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Hardest Sell?: Problem-Solving Justice and the Challenges of Statewide Implementation

NCJ Number
Greg Berman
Date Published
June 2004
12 pages
This article provides an overview of the problem-solving approach to criminal justice and offers strategies for replicating some of the problem-solving practices in conventional criminal courts.
Focus groups comprised of 35 judges from New York and California determined that 5 main problem-solving practices could be replicated in conventional courts: (1) problem-solving orientation; (2) provision of integrated social services; (3) interaction with defendants; (4) judicial monitoring; and (5) breaking down the adversarial nature of traditional criminal justice. Two main obstacles to implementing problem-solving practices in conventional courts were also identified: (1) a lack of resources, and (2) the philosophical departure from traditional notions of law and order. A problem-solving approach involves a significant shift in judicial orientation to allow one court to hear a wide range of criminal, family, and civil complaints that would usually be dealt with in separate courts. This approach recognizes that legal and social problems are often intertwined and seeks to deal with both types of problems. The approach links defendants and victims with an array of social services and requires sanctions that improve the community, such as graffiti cleanup. The article also presents six long-term strategies to aid in the transition to a problem-solving court system; these include, (1) using data to improve operations and promote accountability within the court system; (2) educate court personnel on the problem-solving approach to justice; (3) provide incentives to personnel who participate in problem-solving practices; (4) ongoing research and development; (5) infuse law school curricula with problem-solving principles; and (6) develop a communications strategy to support the implementation of problem-solving court systems.

Date Published: June 1, 2004