Joel A. Schneider, Marion County Public Defender Agency
Marion County has seven problem solving courts that defendants can apply to and participate in. These include a pre and post-conviction mental health court, a male and female drug treatment court, a re-entry court, a veteran’s court and a felony diversion court. There may be some hesitation or lack of knowledge on both ends of the courtroom on screening someone for a problem solving court. Outlined below are reasons why a defendant could be a good fit for a problem solving court.
For defense attorneys, the main benefit for your client participating in aproblem solving court is that in most problem solving courts your client can get their case(s) dismissed if they successfully complete the program. This can be especially beneficial for those with felony charges as all of our problem solving courts take Level 6 felonies with nearly all problem solving courts taking nonviolent major felony cases. In some instances, sentence modification or early expungement can be discussed for your client. An additional benefit is that problem solving courts have valuable resources that can help improve a client’s current situation whether the issue is transportation, housing, employment, treatment or other needs.
The main benefit for a prosecutor that may have reservations is that aproblem solving court is a more rigorous and accountable program than being on other community supervision tools. For example, a person on a year of probation would randomly drug test once a month, see a probation officer weekly to bi-monthly, and not be in front of a judge unless they are in violation. Compare that to a participant in a problem solving court who is drug testing randomly at least once a week (often times more) and having contact with the court (either through a case manager or judge) at least once a week. Additionally, problem solving courts have shown to help reduce recidivism and save taxpayer money. A survey done of drug courts in Indiana in 2007 found that on average, 88% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest free at least two years after graduating from the program (as compared to 63% in non-drug court participants). Additionally, the five drug courts surveyed saved taxpayers $7 million.
No matter which side of the courtroom you are on, problem solving courts can make sense for those that are in the criminal justice system.
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