Problem-Solving Courts: Juvenile Respondents Deserve Our Help, Our Commitment, and Our Hope

By Alyssa Smith, CFCC Student Fellow, Fall 2020

Problem-solving courts are specialized dockets, usually within the criminal justice system, that seek to address the underlying problem(s) contributing to certain criminal offenses.[1] Generally, a problem-solving court involves a close collaboration among a judge(s), attorney(s), advocates, and a community service team to develop a case plan and closely monitor a defendant’s compliance, imposing proper sanctions when necessary.[2]

Veterans Treatment Courts are an example of these specialized courts based on a “problem solving” model. They are similar to drug treatment, mental health, or domestic violence courts, and they are intended to serve veterans struggling with chemical dependency, brain trauma, and serious mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[3] These courts not only address the underlying problems that often cause veterans to commit offenses, but they also do that in a way that provides help in the specific manner veterans need.  Problem-solving courts are non-adversarial in nature, and the ultimate goal is to provide supports to the defendant to prevent re-offending.

Why aren’t we doing more for juveniles involved with the juvenile justice system? While certain drug treatment courts include juveniles in the program, the challenges facing youth in America who are already entangled in the juvenile justice system are particularly unique. These distinct challenges require unique solutions. Michigan’s Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP) is an example of a program that is helping juvenile respondents. The Adolescent Diversion Project from the University of Michigan is a strengths-based, university-led program that diverts arrested youth from formal processing in the juvenile justice system and provides them with community-based services.[4] The National Institute of Justice has rated this program as “Effective,” meaning the program has undergone an eight-step review and evidence-rating process and has been found to achieve its overall purpose.  ADP’s goal is to “prevent future delinquency by strengthening youth’s attachment to family and other prosocial individuals, increasing youth’s access to resources in the community, and keeping youth from potentially stigmatizing social contexts (such as the juvenile justice system).”  Children and young adults across America deserve our help in getting and staying out of the justice system. Expanding problem-solving courts for juveniles, including programs such as ADP, would assist youth who have become entangled in the justice system and would afford juvenile offenders the second chance they deserve.

[1] National Center For State Courts (,contributing%20to%20certain%20criminal%20offenses.) Last visited Oct. 27, 2020.

[2] Id.

[3] Hon. C. Philip Nichols, Jr., Veterans Courts: A New Concept for Maryland, Md. B.J., March/April 2014, at 42.


3 thoughts on “Problem-Solving Courts: Juvenile Respondents Deserve Our Help, Our Commitment, and Our Hope

  1. I have asked myself these exact same questions. During my time working for the State’s Attorney Office in Carroll County I was drawn to our juvenile division and the issues surrounding the multitude of factors that lead kids to end up in front of magistrate labeled as a “delinquent”. It is promising to hear that Michigan’s Adolescent Diversion Program is an example we could model a piolet program on.

  2. I absolutely agree with your questioning of why we have not taken greater steps to incorporate a problem-solving court within the juvenile justice system. It is quite common for adults that are being charged with various crimes to have had juvenile records. I often think if those adults would still be committing crimes if they had someone try and help them when they were convicted as juveniles. I am a strong believer in the human ecological theory and often hypothesize that if juveniles were just shown that people of authority are here to help them they would take greater steps to abide by the law. I think Michigan’s ADP program seems like a wonderful initiative and more states should look into incorporating into their own juvenile justice systems.

  3. Totally agree with Ally, why we don’t have more problem-solving courts, in fact they should be present in every branch of the judicial system. If we implement the problem solving court system, governments will save money in the future and the community is going to be benefited.

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