie PaikOutlines how criminal justice officials can use community surveys to gather data about neighborhood public safety problems.
Learning from Failure An effort by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation, to learn from failed criminal justice experiments.
Statewide Coordination of Problem-Solving Courts A roundtable conversation about strategies states are using to support and monitor the development of problem-solving justice initiatives.
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Contact information for training and technical assistance guidance:Julius LangDirector, National Technical AssistanceCenter for Court Innovation520 Eighth Avenue, 18th FloorNY NY 10018Tel: 212-373-8091Fax: 212-397-0985E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgWeb site: www.courtinnovation.org
Center for Court Innovation
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In 2005, BJA kicked off the initiative with grants to the following jurisdictions:
Four Mentor Community Courts Selected
The Center for Court Innovation (CCI), in collaboration with BJA, selected community courts in Dallas (TX), Hartford (CT), Orange County (CA), and San Francisco (CA) to serve as national resources, helping courts around the country to enhance procedural justice and promote the use of alternatives to jail where appropriate. For more information, visit CCI's web site.
Philadelphia Community-Based Prosecution Model
In partnership with BJA, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys has produced Implementing a Geographic Community-Based Prosecution Model in Philadelphia. This document, written by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, details the implementation of geographic prosecution and highlights the benefits, lessons, and results of the criminal justice reform.
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