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What Are New York Problem Solving Courts?

New York problem-solving courts are specialized courts established to curb the grassroots issues that bring people into the domain of the court system. These courts employ innovative strategies to address issues with criminal undertones such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexually-motivated offenses. Typically, the primary aim of problem-solving courts is to coordinate with relevant outside services, conduct thorough judicial monitoring, and ensure treatment and rehabilitation. These courts are individual specific and manage and respond to cases in such a way that the involved individual is potentially redeemed from future crimes. The problem-solving courts in New York include:

  • Adolescent Diversion Parts
  • Community Courts
  • Drug Treatment Courts
  • Family Treatment Courts
  • Human Trafficking Courts
  • Integrated Domestic Violence Courts
  • Mental Health Courts
  • Veteran’s Courts

New York Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP)

In New York, 16- and 17- year old defendants are considered to be criminally responsible. These late-stage juveniles face formal prosecution processes, are tried in adult criminal courts, involve adult prison/jail time, and may receive permanent criminal conviction records. The Adolescent Diversion Program is a specialized court part responsible for offering age-appropriate adjudication to late adolescent criminal defendants in New York. The aim of the program is to ensure:

  • Adequate clinical assessments
  • Rigorous compliance surveillance
  • Non-criminal case outcomes
  • Rehabilitation and reduce the use of traditional criminal penalties without jeopardizing public safety

The ADP is located across nine locations including the five boroughs of New York City, the upstate counties of Onondaga and Erie, and the suburban counties of Nassau and Westchester counties. In each of these counties, ADP participation is voluntary and eligible youths may accept the offer or proceed with traditional prosecution. Criminal cases are ADP-eligible if they are not resolved in their first court appearance. However, this is not true for Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. As a general rule, only misdemeanors are considered by ADP courts. Even then, Nassau and Erie Counties accept some felonies.

New York Community Courts

In New York, community courts are problem-solving courts that handle quality-of-life offenses in a way that ensures a collaborative midpoint between conventional penalties and alternative sanctions/treatments. Such quality-of-life offenses can include prostitution, shoplifting, and fare beating. The aim of the New York Community Courts include:

  • To enhance the court’s relationship with the community;
  • To elevate community confidence in the criminal justice system;
  • To improve the collective quality of life for the community;
  • To provide a more efficient disposition and innovative penalties;

There are six functional Community Courts in New York State. Many of these courts offer non-conventional programs such as job training, community mediation, homeless outreach, and drug treatment.

New York Drug Treatment Courts

New York Drug Treatment Courts (DTC) are specialized courts in the New York Unified Court System that handle addiction and drug-related crimes. To be eligible, non-violent offenders must voluntarily enter a participation contract with the court, the District Attorney, and attorneys. There are 141 Drug Treatment Courts located across different suburban and upstate locations in New York. It is important to note that there are three types of drug treatment courts in the state, including:

  • Criminal Drug Treatment Courts
  • Family Drug Treatment Courts
  • Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts

Compliance and graduation from any of these DTC programs may result in a possible dismissal or reduction of the criminal charges.

Family Treatment Courts

Family treatment court is a part of the DTC program specially designed for parental substance abuse and management of affected children. This program is a product of collaborative efforts between the court and, the parents, court personnel, child welfare agencies, and treatment providers.

Human Trafficking Intervention Courts

The State of New York created the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts to protect and ensure a trauma-informed response to victims of sex trafficking. These courts consider women engaged in sex work as victims, not criminals. Such women are offered help as an alternative to jail. The office of Policy and Planning is tasked with working with local courts to develop new strategies

New York Mental Health Courts

In the New York Unified Court System, the Mental Health Court (MHC) was developed to adjudicate cases involving mentally-ill defendants. For the most part, eligible defendants include those living with mental anomalies that are related to their current criminal involvement and whose participation in the Mental Health Court will not jeopardize public safety. There are 26 Mental Health Courts in the suburbs of New York City and upstate jurisdictions. From a legal standpoint, MHC accepts misdemeanors and in some jurisdictions, nonviolent felonies. The court is composed of a dedicated judge, project coordinator, and designated prosecutors and defense attorneys. Most courts share presiding judges (81%), defense attorneys (54%), and coordinators (68%) with a local drug treatment court.

New York Veterans’ Treatment Court

The Veterans’ Treatment Courts (VTCs) are specialized courts that handle cases pertaining to veterans that committed minor crimes and have associated mental health or substance abuse/addiction issues. Modelled after drug and mental health courts, VTCs provide an alternative to incarceration and share a commitment to the principle of therapeutic jurisprudence. The structure of VTCs varies from one court to another. Each Veterans’ Treatment Court is located within an existing local Drug Treatment or Mental Health Court. The VTC program team consists of a judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys, as well as representatives from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, peer mentors, and veterans’ support groups.

The process of applying to the problem-solving court program, as well as the policies and practices are supervised by the New York Office of Policy and Planning. Each problem-solving court has specific eligibility criteria for admittance into a program. These criteria are established to target specific offender populations and determine qualification requirements. The length of time the program takes from start to graduation varies according to:

  • Average level of addiction
  • Plea status
  • Graduation requirements
  • Length of treatment and case management
  • Type and severity of sanction used

The problem-solving court judges are selected by election or appointment depending on the jurisdiction. To obtain records of these courts, eligible parties may visit the applicable court or send an email to the Office of Policy Planning at Physical addresses may be found using the location directories outlined below:

Adolescent Diversion Part - Court Locations

Community Court - Court Locations

Drug Treatment Court - Court Locations

Family Treatment Court - Court Locations

Human Trafficking Court - Court Locations

Mental Health Court - Court Locations

Veterans’ Treatment Court - Court Locations

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