Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit has established a series of problem-solving courts, which are designed specifically to get at the root of nonviolent criminal activity, and get the offenders the help they need to become productive citizens. State court systems around the country have begun to adopt problem-solving courts, to critical acclaim.
It appears that Florida’s work in paying off, at least with respect to participation. Participation in its drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans courts is collectively up more than 45% over this time last year. This is encouraging precisely because problem-solving courts are not easy for the participants: they must make a financial investment in the program, and must complete all the requirements of participation, which can last a year or more.
Problem-solving courts are not appropriate for every crime or every criminal, but their success suggests that court systems can help their communities by thinking flexibly about their roles and responsibilities outside of traditional adjudication.