Report: Problem-solving specialty courts cut crime, save money

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Rates of recidivism and unemployment for graduates of drug, sobriety, mental health and veterans treatment courts in Michigan continue to drop dramatically, according to a new report released by the Michigan Supreme Court.

By diverting nonviolent offenders into strictly supervised treatment instead of prison, the report notes that these courts make communities safer and stronger while saving money for taxpayers.

“The success of problem-solving courts is one more example of how Michigan’s judiciary is data-driven and focused on outcomes,”  said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.  “The data in this report make it clear that participants are much less likely to commit another crime and much more likely to find a job. That’s a win-win for Michigan.”

Justice Joan L. Larsen said the problem-solving courts “are solving problems and saving lives.”

“Each year, the news gets better and better as participants get back to work, back to their families and back to a higher quality of life,” said Larsen, who serves as the high court’s liaison to the speciality courts.

In Macomb County, there is an adult circuit court drug court and adult district drug court programs as well as a juvenile drug treatment court program, a sobriety court program, a mental health court program and a veterans treatment court.

Among the key report findings:


• Graduates of Michigan drug and mental health courts are two times less likely to commit another offense after two years.

• Graduates of Michigan sobriety courts are more than three times less likely to commit another offense after two years.

• Nearly 100 percent of mental health court graduates improved their mental health and 97 percent improved their quality of life.

• Unemployment among adult circuit drug court graduates was slashed by 85 percent  and dropped by 75 percent among sobriety court graduates.

• Unemployment among veterans treatment court graduates was cut by more than half.

Problem-solving courts divert offenders into special programs that provide the treatment and supervision offenders need to stay out of trouble and lead productive lives.

Avoiding incarceration also generates substantial savings for taxpayers, court officials note, and participants improve their employment status and overall quality of life.

Michigan’s 179 problem-solving courts provide access to 97 percent of the state’s population.

The data compiled by the State Court Administrative Office covers a period of Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2015.

During this time, Michigan’s drug court and sobriety court programs discharged 5,669 participants; 762 participants were discharged from 20 adult and 2 juvenile mental health court programs; and veterans treatment court programs discharged 349 participants.

In remarks at the introduction of the report, Young said the problem-solving courts “are making communities all across Michigan safer and stronger. “

“Importantly, we note that the positive results go far beyond the primary goals of avoiding costly incarceration and reducing the rate at which offenders commit new crimes,” he said.

“In particular, these courts are achieving amazing results in dramatically reducing unemployment and increasing educational attainment among participants. 

“At the same time, regionalization is increasing access to these courts to more people throughout Michigan.”

Young said the passion and dedication of judges and court staff “make Michigan’s problem-solving courts a pathway to recovery. In this report, the data on outcomes are reason for great optimism.”
 

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