Community Courts and Problem Solving Courts
Problem-solving courts bring together criminal justice and community partners and corresponding resources to respond to crime and safety issues, hold defendants accountable, address defendants’ needs and the underlying causes of their criminal behavior, improve the quality of life in communities, and administer justice. In problem-solving courts, everyone has a role to play in helping solve problems--not just the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney, but also social service and government agencies, community organizations, businesses, faith community, individual residents and the defendant/offender. Through these partnerships, problem-solving courts respond more effectively to crime and develop solutions that improve outcomes for the community, victims, and the defendants/offenders themselves.
- Enhance the quality of life in DC neighborhoods including reducing reoffending activity
- Address offender needs by linking them to treatment and social services
- Increase public trust and confidence in the court system
- Increase offender accountability including performing community service
- Streamline case processing
- Reduce criminal justice costs
- Forge partnerships to solve neighborhood problems
Moultrie Courthouse- At the end of 2013, the Criminal Division reconfigured its three DC/Traffic Courts to a community court-based model centered on the seven MPD districts and other police agencies. Under the realignment, each courtroom handles arraignments for those given citations in the police districts it is responsible for, as well as any trials that result from “DC misdemeanor” charges for which defendants are arrested in those districts. DC misdemeanors include possession of an open container of alcohol, panhandling, disorderly conduct, drinking in public. Criminal traffic violations include DWI, OWI, DUI, no permit, unregistered vehicle, operating after suspension, and reckless driving. A DC/Traffic defendant detained in the cell block pending arraignment may be interviewed to identify social service needs and given a referral to necessary services. In some instances, a defendant with a case in a DC/Traffic Court may be given the opportunity to “remedy” and/or perform community service in DC, which could lead to the prosecutor requesting that the case be dismissed. A defendant’s eligibility for a diversion opportunity is determined by the Office of Attorney General.
Moultrie Courthouse, Courtroom 211, The MHCC seeks to integrate community resources to meet the unique needs of persons with mental illness in the court system. Eligibility – Participation in MHCC is completely voluntary. Participants must be both legally and clinically eligible for MHCC. The US Attorney’s Office screens charges for legal eligibility by reviewing current and past legal histories. MHCC legal eligibility precludes pending domestic violence, violent felonies or gun convictions. The DC Pretrial Supervision Agency (PSA) screens the person for clinical eligibility. Clinical eligibility is defined as having a severe mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia or bi-polar, and requires that the defendant be approved for supervision under PSA’s Specialized Supervision Unit. Persons with a co-occurring substance abuse disorder may be allowed into MHCC but must be willing to cooperate with drug testing and substance abuse treatment recommendations. In addition, participants must be competent and not incarcerated (halfway house placement is acceptable). If compliance with treatment services is maintained, as well as the other conditions set by the court, participants will be allowed to enter into a diversion agreement for a period of four months. Upon successful completion of the agreement, the participant will graduate from MHCC and the prosecution will request that their criminal charges be dismissed or reduced.
|Mental Health Community Court Program Brochure||Download|
The Superior Court established the East of the River Community Court (ERCC) in September 2002. The ERCC was established to process misdemeanor cases more efficiently, reduce police overtime, and provide additional resources to the underserved neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. The ERCC adjudicated US misdemeanor cases not involving domestic violence in the Sixth and Seventh MPD Police Districts east of the Anacostia River, including: drug possession, sexual solicitation, unlawful entry, simple assault, theft in the second degree, and illegal dumping. The ERCC collaborated with several agencies and organizations such as the Pretrial Services Agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, United States Attorney’s Office, Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association, Metropolitan Police Department, and Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. As an alternative to traditional case processing, eligible defendants were offered an opportunity to voluntarily participate in ERCC diversion programming, providing defendants with US misdemeanor offenses to make restitution to the community, accept responsibility for their behavior, obtain necessary treatment and educational services, and divert a possible criminal conviction. Note: A defendant’s eligibility for a diversion programs is determined by the DC United States’ Attorney’s Office.
In 2010, the DC Superior Court commissioned a study to determine the effectiveness of the ERCC in reducing reoffending activity. The study, conducted by Westat, focused on 4,046 defendants who entered the ERCC in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and examined the rate of successful completion of ERCC diversion programs and defendant reoffending activity in the District of Columbia and Maryland for approximately 12 months post-disposition. After receiving preliminary information from Westat indicating that the ERCC approach and community court model was far more successful than traditional criminal justice responses at reducing reoffending activity, DC Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield reconfigured the Criminal Division’s misdemeanor calendars to implement the community court model in all seven Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) districts beginning in January 2012.
The Superior Court Drug Intervention Program (“Drug Court”) is a special court designed to handle cases involving substance dependant or addicted defendants with non violent misdemeanor and felony charges. The Drug Court is managed by the Pretrial Services Agency. The program offers participants a comprehensive approach to address their addiction or dependency. Drug Court includes supervision, drug testing, treatment services, and immediate sanctions and incentives. For information regarding the Drug Court go to http://www.psa.gov or call (202) 220-5505.