A specialty court is a term often used to refer to problem-solving courts. These courts have as their main aim the urge to provide assistance to criminal defendants (low-level) who might suffer from mental health, substance or social abuse problem because of becoming repeat offenders. The courts achieve this role through providing intensive supervision and treatment to the victims. The United States of America has a rich network of specialty courts that cover various aspects. In essence, such courts may include Mental Health Treatment Courts, Drug Treatment Courts, Veteran’s Treatment Courts and courts that cater for women that have been charged with offenses of prostitution, which is a felony. In Minnesota, the specialty courts seek to address the core reasons behind the defendant being involved in the judicial system. In doing so, the courts take into consideration the public safety of the defendant. Minnesota has several clinical and legal criteria that a candidate must meet in order for them to be eligible for the program. In essence, the primary purpose of these courts is to offer assistance to people who commit crimes that are non-violent felonies in nature. Despite this threshold, some other specialty courts have accepted misdemeanor cases, showing the flexibility of these courts.
The emergence and embracement of the specialty courts in the modern world represents a major shift in the manner that courts handle certain offenders and key stakeholders in the Minnesota justice system (Dancu et al. 21-22). Important to note is the fact that, through the specialty courts, there is a close association between the courts, public defenders, social workers, prosecutors, probation officers and other partners of the judicial system. The main aim of such an association is to develop an effective strategy, which will be geared towards ensuring that offenders complete their treatment program. This is important in that it will help these offenders to abstain from engaging in activities and behaviors that took them to court.
In ensuring that they address these issues conclusively, the specialty courts employ a number of strategies. For instance, the courts may decide to extend the probation period of the offender, require the offender to make several appearances to a judge and have more meetings with probation officers. In essence, this is important in that it exposes the offender more to the authorities and as such, they get a chance of learning from them. The courts also promote staggered sentencing in which the offender’s jail term is broken into several segments. This ensures that the offenders may have more time to engage in activities that may positively build the state and help other members of the family and society in general. Through this program, the offenders have high chances of reducing their jail terms if they engage in good behavior practices. During this period, the offenders are subjected to numeral drug and alcohol tests. This is important in order for them to improve on their behavior change and become important members of the society (Wilson et al. 43).
Current research shows that the approach of the specialty courts is more effective when compared to the strategies employed by the traditional courts in an attempt to reduce repeating of offenses. This is a true case especially for some offenders, for instance, those that have a high potential of recidivism. The specialty courts have resulted in more and more defendants succeeding to turn around their lives and becoming citizens who are healthy, law-abiding. There is also evidence to the effect that implementing these strategies correctly results in improved public safety. By this, the taxpayer’s money will be saved since most offenders will reform and become productive members of the society (Steadman et al. 34).
As already argued above, specialty courts were designed with the main aim being to turn around the lives of the offenders. This is true if the offenders are engaged in practices that may prevent them from taking part in practices that took them to prison. The main reason behind such am establishment was the view that the traditional courts did little to positively change the lives of the offenders. The traditional courts, in most cases, tended to be punishment-oriented, in which the offenders were always subjected to tough punishment and hard labor, with the aim that they would fear committing the offenses again. This is a negative approach to reducing crime in the society in that the offenders do not internalize the reasons why they should not commit offenses. Rather, they learn to respect the law because of the fear that they may have developed. The specialty courts intend to bring a different approach and perspective. Through them, the offenders are taught on the negative effects of committing crimes and the reasons why they should not do so. By doing this, they get to learn and appreciate the provisions of the law and see everything from the legal perspective. This approach is better than the traditional approach in that the offenders get to know the real reasons why they should not engage in such destructive activities (Steadman et al, 65). In essence, this approach is likely to involve massive behavior change from the offender when compared to the traditional courts. In Minnesota, some of the specialty courts include the Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts and the Domestic Violence Courts.
It is important to note that specialty courts have tremendously succeeded in both the federal level and at state levels. Minnesota is just but an example on how the problem-solving courts have played a crucial role in promoting justice and reforms in the society. One of the sectors that the specialty courts have directly impacted is the public health sector. In essence, the specialty courts have proved to be an efficient and cost-effective way in addressing problems related to the public health. This is because they tend to focus on a specific area of the law, rather than the general courts that cover the entire law, making it difficult for them to be operative. By dividing the focus areas into individual problems in the society, the specialty courts ensure that those in authorities dedicate all their time to addressing particular issues rather than trying to address all issues in the society. By channeling all the resources available and all the relevant task force, the outcomes of the practice are likely to be experienced at both the federal stage and the state stage. In essence, specialty courts have proved to be more effective as compared to the general courts (Steadman et al. 87).
Specialty courts have several advocacy jobs and duties depending on the courts they are. As already argued above, Minnesota has specialty courts in different fields, including the Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts and the Domestic Violence Courts. These courts are assigned with different roles and duties in an attempt to ensure that they become effective in their performing their mandate. The Drug Courts, in most cases, have their main role being to reduce drug abuse in the society and to help the addicted offenders to overcome the addiction. In trying to achieve this success, the state of Minnesota has different standards that it has set. These standards are the minimum requirements that must be met in the state and all drug courts are expected to follow the standards in dispensing justice. The first standard, for instance, requires the drug courts to ensure that they utilize the process of collaborative planning in a comprehensive and incisive manner (Peters et al. 32). Through promoting this standard, the Drug Courts will play a crucial role in ensuring that the serenity is achieved in the state. All the specialty courts in the state are expected to engage themselves in advocacy jobs and enlighten the public on the reasons as to why they should desist from certain behaviors in the society. Some offenders commit crimes because of the ignorance they have towards the law. This is correct, for instance, when an individual commits a crime without knowing that the act they are engaging themselves in is a crime as such. Through explaining to the public which practices may qualify to be termed as crimes and which ones are not, the public may become alert, and individuals take caution against committing the offenses. The specialty courts have a duty to ensure that individuals in the society obey and respect the law dealing with a certain specialty. The specialty courts have the duty of ensuring that the offenders are given thorough training on the law in order to make them better members of the society. This is mostly aimed towards ensuring that the offenders do not engage themselves in repeat practices after they are released from the specialty court facilities.
Veteran specialty courts in America have as their main aim the urge to restore the veterans to becoming successful members of the community who can contribute to the community’s well-being. On the state level, the veteran's courts were developed because of a number of reasons. In essence, these courts intend to promote and support the public safety of the veterans and their families. This can be achieved through an effort that is coordinated by the system of the veteran services delivery. In ensuring that there is no veteran that is left behind, the system takes the community-based nature, thereby addressing all veterans. The veterans are the former officers who served in the US armed forces some years back, and they ought to be given guidance and counseling on proper decision making in order to ensure that they become better members of the society (Peters et al. 53).
In Minnesota, the target population of these courts consists of all the defendants who had served in the Armed Forces, who are currently facing and experiencing behavioral issues that are treatable. These issues may be as a direct or indirect effect of the wars they engaged in. They may range from anger management, post-traumatic stress, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and traumatic brain injury. Any veteran who is eligible may voluntarily participate by opting into the court. After opting into the court, the prosecutor and the defense counsel screen the case in order to determine whether it meets the requirements of the veteran's court. After this, a VA eligibility assessment is conducted by a representative to the Veterans Administration.
Of major importance to note is the fact that the veterans, their attorneys and the prosecutor meet to explore the necessary behavioral and counseling programs that may be availed to the veterans in order to make a determination as to which method is the most appropriate for individual veterans. Upon reaching a decision, the court incorporates a treatment plan into a plea agreement and henceforth, it becomes the responsibility of the veteran. At this point, the court is required to review the agreement and accept it in order to enhance easy completion of the resolution. It is important that the veterans have the intention of fully participating in the programs that are designated (Wiener et al. 45). However, in the event that the veteran chooses to ignore the programs that are agreed upon and chooses not to participate, the stat court has the mandate to struck the case from the docket of the Veterans Court and subsequently forward it to the traditional criminal track. In case the veteran completes the treatment programs specified, their cases may be eligible for diversion. Each veteran is individually accessed and a program that addresses his individual problems is developed. This is essential in that it addresses individual cases and the circumstances they are in.
On the federal level, the veteran courts have been adopted in order to address the emerging needs of the veterans that cannot be addressed by the normal courts. The US government has set a number of veterans’ courts in various states in order to address such issues like providing necessary programs to ensure the well-being of the veterans. In essence, these courts are tasked with the role of trying minor offense cases that may involve military men (veterans), which may include the United States Armed Forces. The veterans ought to suffer from illnesses that are service-related, particularly relating to the trauma and unsettledness that may be caused as a result of participating in wars. The first court of this nature in United States of America was established in Buffalo, New York in the year 2008. This court has been employed as a model in establishing such courts in various states of America (Wilson et al. 44).
Veteran participation in these courts is similar to that in Minnesota. The veteran is required to make an application to the court, and after it has been accepted, they are put in intensive supervision. Such supervision begins from probation, throughout the VA and the court. In order to be allowed to move to the phase of the programs, the participants are required to meet several goals. It is important to note that these programs do not have a set timeframe on when they should be completed. The veterans are required to attend weekly therapy while they are in the program. Despite the various illnesses they could be suffering from, veterans in this program are required to attend Post Traumatic Stress Counseling. In essence, the veterans court’s main goal is to allow them rehabilitation in order to become law abiding. This specialty court has been widely adopted by several states in an attempt to ensure that the veterans are given better treatment in an attempt to give them best recovery mechanisms.
The United States criminal justice system, in the past, did not give special attention to individual groups in dispensing justice in the society. As such, it was difficult to find a long lasting solution to most of the offenders that were judged by then. In a way, the justice system believed in a punitive move through which the offenders were judged without analyzing the reasons underlying the offenses. Through the court specialties, however, the veterans are well-taken care of since their immediate demands are addressed, and they are given counseling that may help them become better members of the society.
Statistics in the criminal veteran sector tend to reveal the impact that the specialty courts have had in integrating them in the society. The post-war traumas and tensions, to a large extent, may end up destroying the sensitivity that the veterans may have towards other members of the society. In the state of Minnesota, almost two hundred veterans have been placed in the programs, and they have positively responded to the treatment. This number is high in the federal level, where almost five thousand veterans have been admitted to take part in the program. Such a large number reflects the important role that the specialty courts play in the modern justice systems.
In conclusion, the specialty courts have played a key role in rehabilitating veterans and other offenders into the society. By strictly focusing on their goals in order to transform the offenders, the courts address the underlying reasons for the offenses. The programs are then made in such a way that they address these issues directly through practice and therapy. The effect of this is a achieving a better society.
Dancu, Constance V., David S. Riggs, Diana Hearst-Ikeda, Beth G. Shoyer, and Edna B. Foa. "Dissociative experiences and posttraumatic stress disorder among female victims of criminal assault and rape." Journal of Traumatic Stress (1996). Print.
Peters, Roger H., and Fred C. Osher. "Co-Occurring Disorders and Specialty Courts." Print.
Steadman, Henry J., Allison D. Redlich, Patricia Griffin, John Petrila, and John Monahan. "From referral to disposition: case processing in seven mental health courts." Behavioral Sciences & The Law (2005). Print.
Wiener, Richard L., Bruce J. Winick, Leah S. Georges, and Anthony Castro. "A testable theory of problem solving courts: Avoiding past empirical and legal failures." International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (2010). Print.
Wilson, Jennifer K., Stanley L. Brodsky, Tess M. Neal, and Robert J. Cramer. "Prosecutor Pretrial Attitudes and Plea-Bargaining Behavior Toward Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." Psychological Services (2011). Print.