U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Principles of Problem-Solving Justice

NCJ Number
Robert V. Wolf
Date Published
16 pages
This paper identifies and discusses the principles shared by domestic-violence, drug, and other problem-solving courts.
The six principles discussed are based on the Center for Court Innovation's experience in developing problem-solving initiatives in New York. One principle is better staff training in the particular issues and offenses with which the court deals (e.g., domestic violence or drug addiction), combined with better information on litigants, victims, and the community context of crime. Such improved knowledge can enhance the decisionmaking of judges, attorneys, and other justice officials regarding treatment needs and the risks individual defendants pose to public safety. A second principle pertains to community engagement. In developing a specialized approach to particular types of offenders and offenses, citizens and neighborhood groups have an important role to play in helping the justice system identify, prioritize, and solve local problems. A third principle is collaboration. Justice system leaders are uniquely positioned to engage a diverse range of people, government agencies, and community organizations in collaborative efforts to improve public safety. This can have the effect of expanding innovative responses to problems through innovative diversion and sentencing options. A fourth principle involves individualized justice. Using valid, evidence-based risk and needs assessment instruments, the justice system can solve problems by linking offenders to community-based services tailored to the needs and risks of the individual offender. A fifth principle concerns accountability. By insisting on regular and rigorous compliance monitoring and consequences for noncompliance, the justice system can improve offenders' accountability for their behaviors. The sixth principle pertains to a focus on outcomes for the problem-solving process. Through the ongoing collection and analysis of data, outcomes (costs and benefits) can be measured in determining the effectiveness of operations and setting directions for continuous improvement in the justice system's operation.

Date Published: January 1, 2007