Veterans, judges attest to success of problem-solving courts

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kyra H. Bolden was recently joined by judges and military veterans in announcing the new Problem-Solving Courts Annual Report, which tracks the progress of 207 problem-solving courts (PSCs) across Michigan from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023 (Fiscal Year 2023). The announcement was made just ahead of Armed Forces Day (May 18), and during Military Appreciation Month, National Treatment Court Month, and Mental Health Awareness Month. Of particular notice: unemployment among veterans treatment court (VTC) graduates dropped by 82 percent.

“Problem-solving courts continue to make stronger and safer communities across Michigan by lowering recidivism and unemployment rates among graduates,” said Bolden, who serves as the court’s liaison for PSCs.

“These successes begin with a key ingredient: compassion. And compassion doesn’t come from a symbol or a building; it comes from the judges, court staff, volunteers, community partners, and others who work, day in and day out, to make a difference for participants.”

The following speakers from VTCs joined Bolden at the announcement:

• Judge Pablo Cortes, 62A District Court, Wyoming; and Kent County Veterans Treatment Court

• Judge Joshua Farrell, 80th District Court, Clare; and Clare/Gladwin County Veterans Treatment Court

• Kevin Scott, EdD, volunteer veteran peer mentor, 36th District Veterans Treatment Court, Detroit; and 19th District Veterans Treatment Court, Dearborn

• Matthew Fisher, veteran graduate and volunteer peer mentor, 17th District Veterans Treatment Court, Redford Township

Fisher said, “Saying that the Veterans Court saved my life sounds cliche, but that is exactly what it did for me.”

Key report findings include:

• Graduates of adult drug court programs were, on average, 4 times less likely to be convicted of a new offense within three years of admission to a program

• Graduates of sobriety court programs were, on average, more than 3 times less likely to be convicted of a new offense within three years of admission to a program; those who used ignition interlock devices were 5 times less likely to reoffend within three years of admission.

• Unemployment dropped by 88 percent for sobriety court graduates and hybrid court (drug/sobriety) graduates.

• Adult circuit mental health court (MHC) graduates were on average nearly 2 times less likely to commit another crime within three years of admission to a program.

• Unemployment among adult circuit MHC graduates dropped by 88 percent.

• MHC graduates noted an average 99 percent improvement in mental health and quality of life improvement following completion of a program.

• Michigan remains a national leader with 28 VTCs.

Problem-solving courts focus on providing treatment and intense supervision to offenders as an alternative to incarceration. These include drug and sobriety, mental health, veterans, and other nontraditional courts.

The Supreme Court, through its State Court Administrative Office, assists trial court judges in the management of these courts by providing training, education, operational standards, monitoring, certification requirements, and funding.

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