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Minnesota State Supreme Court Upholds Use of Sentencing Circles
A January 2002 Minnesota Supreme Court decision reinforced the purpose and decision-making authority of sentencing-circles. The case questioned whether a circle could include a stay of adjudication as a part of sentencing recommendations.
D.A. candidate Jackie Lacey looks to move up
from the article by Robert Greene in the Los Angeles Times: ....California faces a sweeping revamp of the way it delivers and administers criminal justice. Under the policy change known as realignment, counties must take on the task of incarcerating and supervising many felons who formerly went to state prison. The next district attorney of Los Angeles County will play a lead role in developing and articulating policies that will determine whether smart, cost-effective alternative sentencing practices lead to rehabilitation — or instead to dangerous criminals being released, unsupervised, into the community.
Utah’s mental health court addresses repeat offender problems
from Jason Nowa's article on Voices of Utah: Sim Gill believes that jail is for people who have murdered, raped, or who harm children and not a place for the mentally ill. He is currently in the process of trying to accomplish this. Gill, who is the Salt Lake County District Attorney, recently spoke to small group of University of Utah students on about his job and the passions that drive him. Gill spoke about various processes, from how he deals with the death penalty, drug abuse and to the mentally ill committing crimes. The United States jails more people than any other country in the world, he said. Gill estimated around 2.2 million people in the United States are currently incarcerated.
Pallone, Melanie. A case study of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania's Mental Health Court: Balancing therapeutic jurisprudence and public safety.
When support mechanisms that keep mentally ill offenders from committing crimes break down, many of these special offenders have been incarcerated, contributing to a decline in their welfare and problems for society upon their release. Like drug courts, mental health courts arose in response to a crisis, allowing these offenders to be diverted from jail and instead directed to appropriate treatment and supports, along with intensive probationary controls. Restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence underpin the diversion of mentally ill offenders back into the community. This study examined the inception of a specific large mental health court and the inner working of the courtroom workgroup formed to handle the dual duty of treatment and regulation of offenders with serious mental illness. Creation of the mental health court in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, occurred after a formal program had already been in place to assist mentally ill offenders in treatment while diverting them from jail, and allows for longer periods of probation and monitoring of participants. The research employed in-depth qualitative inquiry of past and present stakeholders in the court process, including semi-structured interviews with court team members and participants, observation of courtroom and workgroup behavior in both public and private settings, and document analysis, and triangulated data with various court and agency records of court characteristics and participant behavior. Primary goals of this case study were to add to the literature on this emerging area of criminal justice research on problem-solving courts, by probing a specific local decision to implement and fund a mental health court, by delving deeply into the formation and functioning of this court's workgroup and the experiences of its participants, and by illustrating possible improvements in the case processing model that might be accomplished for this and other courts. Implications include what might be necessary and appropriate for a mental health court to be founded and to operate successfully, regarding both treatment of mentally ill offenders and regulation of their behavior for community safety. Findings may be useful to assist jurisdictions contemplating a mental health court, respecting court and agency personnel, case processing, community treatment resources, participant pools, sanctions systems, and funding. (author's abstract)
. Resource problem solving in therapeutic courts.
Recently, therapeutic jurisprudence scholars and advocates have moved beyond examining whether therapeutic courts work and have begun to examine how courts can work more efficiently. In keeping with that focus, this article examines the resource and funding challenges that drug courts and mental health courts have faced in recent years. Part II of this article will examine the importance of documenting operational costs and the role that diversification of funding plays in the long-term success of therapeutic courts, with an emphasis on how these two practices affect drug courts. Part III of this article focuses on mental health courts and their innovation in obtaining resources in communities where they are lacking. The author hopes by spotlighting therapeutic court challenges and innovation, this article may help struggling or new therapeutic courts develop ideas related to funding and resource acquisition. (excerpt)
. Healing the wounds: An examination of veterans treatment courts in the context of restorative justice.
Controversy exists regarding whether specialized courts, specifically drug courts, adhere to the restorative justice model. Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) are the newest programmatic innovation in the specialized court arena and have not been widely studied to date. This study utilizes data from the first in-depth case study of a VTC and explores whether it embodies the restorative justice ideal. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, we find that the VTC does not fully embody the restorative justice agenda, but it adheres closer to the ideal than drug courts.(author's abstract)
Wood, William R.. Asking more of our institutions: The promises and limits of juvenile restorative justice in Clark County, WA.
In this research I seek to better understand two questions, namely how or under what conditions do organisations such as juvenile courts change, and what do people do with restorative justice? I look first at the organizational changes that have taken place at the court in relation to its implementation of restorative justice and the integration of such practices throughout the court. I map the degree to which victims, offenders and community members have been afforded new decision-making capacities within the court's diversion and probation processes. Within this organisational framework, I also consider how the court has navigated constraints and opportunities related to legal and political structures, funding, community support, support from other organisations and internal problems related specifically to the culture of the court itself. (excerpt)
. Survey of Tribal Court effectiveness studies.
Alaska Native tribes have used sentencing circles and other cultural traditions to address problems involving tribal members for centuries. This way of dealing with disputes in a restorative and reparative manner eventually gave way to an adversarial process when Alaska was purchased by the United States. Alaska Natives have always had a unique relationship with the federal government; there is currently only one reservation in Alaska and limited other forms of Indian country in the state. In 1971 the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law, extinguishing all unsettled Alaska Native claims to land by placing title to land in the control of Alaska Native corporations. Subsequent cases have determined that land transferred to Alaska Native corporations via ANCSA cannot be considered Indian country for the purpose of establishing tribal courtjurisdiction.(excerpt)
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus talks restorative justice
from the interview with Kelly Pyzik for Scarlet & Black: ....First, could you tell me a little bit about the short course you taught at Grinnell the past two weeks? The purpose of the course was to introduce students to the principles of restorative justice and their historical roots, to discuss current restorative justice programs and applications of restorative principles and to compare how our country currently addresses conflict and wrongdoing with how we might address those matters using a more restorative approach.
Judge's experience: Restorative justice works
from the article by David Gottlieb in the Fresno Bee: ....I would not write this commentary or support restorative justice if I did not see the results firsthand. I have written amazing anecdotal stories about the transformation of some of our youth and the communities, but that is not as relevant as the evidence supporting the success of the program. Foremost among the statistics drawn from two years of studies of the program is that recidivism for youth that successfully completed the program is 5%. So, of about 300 teens that have gone through the program, 15 went on in subsequent years to either reoffend or violate the terms of their probation.
Long, Kendall L. Hozhooji Youth Diversion Project
This session will report on the Hozhooji Youth Diversion Project, a program which provides presentations, counseling, workshops and awareness for first-time youth offenders of non-violent crimes. In the Navajo way, Hozhooji means "harmony" or "in a good way." The HYDP project is designed to actively involve the youth, with their family, in a three-session diversionary program that is designed to provide awareness and ultimately provide balance and harmony between the youth, the family and their community. Services offered may include work sessions, traditional sweats, talking circle sessions, ropes courses, and other activities. The goal is to reduce the recidivism of first-time youth offenders by 65 percent.
. Foreword: New voices in mental health and drug courts.
Youth Court. Street Court. Homeless Court. Mental Health Court. Drug Court. Domestic Violence Court. Community Court. Veterans Court. Such specialty courts are sweeping the nation as manifestations of a problem-solving movement in which judges choose to use therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) principles to focus on the treatment and resolution of interpersonal and psychological issues that underlie legal problems rather than emphasize punishment or blame.(excerpt)
Supreme Court of Florida. State of Florida vs. Paul Vanbebber, No. Sc01-2558.
aThese substantial sanctions fashioned by the trial court are tailored to fit the crime and offender, and also serve in some way to attempt to repair the damage caused by his terrible act. (excerpt)
Supreme Court of Florida. Corrected Opinion. NO. SC01-913. Department of Revenue vs. Kelvin M. Jackson.
Alternatives to incarceration could embrace a balanced and restorative approach to criminal justice.4 This approach requires the offender to be held accountable for his or her criminal actions by recognizing the harm done, including indirectly to his or her child, and by imposing a solution that would enable the offender to seek to repair the harm resulting from his or her criminal behavior, including the continued payment of child support. However, given that there are no such options available at this time, I would afford the trial courts as much discretion as possible in deciding when and whether a petition to modify should be granted.(excerpt)
Center for Restorative Justice braces for changes to marijuana law
from the article by Keith Whitcomb, Jr. for the Bennington Banner News: With the state likely to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this summer, the local nonprofit that handles court diversion cases is preparing for the changes.... Cipriano said decriminalization is not legalization, a distinction she fears may be lost on some young people as well as adults. Those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana who are 21 and over will face a civil fine, but for those between the ages of 16 and 20 the penalty is expected to be similar to an underage drinking offense.
Restoring justice: Sonoma County and beyond
from the article by John Beck in Sonomoa County Gazette: Last summer, when the Santa Rosa City Schools District was looking for a way to curb the fourth highest rate of suspensions in the state, it turned to restorative justice as the solution. “We were almost an outlier,” said Jen Klose, Santa City Schools board member. “We had truly become zero tolerance.” Searching for a new paradigm for discipline, Santa Rosa City Schools board president Bill Carle said, “We started focusing on how do we do this in a different way, and that’s when we found restorative justice.”
Grim, Judge Arthur . Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook
The Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook is intended to serve as a practical tool for working judges throughout this Commonwealth, offering them convenient access to all the information they need to effectuate the underlying purposes of the Juvenile Act: “Consistent with the protection of the public interest, to provide for children committing delinquent acts programs of supervision, care and rehabilitation which provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community.”(excerpt)
Stickle, Wendy Povitsky and Gottfredson, Denise and Wilson, Denise M. and Connell, Nadine M.. An experimental evaluation of teen courts.
Teen Court (TC) is a juvenile diversion program designed to prevent the formal processing of first-time juvenile offenders within the juvenile justice system. TC instead utilizes informal processing and sanctions in order to prevent future offending. Despite its widespread popularity throughout the United States of America, little rigorous research has been conducted on the effectiveness of the TC model for reducing recidivism. Using an experimental design, this study examined the effectiveness of TC in reducing recidivism and improving the attitudes and opinions of juvenile offenders in comparison with a control group of youth who were formally processed. Self-reported delinquency was higher for those youth who participated in TC. TC youth were also found to have significantly lower scores on a scale of belief in conventional rules than had youth who were processed in the Department of Juveniles Services. Implications of these findings are discussed. (author's abstract)
A visionary judge makes restorative justice come alive in Alabama
from Ken Kimsey's entry on Fairness Works: In a six-part video series, Judge McCooey talks passionately about her believe that justice requires much more than the court system provides, especially in the area of giving crime victims the opportunity to meet the offenders, face-to-face, in a safe place, and to do so on a voluntary basis. (If you walk out of here and find someone has stolen your car radio, chances are you don’t have much interest in meeting the thief, she says in one segment. But the more deeply you have been hurt, the more likely you want to meet the offender and ask questions like “why?”.) As appealing as her speaking style and warmth is her story about the unorthodox path that led her to the bench. Serving as a judge was never in her long-range plans, but when she won her first election against a well-established Montgomery lawyer, surprising herself in the process, she knew there were some new thing she wanted to try. Finding ways of implementing a restorative justice program was among them, and she set about methodically but quietly to make this happen.
Gottlieb, Karen. Process and Outcome Evaluations in Four Tribal Wellness Courts.
The four tribal drug courts are the Blackfeet Alternative Court (Montana), the Fort Peck Community Wellness Court (Montana), the Hualapai Wellness Court (Arizona), and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Drug Court (Alabama). The evaluations found that each court had many strengths and success stories. Success was documented as a “slowing down” of alcohol and drug use in adult participants; however, graduates were as likely to reoffend as nongraduates, and participants as a whole had a relatively high 3-year recidivism rate that ranged from 50-64 percent in the adult courts and over 90 percent in the juvenile courts. For the adult program, graduates took longer to reoffend than nongraduates, and participants had fewer postprogram charges compared to their preprogram criminal histories. Juvenile graduates as a whole, on the other hand, showed no differences in recidivism patterns between graduates and those who did not complete the court program. Three of the four courts ceased operation when Federal funding ended. Primary reasons for failure to institutionalize the three courts were high staff turnover (especially judges) and lack of commitment to the courts from the community and tribal council. The evaluations’ goals were to obtain input from the tribes; to use a mixed methodology in which qualitative perspectives from interviews provided context to quantitative results; to describe program development and compare it with planned implementation; and to determine the courts’ impact on the behavioral patterns of participants, particularly regarding recidivism. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Service,

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