The Denver Post has a great story on the successes of a problem-solving court in Eagle, Colorado. The court was created seven years ago by a state judge, working in tandem with the local Masonic Lodge, to provide a new approach to individuals facing drug and alcohol addiction. Rather than jail time, first-time drug and alcohol offenders are given a chance to work toward sobriety. The expectations are high, but offenders who choose that route are supported throughout the program, and the Masons provide scholarships to some program graduates to facilitate vocational and professional training. While not everyone makes it through the program, those who do are better off in immeasurable ways.
State courts across the country have recognized over the last two decades that not all legal infractions are best resolved through traditional criminal justice. This is a nod to reality, not leniency — and it is a nice example of the courts reinventing themselves (in part) to best serve the needs of their constituencies.